Well, LSU clinched the top seed in the College Football Playoffs and will square with No. 4 Oklahoma, back in Atlanta in three weeks. What do we think?
If the defense keeps playing like they have the last two weeks, I think Oklahoma fans will be looking for something else to do by the end of the third quarter, if not sooner. This offense, which is something Oklahoma hasn’t seen anything close to, just put up 37 points on one of the better defenses in the nation and left points on the board. The Sooners had to go to overtime to beat the third-string quarterback for Baylor. Burrow and this offense will move the ball at will, and the defense, even if they took a step back (which I don’t see happening), will do their part to give the Tigers a return trip to New Orleans for another national title shot.
LSU’s peaking during championship season. There’s little more you could ask for from your team. We’ve played three of the best defenses in the country and hardly missed a beat on offense. In the last three weeks, the defense is looking like the fully formed beast we expected all offseason. We aren’t just beating teams, we are dunking on them. And teams that don’t get dunked on in the case of A&M and Georgia. There’s no way we shouldn’t love our team right now.
For the matchup, people will bring up the Ole Miss rushing attack and how it gashed us and try to map Oklahoma’s offense to that. There’s similarities, and OU is truly an option running team at this point. But, as much joy as the Hurts story is off the field, and while his numbers look great, watching him it’s clear the Oklahoma offense isn’t the same animal it was under Mayfield and Murray. He’s simply not the same threat as a passer and he’s become quite turnover prone, which has really put OU in a bind in the back half of the season. I feel similarly to this game as I did to Georgia... it’s a really good team. They will make plays. But to beat this LSU team you need the full package and OU doesn’t quite have that. They will score, but their defense won’t have the ammo to slow down the most prestigious offense in school history.
I have mixed emotions. I’m happy of course. Who wouldn’t be? This year LSU has snapped a tortuous losing streak to a hated rival, beat every foe that’s dare crossed their path, waxed Georgia in their own backyard and has the best offense in the country piloted by the program’s best player ever and soon to be Heisman trophy winner.
And yet as the calendar rolls to December I’m feeling a little gloomy. Sad that this season this magical, incredible, once in a lifetime ride is nearing its end. I’ve seen every game this year, been to three of them and have had the privilege of at least having a small part in documenting this year with all you guys. And yet it feels like I haven’t appreciated this year enough, and now I need to fit in a lifetime of euphoria into what we’re all hoping is two games.
I was in Tiger Band and that program means the world to me. I was a freshman during the 2011 season and I remember being in the old Georgia Dome making a conscious effort to savor every moment of the Tigers win. I’m glad I did because we never went back in all my years in school and I have a ton of friends from Tiger Band that never got to experience an SEC Championship trip. So it’s my sincere hope that the current band members and anyone that has a rooting interest in the LSU football program takes a second to just soak in what this 2019 team has done. You never know if you’ll ever be back in this situation so you have to cherish the moment while it lasts.
It’s good to feel like the SEC title game actually mattered, and beating up on a team that some thought might sneak in actually benefited LSU. I don’t care what happened to Texas after the fact, that win was huge. On top of that, there were two wins over New Year’s Six teams and two more teams playing on January 1, including the win at Bama. Ohio State can’t match that, I don’t care what anyone says.
Like Dan said, it feels like this team has started to come together a little more in these final weeks. Guys are getting healthy, and the defense got some better match-ups, Ole Miss outlier aside. Now, it does worry me that Oklahoma’ running game can be a little similar in terms of how they can use the quarterback and create numbers and gap advantages. But there’s no reason to believe this OU defense is going to slow down the Tiger offense at all.
The big challenge will be surviving the banquet circuit and keeping the edge. We’ve seen it happen to many a Heisman winner. It’s hard to envision it with someone as driven as Joe Burrow, but it’s still uncharged opportunity for all the players involved, including Ed Orgeron and the LSU staff. Plus, they have to get through an early signing period next week. But it was fun to watch the program kind of give a collective “eh?” to the playoff announcement. They knew they were in and didn’t care how it played out. No reason to lobby or politic.
But it’s impossible not to be excited about this team and everything it’s accomplished. It’s been a season to remember, and I hope that endures through the next month.
What has been really impressive these last few weeks is how in sync this group has been about being happy with their accomplishments but not satisfied until their goals are met, and willing to do whatever it takes to reach those goals. Coaching staff and players talk about it, and their play reinforces that approach. It’s a pretty sharp contrast to all the other teams who have spent the last few weeks lobbying for a spot in the playoffs. Even though Oklahoma is a tough match up, LSU has every reason to be confident heading into this game.
I’m expecting a tougher first half than most, simply because this is Oklahoma’s third straight Playoff appearance and they should be used to the stage by now. I think LSU wins comfortably in the end, but I won’t be so quick to write off the best offensive mind in college football.
But one of Coach O’s greatest strengths as head coach is having LSU focused on the opponent in front of them, so I expect LSU to match the Sooners’ energy early on.
From a fan’s perspective, I’m over the moon that LSU is actually in the College Football Playoff finally. I hope we all take these three weeks to sit back and reflect on what an amazing season this has been, and recognize we may never see one like it again.
Also we get to watch Joe Burrow win the Heisman this weekend. This is incredible, I’m excited as if it’s a 14th game.
Evan touches on a major point... this program isn’t acting like anything has been accomplished yet. I do agree we should all appreciate how wonderful this year has been because even if LSU keeps fielding great teams, it’s hard to imagine a team quite as special as this one ever again. This season has been a joy from start to finish, and part of the fun has been cashing in on some IOU’s that we’ve been accumulating in the back of the dresser. I did halfway wish LSU got the two seed just so they would have something to focus on and stay angry about during awards seasons. But ultimately, I’m glad this group got the honor of No. 1, as they deserve that kind of accomplishment.
So instead of staying angry, the team instead needs to stay hungry. They can’t play the No One Believes in us card anymore, unless they saved that one from September. What they can focus in on is that these three other programs are Playoff Veterans. This is Clemson’s fifth trip to the playoffs, Oklahoma’s fourth, and Ohio State’s third. Between them, those programs have three titles in the playoff era. This is LSU’s first trip and we can talk about the one seed, but they are certainly the upstart new kid on the block of this group of blue bloods.
LSU doesn’t belong until they prove they belong. And you prove you belong by winning games. This was a great, wonderful season. But that season is over. It’s a new season, and we start back in he bottom, as just another team trying to prove itself.