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Delusional Optimism Is Taking Names

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Payback starts now.

Bust out your #18 jerseys...
Bust out your #18 jerseys...
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Five years ago, LSU was coming off of two straight relatively disappointing seasons. The common refrain was that LSU was 8-8 in SEC play over the past two years, Miles was an incompetent boob, and the Decline is real.

One internet smart ass looked at the team's well-stocked roster due to recruiting success and a string of hard luck resulting in a deflated record, and he wrote a confident prediction of at least ten wins. He then gave it a tongue in cheek name: Delusional Optimism. You know the rest.

Now, here we are again. The boo birds are back, a veritable murder of crows crowing about how this time we mean it. This time the Decline is Real, we swear. LSU has gone a catastrophic 9-7 in SEC play over the past two seasons, and even Mississippi St is boasting about its recent success. LSU is doomed! Doomed, I tell you. The proof is in the pudding, as LSU has fallen back to the middle of the conference. The bandwagon has emptied.

Good. That means only the true believers get to enjoy what comes next.

I'm not in the business of lying to y'all. The last two seasons have been a disappointment. LSU did not live up to its potential either year. We couldn't defend in 2013, and we couldn't score in 2014. We accomplish nothing by telling ourselves that the worst season of Les Miles' LSU tenure was a rousing success.

Now, there are other schools where you get wildly praised for going 7-6 (Arkansas). There are schools where an 8-5 season is ignored and is reason for a preseason top ten ranking (Auburn). There are even schools that pundits will try and convince you that ranking 122nd in the nation in returning starts is somehow not going to result in utter disaster (Mississippi St).

LSU football is like James Harrison's kids. We don't get participation medals. We're the school that put #2 on our SEC championship rings because they didn't earn #1. There are no short cuts. There are no back pats for trying your best. We do not believe in moral victories, we call them losses.

However, tales of LSU's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Since the SEC expanded to 14 teams, LSU is still the second best team in the SEC West. Look at the combined three-year record:

Wins

Losses

Avg. Finish

Alabama

21

3

1.33

LSU

15

9

3.00

Mississippi St

13

11

3.67

Texas A&M

13

11

4.00

Auburn

11

13

4.00

Ole Miss

11

13

4.33

Arkansas

4

20

6.67

First off, this isn't good enough. LSU was trading blows with Alabama as an equal, and we have slipped back to the pack. I'm not going to pretend that I don't think we should be contending for the SEC title every year.

That said, look at that chart. Our failures are better than the rest of the West's successes. There are only two SEC West teams which have not had a losing season in conference play since expansion. That's right, LSU and Alabama. Now, Alabama has recently run away from the pack, but that's because LSU has let down the rest of the country. It is our job to stop the Red Menace, and if we're not going to do it, clearly no one else will.

LSU took a step back as seemingly every underclassman on the roster declared for the NFL draft the past few seasons. And into the gap surged.... well, no one. OK, Auburn had one amazing year wedged in between an average and a terrible one. Other than that? Ole Miss is getting belly rubs for finally finishing above 500 in SEC play for the first time since expansion with a dominant 5-3 record. State's four-year plan mostly paid off but now practically the whole team graduated.

So this is our apology to every college football fan in America. We let you down, America. We thought that if we had a rebuilding year or two, maybe one of the other super hyped SEC programs would actually do something to stop Bama's run of dominance. This was our mistake.

If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself. So apparently, it falls to us to shows the rest of the SEC how it is done. LSU left the door open for the rest of the conference these past two seasons, and they could not walk through. Now, it's our turn again.

For the first time since 2011, LSU did not experience near catastrophic offseason personnel losses. Les Miles can, for the first time in four years, actually build off of the previous season. LSU was an extremely young team last season, and those growing pains should pay dividends this year.

Alabama is more vulnerable this season. And while the SEC promises to be an incredibly tight race season from a plethora of contenders, some teams have already thrown their best shot and still fell short.

LSU almost certainly won't have the same terrible luck in the red zone as it did last season. There's virtually no possible way the quarterback play could be worse. And most importantly, promising freshmen just beginning to come into their own will now be the experienced core of this roster.

We've already been over this. There are only a handful of teams in the nation which have more blue chip talent than LSU does. But LSU has been stocked to the gills with talent before, what makes this year different? Well, other than having experience and quality leadership.

Let's not be coy. This team and this staff got a bit complacent. They kept showing up, stamping the timecard, and churning out ten win seasons like clockwork. Hell, even last season, when just about everything that could go wrong did, LSU still was on the cusp of keeping the ten-win streak alive.

And that is a key point regarding last season, LSU suffered from tremendously terrible luck all year. No one is going to feel bad for us, and no should. Also, the results are the results. It's like Josey Wales told us, deserve ain't got nothing to do with it. But LSU suffered through off the charts bad luck regarding turnovers and scoring in the red zone, while also enduring quarterback play out of a post-apocalyptic hellscape... and STILL went 4-4 in the SEC. Does anyone appreciate just how impressive that it is? And how well that indicates future success, as luck tends to even out over time?

It's been a long, arduous climb to the top of the football mountain, and Miles took a moment to breathe it all in. That's fine. Breaks can be good for the soul. Well, break time is over.

The best thing that could have happened to Miles was losing that streak of ten-win seasons because now there is the motivation to start a new one. This team knows exactly what happens when they just show up, expecting to win. The rest of the SEC West did not climb to LSU's level, we fell back to theirs, and it even took a healthy dash of statistical misfortune to get there. It's time to get back to earning what is ours.

The complacency which has hovered over this program since that Day We Must Not Speak Of has been washed away this summer. The passive, contain defensive system of Chavis, while successful for a long time, had run its course. It's now being replaced by the insane, go and kill and everything attitude of Ed Orgeron and Kevin Steele. We've been reading and reacting for too long, it's time to make teams react to us.

It is only by confronting our failures that we can learn from them and finally overcome them. Miles and his staff came face to face with those failures last season. Almost anywhere else, 500 is good enough. Not here. At LSU, that is when you go back to the drawing board with a renewed sense of purpose.

Everyone falls down. But it's the whiners and malcontents who stay down. It's too hard and the challengers are too many. We're Tigers. We get back up. We don't stay still. We hunt. We kill.

The SEC is wide open this year, just waiting for one team to step up and take the opportunity. The brass ring is right there, ready for anyone to seize it. Losers look at what they don't have and complain about it. Winners look at what they do have and use it to their advantage.

LSU returns one of the best defenses in the SEC, and certainly the best secondary in the conference, which should help match up against all of the high-tempo aerial assaults we will face. The receiving corps is deep and talented. The offensive line returns some maulers, and will plow the way for a potentially unbelievable running back tandem.

Hell, we've got the best fans, the best stadium, and the best mascot. We just need to figure a way to get Mike involved in the offense. But most of all, this year promises to be utter chaos. One SEC West coach is going to be paid over $4 million to finish last. Everyone in the division thinks they are a contender, meaning this season could devolve into madness. There are no easy wins.

And what coach would you rather have in a storm of madness and chaos?

I'll say it. LSU is, on paper, the best team in the SEC West. This is not the best Les Miles team ever, but the West lacks a dominant team this year, just as it did last year. We are a quarterback away from being a national title contender. And I know, we've been burned by the whole quarterback thing before. I get why you're afraid to believe. But that's all it is: fear.

If Miles can coax competent-- not superlative, not great, but competent QB play this season out of Brandon Harris, then LSU will be playing in Atlanta. The door is wide open, the question is whether you are too afraid to walk through it with Les.

No fear. There's plenty of room on the bandwagon.