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Delusional Optimism is Just Getting Started

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It ain’t even October.

LSU v Auburn
Celebrate! But not too much.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There’s a famous anecdote about Herb Brooks and the 1980 US hockey team. The Miracle on Ice did not win the gold medal, the US still had a game against Finland which they had to win in order to win the gold. According to the story, he walked in the locker room before the game and simply said, “If you lose this game, you will take it to your graves.”

That is sort of where LSU is right now. Beating Auburn is great. Beating Auburn on a last second field goal is even better. Beating Auburn so that they cry about how the officiating in Jordan-Hare is unfair is almost too much. I’m dizzy.

Look, we’re usually on the other side of this, posting photographs of the clear interference the refs ignored or showing the spot on the grass Patrick Peterson’s foot caused. So I know how they feel. And to know Auburn fans feel that way makes me feel giddy and alive.

However, Ed Orgeron brought us all back down to reality in the postgame:

He’s absolutely right. The goal of this team is not to be in the top 10 on September 15. Beating two top ten teams away from Tiger Stadium is a great accomplishment and we all get to bathe ourselves in bourbon smoothies for a few days over it. But in the end, it means jack and squat.

This team hasn’t even gotten to the tough part of its schedule yet. Come October, LSU will play Georgia, Mississippi State and then Alabama. There’s a good chance all three of those teams will be in the top 10 when LSU plays them. So LSU is not even halfway through it’s gauntlet of top ten teams.

And let’s be honest, there are top ten teams, and then there’s Alabama and Georgia, both championship game participants from last year who right now look even better than they did in January. This doesn’t get any easier.

But before we can even worry about that, LSU needs to navigate a different challenge: not letting a fast start go to their heads. It’s easy to stay focused when everyone is picking against you and you want to prove yourself to a national TV audience against a top ten team. Those are the high profile games players live for. That’s why they came to LSU.

LSU now has to navigate a tricky section of the schedule. Okay, Louisiana Tech is likely outmatched, but Florida and Ole Miss aren’t just going to lay down for the Tigers. And while they look like they are both in for difficult seasons, they will be motivated by pure spite. Never underestimate spite.

This is a really good team, but it’s not so good that it can start resting on its laurels and believing in its hype. LSU got to this point by being hungry. They need to stay hungry. There are a whole lot more stops on this revenge tour.

Most years, I like to position LSU as the good guys. We’re the plucky kids from across the lake trying to beat the snobs from Perfecto Prep. Alabama is the Evil Empire, and we’re the noble rebel alliance. You know, the ones you’ve been rooting for since you were a little kid.

But not this year. Hell, we have Ohio St. fans openly rooting for us, thanks to Joe Burrow. We can make him Meauxjeaux Jeauxjeaux all we want, but he is still a villain trying to destroy the Powerpuff Girls.

That’s why no one else is allowed on this bandwagon. This is a train fueled by all of the preseason doubters. It is powered by the whispers of a decline, rumors of a hot seat, and by predictions of fifth in the division at SEC Media Days.

Obviously, there are exceptions:

Look, any and all members of the Drive-by Truckers, former or current, are more than welcome to climb aboard. We ain’t never gonna change, and we ain’t doing nothing wrong. Jason Isbell is to Gen-X sports bloggers as Bruce Springsteen is to Boomer sportswriters. Besides, the mere fact he wants on board the bandwagon is to celebrate a pun makes him ATVS material.

Welcome aboard, nix Alabama Pines from the playlist, and we’re good to go, Jason. You’ll also be happy to know that we call our kicker Kick Tracy. And we have a guy who makes a bunch of interceptions whose actual name in the program is Greedy. You’re welcome.

This team is not a top ten team until it is a top ten team in the final poll. Nothing is going to be handed to this team. The moment this team loses a game, all of the critics will climb right back out of the woodwork to talk about how overrated they are.

This season isn’t for them. This season is for us. Cue it, Ed…

Damn straight, we are.