Last week, apparently Schrutebag (aka one of the better known radio names in the sports talk universe) anointed LSU the best football program of the past decade (or perhaps it was "so far THIS decade" which would be a few years shorter). While it's flattering to have that label, and I'd certainly put us Top 5 over that span, I'd have to cede the title of Best to someone else (probably USC). Just for posterity though, I looked up the records of a number of the more successful programs over recent years, and here are the results:
OVER THE PAST TEN YEARS
Ohio St 77.6% Boise St 77.4% Michigan 77.4% Texas 77.0% Miami 76.4% Georgia 76.2% FSU 75.6% Va Tech 75.4% Florida 74.6% Tenn 74.6% Okla 74.2% USC 72.0% LSU 69.4% Auburn 67.7%
OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS
USC 90.8% Boise St 89.2% Texas 85.9% Ohio St 85.9% Okla 82.1% Georgia 80.3% LSU 80.0% Auburn 78.1% Miami 76.2% Michigan 74.6% Va Tech 74.2% Florida 70.3% Tenn 66.7% FSU 66.2%
THIS DECADE (2001-PRESENT)
Boise St 85.7% Texas 85.7% USC 84.4% Okla 82.5% Ohio St 81.6% Miami 80.0% LSU 79.5% Georgia 78.2% Auburn 75.0% Michigan 73.3% Va Tech 73.1% Florida 72.4% Tenn 69.7% FSU 66.2%
- Clearly, many teams have posted better overall records over the past decade than LSU and USC. Our Tigers are bogged down by horrendous '98 and '99 seasons. Meanwhile, until its recent dominant stretch, USC strung together a number of mediocre 5 and 6-loss seasons to begin the period. That said, every team had some down years over the period.
- I think it's important for any LSU Tiger fan to note that even though we look much better over the past five seasons, our record over that span is not particularly that much better than Auburn's. Sure, we have a national title and they don't, but they're the team that's put together an undefeated season (thus having accomplished EVERYTHING asked of them that year), while we haven't. In this sort of analysis, I find it somewhat disingenous to give ourselves credit for a national title that benefited from other teams having a single loss, while not giving Auburn credit for the simple fact that one of the better teams in history (2004 USC) happened to co-exist with them that season, and also went undefeated. Auburn's record is very very good in that stretch.
- That said, Auburn hasn't won consecutive bowl games over Top 10 opponents by a combined 9 touchdowns. Game, set, match, LSU.
- So who is the best, then? Ohio State? They have the best overall record, a national title, and another title game appearance. Texas? Very few truly bad years, and nine straight nine-win seasons which includes one of the best ever in 2005. Oklahoma? Three title game appearances, one victory, and six ten-win seasons in their last seven. No, I think by virtue of the sheer brilliance of their recent five-year stretch, I'd have to go with USC. As I mentioned, every team had a bad stretch in this 10 year period. The simple fact that some teams' depths may have been deeper than others (7 and 8-loss seasons versus a number of 5 or 6-loss ones), for instance, shouldn't penalize them. So it's folly to simply award that title to the "Best Overall record who also has a national title in that span," and disregard USC even though they fall alongside us at the bottom of the 10-year numbers. I really don't care that USC has as many crystal balls as we do or Texas does; no one can argue that the current USC stretch isn't among the greatest few years in college football history.
- I suppose if any LSU fans actually read this blog, we'd be making my funeral arrangements in short order.
- So what do I think about our own accomplishments, then? Consecutive dominant bowl performances and a national title make us solid contenders for 2nd to USC over the past five years. There's no doubt that at the present time, we're among a handful of the best in the country. But over the past ten? I've already anointed USC the top there, and would have trouble not awarding 2nd and 3rd to either Ohio State or Oklahoma. I think we could make a solid case for 4th after those three: one national title (03), two conference Championships (01, 03) and another conference title game appearance (05), and three truly dominant bowl performances over top caliber opponents (01, 05, 06). There are those who'd argue that we play in a tougher conference (per Sports Illustrated last year), and thus should be cut a little slack. I have some sympathy for that argument but in the end, there's nothing wrong with holding us to a higher standard, is there? I'm thrilled enough that after a dreadful decade of the 1990s, we're at least in the thick of that argument now.