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Delusional Optimism Has Seniority

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Older, maybe not wiser, but still ready to party

Texas A&M v LSU
Still beautiful
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

This has been the longest of offseasons for LSU fans. It hasn’t been the usual eight months without football sort of pining for the fall, but a legitimately awful few months that no one in the state, particularly our staff, is in much hurry to ever relive.

The media descended on Baton Rouge to document a town pulling itself apart in the wake of the Alton Sterling killing. Then we watched the media promptly ignore our town as it came together in the face of the hundred-year flood.

Billy was among those who were flooded out of house and home, and you can still chip in a few bucks to help his family rebuild. He’s given you years of terrific LSU content for free, so consider it a back payment for all of those hours of reading he’s provided you. Watson lost not just his home, but his dog. Meanwhile, the Lil Poseur suffered through cranial surgery for lambdoid craniosynostosis. The doctors literally flipped the back halves of his skull, and he’s still recovering.

So if anyone could use the pick me up of college football season, it’s the good people of southern Louisiana. Almost all of our readers were touched by the storm either personally or through family and friends. We’ll respond the way we always have, with a few laughs, a lot of community, and even more bourbon. Delusional Optimism applies to real life, too.

We know that in the grand scheme of things, football doesn’t matter. What is a game compared to our homes, our families, our children? Still, it is the spice of life that makes it worth living. There’s a reason we don’t just eat food for subsistence, and instead make the most glorious cuisine that has ever reached human lips, available at tailgates all over the campus each LSU game day. We won’t just survive, or make it through. We’ll live and thrive.

LSU football is a part of that cultural identity. It won’t rebuild a single home, but it will help bring us all together and remind us, once again, why southern Louisiana is the greatest place on this earth. It is the people, the culture, the community. And we’re proud to have Les Miles and the LSU football team represent us.

But hey, if we’re going to have these silly games, we might as well win them, right?

Since the calendar flipped to 2012, LSU has not beaten Alabama. Before then, Saban’s Alabama Dynasty consisted of one SEC title and one national title over five years. They would add a national title in the first days of 2012, and over the next four seasons, Bama would win three SEC titles and another two national titles.

Which clearly demonstrates one thing, if anyone is going to stop the Red Menace, it’s got to be us. It’s no accident that the moment LSU stopped winning SEC titles and beating Alabama, the Saban Dynasty took firm hold. OK, Auburn stopped them once, with one great year (and one average one) in between last place finishes.

Ole Miss currently believes they have some sort of Alabama voodoo. And if getting fortuitous bounces of guys’ helmets counts as a plan, sure, they’ve cracked the code. But a team that ranks dead last in the SEC and 113th in the nation in returning starters and 79th in returning production is likely not going to improve. Especially after losing three players to the first round, so they lost both quantity and quality.

If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself. And this is the year that everyone involved in the program has pointed to as the year in which LSU re-establishes itself as a national title contender.

LSU has always recruited with the best programs in the nation, but it has been decimated by early defections. From 2011-2014, 23 players declared for the draft as juniors or even redshirt sophomores. Throw in one Honey Badger, that’s six players a year leaving for the pros.

That trend reversed, for one offseason at least, this year. Only one player declared for the draft early and now LSU is loaded with something it has not had this decade: senior leadership. This year’s team will start 10 seniors on opening day, 4 on offense and 6 on defense. Six of those seniors are returning starters, three on each side of the ball. By contrast, last year’s team, which was experienced by LSU standards, had only 4 senior starters, 3 of whom were returning starters.

Even more encouraging is that the junior class is even better. This is the special 2014 class, which walked on to campus and assumed leadership roles right away. This is the awesome collection of talent that includes Leonard Fournette, Malachi Dupre, Jamal Adams, and Brandon Harris.

This is their time. And this is the greatest collection of talent on an LSU roster since 2007, and maybe ever. On paper, this team is even better than the 2011 team which ran roughshod over college football until the clock suddenly struck midnight.

The last time Cam Cameron had a returning starter under center, the offense ranked 7th in yards/play and 23rd in scoring. Last year’s offense ranked 17th in YPP and 43rd in scoring, so it’s really not that big of a hill to climb as it was in 2013.

For the first time this decade, an LSU defense did not rank top 25 in scoring. LSU ranked 33rd in yards/play and 41st in scoring, decent marks at most schools, but a crushing disappointment at LSU. The architect of that defense, Kevin Steele, has been replaced by Dave Aranda, a guy who coached dominating defenses without elite talent. Well, now he has the elite talent, too.

LSU has thirteen pre-season All-SEC players, tied with Alabama for the most in conference. We have the best player in college football running the football. We return more starters and even more importantly, more production, than nearly any other team in the nation. Even with ten senior starters, the young talent is pushing for playing time. We have jettisoned the liability at defensive co-ordinator and replaced him with one of the best in the country.

We also have Les Miles. It took a failed coup last season to get many Tiger fans to appreciate the man at the helm of LSU football, but he is back to spread his own brand of goofy weirdness over football. He is the Uncertainty Principle in human animated form, and there is no one I’d rather have coaching this football team.

He’s the only coach who could be on the top 10 hot seats yet also be one of the favorites to win the national title. For any other coach, this would be a conundrum. For Les, this is just a normal work week. To love LSU football is to embrace the chaos, and to enjoy the wild roller coaster ride that is football season.

I mean, it couldn’t be any wilder than our daily lives. So strap in and pour yourself another stiff drink. We’re all going to need it. But what fun is the world without diving in? Would rather try to suck the last bit of marrow from the bone of life or cautiously avoid choking?

These games don’t matter, but they also mean everything. And we’re going to take this wild ride all the way to the ‘ship. Let the cowards dwell on past defeats, let’s instead set our sights on future successes. This is the right coach for the right team in the right place at the right time. Let’s go dethrone a dynasty.