The Magic of LSU and the Perfect College Football Season

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Joe Burrow and Ed Orgeron simply capped a run for the ages with a nationwide championship. Nothing of their previous recommended this was attainable—till the brilliance of this quarterback, this coach, this metropolis, and this staff turned inevitable.

Visibility was low all over the place I went in New Orleans, beginning the moment the LSU Tigers officially turned legends.

First was the sector, where strolling by means of the confetti bathe felt like being trapped in a snow globe with the happiest monumental males on earth. Subsequent was the locker room, the place the smoke from roughly 100 cigars made a room designed for athletes to get dressed feel like a 1950s steakhouse. And then there was Bourbon Road, where a thick fog obscured the downtown skyscrapers just some blocks away. I spent four hours wandering via these hazes, always enveloped by celebrations. On the sector, it was joyous hugging between large soccer gamers experiencing the most important second of their lives. Within the locker room, it was over-the-top antics of NFL stars who have been just as excited by their alma mater’s coronation as the present players. Within the French Quarter, it was a reasonably typical scene for Bourbon Road—glad drunks as far as the attention can see—with the one twist being that this time, virtually everybody was from Louisiana.

Within the numerous mists, errors have been made. Within the confetti snow globe, former LSU broad receiver Odell Beckham Jr. stormed into the world where the band was seated to demand it play “Neck,” the music LSU’s athletic department has banned at games ever because the scholar part turned it into an ode to feline fellatio. Beckham’s request was denied, and state troopers needed to escort him out of the stands and again onto the sector. In the locker room cigar smog, there was a small hearth no one observed for several minutes. I saw a lineman toss a still-lit cigar into a trash can without extinguishing the flame, however didn’t assume anything of it until I picked up on a burning odor distinct from the cigar odor. There was a burning serviette in there, and a police officer got here by to dump water into the bin. In the French Quarter fog, I saw an LSU fan in pristine purple-and-white Jordans step into a pile of shit left by a police horse. Our hero by no means broke stride.

I suppose that after watching this 2019 LSU group, it was attainable to overlook things might go flawed. The Tigers played one of many toughest schedules in school football historical past, dealing with off towards 5 teams ranked within the prime 10 of the ultimate AP poll. They didn’t just go undefeated—they set data for excellence. Quarterback Joe Burrow broke the single-season FBS marks for passer score (202.0) and touchdown passes (60) and gained the Heisman Trophy by the most important margin of victory in the award’s 84-year history. Burrow performed 15 great video games in a row; his worst performance was in all probability an October outing towards Auburn through which he went 32-of-42 passing for 321 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Monday night time, he performed Clemson, the defending champion and the most effective protection within the country. Clemson came in having allowed fewer points (11.5 per recreation), passing touchdowns (nine), and passing yards (151.5 per recreation) than another staff in the nation. Burrow lit that group up for 463 passing yards with five touchdowns and 58 dashing yards with one other rating. Final January, Clemson introduced itself as school football’s preeminent energy by shoving Alabama into a dumpster during the national title game. This January, Burrow peeked into that dumpster and realized there was sufficient room for Clemson too. Earlier than Monday, Clemson had misplaced 4 video games prior to now 5 seasons by a mixed complete of 27 factors. LSU gained 42-25, and kneeled on the Clemson Four-yard line to run out the clock in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter.

It's surprising that LSU turned the workforce that would not fail, because so many elements of LSU have been seemingly outlined by failures. The Tigers suffered no less than three losses in every of the previous seven seasons, falling from a national title contender to Alabama’s plaything. They perpetually struggled on offense, earning a fame for run-and-defense-heavy swamp football. Ed Orgeron’s only prior head-coaching gig was a disastrous cease at Ole Miss, where he famously ripped off his shirt and challenged his players to fight him. Burrow was a switch from Ohio State, where the quarterbacks above him on the depth chart maintained a operating joke that they couldn’t remember his name. (Some referred to as him Jimmy, others referred to as him John.) Keep in mind how I stated Burrows’s worst recreation this season was the Auburn recreation? That might’ve been one of the best of Burrow’s profession earlier than 2019, by quite a bit.

Now, based mostly on résumé alone, the Tigers can stake a declare to the best particular person season in school soccer historical past. They have been good, in contrast to so many champions; that they had a record-setting Heisman winner, who will quickly be the no. 1 draft decide. They gained nationwide awards introduced to the game’s greatest vast receiver (Ja’Marr Chase), defensive back (Grant Delpit), head coach (Orgeron), and assistant coach (Joe Brady). Their power of schedule is nearly unmatched in trendy NCAA historical past, and still they dominated. Of their 15 games, they trailed in the second half for a grand complete of seven minutes.

However what makes this title notably special is the story line. No one is meant to be nearly as good as LSU was this season, but particularly not this faculty, this coach, and this quarterback. It is false to say they got here out of nowhere, since that may suggest they hadn’t finished anything beforehand. LSU, Orgeron, and Burrow had completed rather a lot, and none of it steered this was potential. In a sport of dynasties, these Tigers delivered the best season of all time, with its greatness outdone solely by its improbability.

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU Jonathan Bachman/Getty Photographs
Joe Burrow

In fact it was New Orleans. It needed to be New Orleans. LSU gained the championship right here in 2004 and 2008, and appeared in the championship recreation right here in 2012. Monday marked the fourth time that school football’s national title recreation was held in New Orleans prior to now 20 seasons, and the fourth time that LSU has performed within the title recreation during that stretch. By some means, the celebs all the time align. LSU’s capability to compete for championships in and solely in years the title recreation is played in New Orleans surpasses coincidence. It's magic.

This magic is very convenient for LSU fans, who packed the Superdome and each bar within the metropolis. Strolling around New Orleans this weekend, it at occasions felt like Clemson fans outnumbered LSU followers, but this was a lie based mostly on circumstance. The Clemson fans flew in from South Carolina, booked lodge rooms, and did what tourists do: eat beignets and drink frozen booze out of obnoxiously giant memento cups. (I also did this. Don’t decide me.) You didn’t see the LSU followers out and about because they weren’t out-of-towners. They have been enjoying a rattling residence recreation, and lived their normal lives in their regular neighborhoods till it was time to shine.

This magic can also be awfully regarding for LSU, because the subsequent four nationwide championship games are scheduled outdoors of New Orleans. Such sorcery promises successes but in addition lean occasions. One four-year hole noticed Nick Saban depart LSU for the Miami Dolphins; the newest eight-year gap noticed LSU drop eight consecutive video games to rival Alabama.

And, in fact, LSU’s future is now unsure. In any case, its greatest participant is leaving, some extent raised by one of many NFL players available in the Tigers’ locker room. The NFL players have been in all places, as ubiquitous because the cigar smoke: Beckham was there, vigorously demanding that reporters cease interviewing vast receiver Justin Jefferson. (“No more questions! I’m his agent!” Beckham shouted to the media.) Ezekiel Elliott was there, despite the fact that he went to Ohio State. (Perhaps he booked his aircraft ticket earlier than the Buckeyes misplaced the Fiesta Bowl to Clemson?) One player stopped me to snap a photograph of him posing together with his former teammate and current Cleveland Browns nook Grasping Williams. (I hope it got here out OK!) And Devin White, the former LSU linebacker who went fifth in the 2019 draft, began shouting at Burrow as he returned from his press convention. “DRINKS ON JOE TONIGHT! HE’S GONNA BE THE NO. 1 PICK!”

Burrow downplayed such speak. “Man, I’m nonetheless broke!” he responded. White was enthusiastic about the longer term; Burrow was nonetheless dwelling in the second, when he does not have tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In fact, White had some extent. Burrow will be the highest decide in April’s draft, which is principally the one time anybody has ever been capable of precisely predict his future. Even Orgeron, who passionately recruited Burrow by wooing him with crawfish, did not see this coming. At Saturday’s nationwide championship media day, I requested Orgeron if he ever envisioned Burrow having this sort of season, with all these data and trophies. He smiled and shook his head. “Him being the Heisman winner never entered our mind,” Orgeron stated. “All we needed was to win video games with a superb quarterback. He exceeded all our expectations.”

Orgeron, too, exceeded expectations. When he was named LSU’s full-time head coach in November 2016, many felt that the varsity was settling. Orgeron was seen in school soccer circles less as a coach and more as a cartoon character. (The guy who does his voice work is INCREDIBLE!) Positive, he was beloved by gamers, and positive, he appeared to be a perfect slot in Louisiana, the state during which he was born and raised and discovered to talk Cajun French and whatever language alligators use. But nobody saw this coming. Orgeron took a program that struggled for half a decade and reshaped it into a brand new, overpowering drive destined to deliver house a nationwide championship.

Perhaps the identical magic that reworked Burrow from a university soccer frog into its crown prince will quickly rework his backup, Myles Brennan, another senior with a thus-far uninteresting school career. Perhaps the secret's truly Chase, who finished Monday with 221 receiving yards and two touchdowns and spent the night time sprinting past Clemson defenders on bombs and around them after reeling briefly passes. Perhaps the secret actually resides with Brady, the 30-year-old assistant who showed up in Baton Rouge this season and revitalized the group’s whole passing scheme. With so many sensible performances, it’s robust to say who was most liable for all the unimaginable issues that happened.

All we know is what we noticed: brilliance, from begin to end. LSU’s championship run proved that the past isn’t destined to repeat itself, and that the longer term will all the time be unknown. The one thing value specializing in is the current, and the transcendent glow of Burrow revealing himself to be a dime-dropping god while the coach with the funny voice emerged as a champion for the ages.

The 2019 LSU Tigers have been a celebration in a fog. It doesn’t matter what lies past what you possibly can see. If you’re surrounded by one thing this unimaginable, the remaining fades away. Embrace the magic until you overlook that failure exists.