On January 9, 2012, LSU walked into the Superdome with a chance to cap off the greatest season in college football history and cement themselves as the greatest team of all time. We all know what happened next.
Twelve months later, on December 31, 2012, LSU blew a 24-13 fourth quarter lead to Clemson by failing to convert a first down in the final frame, while also surrendering three consecutive 10-plus-play drives, each longer than 60 yards.
That was the beginning of the end for the Les Miles era. It was also the beginning of Clemson’s run as an elite football program. Clemson went 10-4 in 2011, losing the Orange Bowl, but the Peach Bowl capped off a 2012 season in which the Tigers went 11-2. Outside of 2014, Clemson has not lost more than two games since that Peach Bowl (they went 10-3).
From that date forward, Clemson has gone 9-2 in bowl games, ten of those eleven were traditional New Years Day bowls. Clemson has qualified for every playoff since its inception, and has now made the title game in four of the five possible years. Clemson is the defending national champs, and have won two of the last three national titles.
I don’t know what sort of Freaky Friday stuff happened in the 2012 Peach Bowl, but its time for it to stop. Those two bowl games, both in the calendar year 2012, have haunted this LSU program for nearly a decade.
We’ve tried wishing it away, ignoring it, even accepting it. Nothing has worked. Clemson took LSU’s place in the college football hierarchy and there has been nothing we could do about it… until now.
It’s time for a good old-fashioned exorcism.
You do not defeat your demons by running away from them. You have to face them. And for the first time in a decade, we have a team that is willing to look Destiny right in the face and spit in her eye. None of these players were in the building in 2012*, but they still carry the psychological scars of the program.
It is their job to finally heal them. If anything, the 2019 team is even better than the 2011 team. This offense has torn through college football — through the best defenses in the country — like they were little more than tissue paper.
Let us not be timid. Let us live not in fear of the demons of 2012, instead let us leave the demons back in the past where they belong. This is the greatest LSU team not just of my lifetime, but of anyone’s. This is the greatest LSU team of all-time, and it needs to do what the previous Greatest Team could not do. It needs to seal the deal.
Look, the team standing in the way is no slouch. Clemson is one of the most dominant programs in the country right now and they boast, statistically, the best defense in the nation in total yards, yards/play, and FEI. There are future NFL players all over the field.
Now, we can quibble and point to Clemson’s schedule. Hey, those stats are a mirage. Or we can look at the Ohio St game, the one elite offense Clemson has faced, when Clemson’s defense allowed 516 yards and 320 of it passing. And while Ohio St has a terrific offense, it is not LSU’s. Justin Fields is a legit great quarterback, but he’s not Joe Burrow.
We could do those things, but why bother? Is the question whether Clemson has the best defense in the nation or merely the fifth best? Tenth best? No matter how you slice it, this is an elite defense filled with playmakers. And we can talk about those 500 yards, but they also allowed just 23 points and oh yeah, won the friggin’ game. We are talking about Clemson’s defense because they came through in the semifinals.
But this is not about Clemson. Not really. This is about LSU reclaiming its identity. Clemson wanted to be where LSU was at in 2012, and now LSU wants the same thing. The only way to get to that higher level is to simply go out and take it.
This is a team that has transformed itself over the past few seasons. LSU has gone from a defense-first team with a ball control offense to the best offense in the nation, maybe ever. Ed Orgeron has transformed himself from a national punchline who picked fights with his players, fellow coaches, or anyone else standing nearby to one of the most forward-thinking and innovative coaches in the nation.
Both this program and this coach have been shaped by failure. Losers wallow in defeat and whine about how things didn’t go their way. Winners look at what went wrong and learn from those mistakes. Perfection is impossible, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work towards it.
The twin 2012 bowl defeats were not a dream denied. They were a dream delayed. The account has now come due. All we have to do is go face it and collect. Take what’s ours.
*PodKATT: Welllllll, not quite....
In 2011, Zach Von Rosenberg was a minor league pitcher in the Pirates organization who bought two tickets at $1,000 a pop to see #LSU in the national championship game in the Superdome. LSU lost 21-0.— Brody Miller (@BrodyAMiller) January 4, 2020
Eight years later, the 29-year-old will play for the title as a punter.