If you are among the nattering nabobs of negativity which exist within the LSU fanbase, you are likely obsessed with this number. You've likely uttered the word "embarrassing" and you think this number defines the LSU Tigers. You are a whiner, complainer, backseat-driver, second guesser, or maybe just maybe, a Bama fan.
However, those fans who are obsessed with finding the dark cloud to every silver lining are not entirely wrong. That loss does partly define this LSU program. LSU completed the greatest regular season in the past two decades, defeating two BCS conference champions, three eventual BCS bowl winners, and three of the top five teams. And we found out exactly how much people value great regular seasons and conference titles when you don't finish the job in your bowl game.
No team has repeated as SEC champion since 1997-98. One of the biggest reasons for this is that the SEC is a really tough conference with lots of great teams, but another reason, perhaps the biggest reason, is Pat Riley's "Disease of More". Riley claimed that success is the first step to disaster, as every player wants more playing time, more featured plays, and more attention. Teams that have climbed the mountain get complacent, if only the slightest bit. And that slightest bit enables those hungry teams with just as much talent to pass you up.
LSU wants more indeed. We want one more title. We want one more game. We don't want to wait for next year anymore.
We want the Delusional Optimism.
We got the immunization from the Disease of More because there is still one more mountain to climb. LSU will be the least complacent SEC champion of the BCS history. Because there is unfinished business and unlike certain teams we could have mentioned, we know that nothing will be handed to us. We have to earn every little thing. And that's the way it should be.
Delusional optimism was born two years ago, when the complainers were at their loudest in this fanbase. It is founded on one simple principle: it is more enjoyable to believe than to not believe. Hope carries risk, but it also requires investment. And we invest fully in the Tigers around these parts.
It doesn't hurt that we've been right. I predicted 10 wins and a return to the elite in 2010, and the team delivered. Last year I predicted LSU would play for the national, and so we did. There's only one thing left to do. As Jake in Major League tells us, "Win the whole f'n thing."
This was always the year. LSU retuned to greatness a year early, yet people still complain. That's what complainers do. They don't invest. They don't go all in. They are afraid. They are the meek. And no, they will not inherit the earth. This one is gonna be for the ones who have believed the whole time. Yeah, this one is for you, the Delusional Optimist.
We're winning the whole f'n thing.
We'll get to the now standard ten reasons to believe, but there is one overarching reason why this teams is going to win It's not the immunization this team has to the Disease of More. It is not our fanatical belief. It is not the drive and motivation this team has. It is this:
Our team is better than your team.
There is more talent on the roster than any other in college football. Last year, Alabama had as many All-Americans as LSU had All-SEC players. That talent gap has largely been erased this season. For the first time in my life I can confidently state that LSU has the most talented roster in all of college football. Talent doesn't win on its own, but it certainly helps. And this isn't like last year, when LSU only has one player on the preseason All-SEC team. This LSU team is loaded.
This LSU team is going to win the national. It is an article of faith. For we are the Delusional Optimists. Our faith will be rewarded. Let's go crush the non-believers.
Ten more reasons to believe:
1. Have you seen this defensive line?
Every national title contender needs that superlative player. That one guy that makes the other team specifically gameplan just for him. The kind of player who had at any time can do something unbelievably great. Enter Sonic Sam Montgomery. Montgomery would've been a top ten pick in the draft, but he decided to come back for his junior season so he could win a national title. We are no strangers to great defensive linemen at LSU (SEE Dorsey, Glen; Lavalais, Chad), and Montgomery has a chance to be the greatest defensive lineman in LSU history. That is, if he's even the best defensive lineman on the team as Barkevious Mingo might be even better.
2. No, seriously. Have you SEEN this defensive line?
Did I mention Freak Johnson and Ego Ferguson? Lavar Edwards, Chancey Aghayere, and Jermauria Rasco? Super freshmen Quinton Thomas and Danielle Hunter? Oh, and team leader and owner of the #18 jersey, Bennie Logan? We stacked, y'all. This is the best defensive line in LSU history. Everything starts up front.
3. We have a quarterback now
LSU had the 106th ranked passing offense last season. LSU averaged only 152 yards in the air per game, which is just over half of what Arkansas averaged per game (300). Let's stop and marvel for a second that LSU almost won a national title without any semblance of a passing game. Enter the Mettensavior. Miles has already stated that there is no leash on Mettenberger and for the first time in five years, LSU goes into the season with a quarterback that the staff trusts to be able to run the offense. LSU is not suddenly going to become the Fun n Gun, but the offense will look a lot different -- it will actually look like a real offense.
4. We still run the football better than anyone
LSU ran the ball for more yards per game than it passed the ball, and that's with everyone in the world knowing what was coming at them. Now, some teams do average more yards per game, primarily option based attacks like the service academies and Georgia Tech. But there is not a deeper, more talented stable of backs in the nation than the one in Baton Rouge. Who is the best back? I'm genuinely asking. I have no idea. I personally like Kenny Hilliard just because I like his bruising style, but Michael Ford is a more dynamic back. Spencer Ware has the best track record of the group and Alfred Blue has been earning raves from the staff. This group is so good that Magee has moved to the receiving corps, and Magee is a pretty talented back.
5. Five returning starters on the line... kind of
Teams cannot win without great line play. Everything starts up front. Even high-flying teams full of glamour position players like 2004 USC still are built on the lines first. I cannot say this strenuously enough: if you do not have a great line, you are not going to win. LSU returns four starters from last year's stellar line, and now we get Josh Dworaczyk back, who missed a full season due to injury. And this doesn't even count La'el Collins, who will likely push someone to the bench. This group is loaded, and insanely deep.
6. Eric Reid is a minor deity
Eric Reid is awesome. It's been an open question whether Tharold Simon can replace what Mo Claiborne brought to the table, but Reid answers an even bigger question: who will replace Brandon Taylor? Last year, every player could freelance and go after the big play because they knew they had a guy like Taylor back there to cover their mistakes and fill those holes. Well, Reid will fill that role this year. He will continue to make big plays as well, because he is the rare combination of incredibly heady player with remarkable physical gifts. Reid is so good, Zod kneels before him.
7. Our special teams are still phenomenal
LSU netted 41 yard/punt. Our opponent's netted 34 yards/punt. That may not seem like much, but if you traded three and outs with LSU, that means you lost, on average, 15 yards of field position. And that's assuming that LSU didn't break a huge return. As great as LSU return game is, it is the coverage unit which sets this team apart. LSU measures yards allowed over the course of the season in feet, not yards. Brad Wing isn't just a punter, he's a weapon. Drew Alleman also is a lethally accurate kicker. Other people call it luck, we call it special teams.
8. The best receiving corps in a half decade
Last year's number two receiver, Russell Shepard, is now fourth on the depth chart. Beckham emerged as a reliable target who can make big catches in traffic, but the guy I'm excited by is Jarvis Landry. LSU players make their bones first on special teams, to show they deserve more playing time, and Landry was a heat seeking missile on the coverage teams last years, delivering huge hits. Landry is a football player. And he's been working with the Mettensavior all offseason. LSU's receivers have not been a team strength over the past few seasons... well, that's about to change. This unit hearkens back to when LSU has three NFL wide receivers on the same team.
9. Miles and the best damn staff
Les Miles is eight wins from tying Bernie Moore for second place in total wins at LSU. Then, the only coach with more wins at LSU will be Cholly Mack. Miles' winning percentage is over 80%, a school record for any coach with at least three seasons. He is, without a doubt, the greatest coach in LSU history. And for all of the (rightful) praise Nick Saban gets at Alabama, Miles has a 3-3 record against his rival.
All Miles does is win. He's also assembled a great staff that he trusts. This trust extends also to the players. The biggest difference between Miles and Saban is that Miles is comfortable letting his players make plays. He puts them in a position to make big plays and they reward that trust. Miles doesn't have to control every little thing, which means he's comfortable with chaos, and able to adjust when things go awry either on or off the field.
The preseason is the time in which everyone gets told how great they are. Everyone magically forgets that USC play lousy defense last year, FSU didn't have a running game, Oklahoma gave up big play after big play, and that Michigan didn't even make the Big Ten title game. This is the time of year everyone talks about what could be because that's what fans do. It's fun to speculate and talk about how all of the problems of last year are left in last year.
However, LSU has spent this offseason being told how terrible they are. They've been defined by that 21-0 score. Unlike the other top teams, there hasn't been a line of people coming around to blow smoke up the team's ass. In fact, they've been told how they let the fans down, which is utter BS.
This team knows how close it was to greatness. It knows that it is one step from the pinnacle of the college football mountain, but oh what a step. There is, without a doubt, no team that is more motivated to win the national title than these LSU Tigers. This team was so close they could taste it, only to come home with some lovely parting gifts.
You have believed. Miles has taken us this far, let's take that one final step. This year, Faith Will Be Rewarded. National title. SEC title. Greatness.
No pressure, guys. I know you wouldn't want it any other way. Delusional Optimism is no longer taking applications. If you aren't all in, get off the bus. Because this is next year.