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Best Team To Never Win A Championship: 2011 LSU Football

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We’ve been basking in the glory of the 2019 team for months. Let’s humble ourselves for a moment and look back on what could have been.

Louisiana State University Tigers Football

This week on SB Nation, various blogs are looking back on some of the best teams to never win a championship. When it comes to this, LSU might have the single greatest example of a team that just fell a little shy of winning it all. That’s right y’all, we’re talking about 1/9/12.

What’s your lasting impression of the 2011 team? Will you ever get over 1/9/12? Is it THE best team to never win a national championship?

Jake

How much fun they were. It was talked so much this season that this year’s team had incredible swagger and confidence, unlike any team in recent memory. And while that’s certainly true, the 2011 team displayed similar traits. The swagger they played with and the belief they had that they’d always make a big play and then turn the game into a rout was just infectious to watch. And they always did. Oregon, Arkansas, Georgia, I’m sure there’s a few more, all games - and big games at that - where they made one big play and knew the game was over and they had their opponent where they wanted them

I’m pretty well over it now. I’ve never rewatched it or the highlights and for a long time it ate at me the same way it did many fans; having to play Bama again when we shouldn’t have, the works of it just made me mad. That lasted for about 4-5 years before it more became kinda sadness that such an amazing team had their legacy be defined that way. But with the 2019 season going how it did and seeing so many 2011 guys root on this team, I’ve closed that book and they have too.

It’s certainly the best LSU team to never win a title, it’s the 2nd best LSU team ever. I think it’s probably the best SEC team to never win a title, though the 2016 Alabama team has a pretty good case as well. But beating 3 Top 5 teams, and in the manner they did for two of them, was just staggering. As I’ve often said, they beat every team they played. Very few teams can say that. And then I think it’s definitely in the conversation for all time best CFB teams to never win a championship.

Saltzman

My lasting impression of the 2011 team is how flippin stacked the defense was. That team had its first AND second team cornerbacks get drafted. Tyrann Mathieu is my favorite Tiger. The offense was just an unstoppable rushing machine, they had four guys with at least seven rushing touchdowns. Hell even the passing game was competent. Also it felt like that team could score on all three phases. The punter had a touchdown. Looking back, I can’t believe how much more confident I was in the 2011 team than I was in the 2019 team during the season. Entering the final game I was pretty sure LSU was going to win by a comfortable margin. Ultimately, I dont know if I’ll ever forget about the game, I just try to ignore it. It is a pivotal point in the history of the program for sure just not one I care to remember. They won this year, the demons are done. It’s a lot easier now to think how awesome that team was and simply gloss over the final results.

Poseur

The 2011 team is a lifetime reminder of how hard true greatness is to attain, and how falling just short is more painful than missing by miles. Also, some folks is lucky, and others ain’t. Alabama lost the Game of the century, and benefited by it. That will never cease to piss me off. But it’s not just that. For LSU to win over the past decade, they need everything to go right. One mistake, one off week, and the season goes up in flames. Bama? Losses are irrelevant. Alabama hasn’t had an undefeated team since 2009...

... and they’ve won four national titles. Sure, they are very good, and always being in the mix yields results, but I don’t think people appreciate just how lucky Bama has been. They could have zero titles with worse politicking and changing zero results on the field for them. Everyone says, if only Oklahoma St hits that kick which ignores that A) they might have made that kick and B) they probably should have gone to the title game anyway even with a loss. But things just work out for Bama.

I know luck is the residue of design, but this is ridiculous.

As for the 2011 team itself, I’m astounding by how deep the team was. LSU had two quarterbacks with 100 attempts and a completion percentage over 60% (Yup... look it up. Jefferson was a better passer than you remember).

They had three running backs with at least 500 yards rushing. They had three backs who averaged over 5 yards per carry, and it didn’t account for their leading rusher or another back who averaged 4.9.

LSU’s defense went 11 deep on guys with 40+ tackles. #12 was Ron Brooks, who had 30 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2 INT, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and 2 TD. And he was the team’s #6 DB.

The defense had 5 guys with exactly 2 picks and 8 guys with at least 6 TFL (three with 10+). LSU scored 6 defensive touchdowns and 3 on special teams. It was a monster that came at you in waves. TWENTY different players recorded at least one TFL. 9 guys forced at least one fumble. 8 had an interception. Everyone was dangerous. It was literally a defense for the ages.

They beat two other conference champs. They beat the national champ on the road. They won three games against teams ranked in the top 5 and 8 games against ranked teams. And until the bowl game, only one team got within 13 points of them. This was the greatest team in college football history since 1995 Nebraska. They laid waste to the 2011 season, only to drop one game, and have their greatness used against them. How could you not win that game?

That’s how important it is to finish up the deal. The 2011 team is every bit as good as the 2019 team, and its tragic they are not remembered as such.

Kennedi

I think it’s clear from the responses above me that the lasting impression of 2011 is how deep and talented that team was, especially on the defensive side. Besides 2019, I’ve never been more confident watching sports than I was watching LSU that entire season. D-D Breaux always quotes Skip Bertman, who said winning championships takes some talent and whole lotta luck. The stars have to line up, and it just didn’t for LSU in 2011.

I wasn’t over 1/9/12 until 11/9/19. Not until LSU finally avenged that victory did I truly finally get past it. I literally had a group message named “i haven’t been happy since jan. 9 2012” that has now been changed to “i’m happy” when LSU won in Tuscaloosa this year.

This is definitely the best LSU team to not win a title, but I do remain confident that LSU would’ve beaten anybody else in the Superdome on that day, especially Oklahoma State.

Evan

I’ve heard many people refer to dominant sports teams over the years as “a machine.” The 2011 LSU Tigers, for better and definitely for worse, were more machine than any team I’ve ever seen. The thing about a machine is it’s systematic. It is made aware of the task in front of it, and it accomplishes that task swiftly and methodically. Whenever LSU played a football team in 2011, its task was to defeat the other team. It did that as swiftly and methodically as any other team in the sport.

The offense and defense played with levels of cohesion I’ve never seen before. Poseur already pointed out how the stats were absurd across the board. These weren’t collections of talented football players, they were units. A series of powerful parts connected and working together to accomplish the necessary tasks. They were the T-1000 and Robocop rolled into one.

But the systematic methodology that makes a machine so efficient is also what makes it break down in the end. If you know the right cords to pull, you can render a machine completely useless. When things started going wrong for the machine on 1/9/12, the machine didn’t try to solve the problem using an alternative method, it just kept sending 404 ERROR messages and hitting refresh, hoping it would eventually work. It didn’t.

The 2019 LSU team wasn’t a machine, it was a monster. Instead of a combination of 1s and 0s, 2019 LSU was a living organism that could think, adapt, and learn to outsmart its prey. That was the change that needed to be made to avenge the 2011 team. I can’t speak for everyone, but the pain of 1/9/12 is pretty much gone for me for a slew of reasons. One reason is that the magical season coincided with my senior year at LSU, the perfect way to go out. But the main reason is that even though Bama won four championships over the span of that eight-game losing streak, all of them would lose to 2019 LSU if they played, some by double digits. So I don’t mind all the Bama fans yelling BUT 16 RINGZZZZ on Twitter because they’ve never rooted for a team as good as ours was last year.

Junda

The 2011 LSU football team has a special place in my heart for better worse. Evan mentioned how 2019 was his last year at LSU, well 2011 was my freshman year. I was in Tiger Band so I was with that team every single Saturday until the bitter end.

That LSU team, especially on defense, had some DUDES on it. While I’m sure there’s statistically better defenses throughout college football’s long history, you’ll never convince me there was a unit better than the ‘11 Tigers. The front four chewed up and spit out every offensive line they faced. You literally couldn’t throw on the secondary. All the while there was this diminutive, disruptive force of nature wearing No. 7 who wreaked havoc every where he went and forced approximately a billion turnovers. The phrase “there will never be another (blank)” gets thrown around a lot in sports, but I’m certain we will never see another football player do what Tyrann Mathieu did in the fall of 2011.

My favorite thing about the 2011 team is the pelts on the wall they collected on the way. They didn’t steamroll through a bunch of no names, they beat some of the best teams that season. Not just beat, they destroyed them. They beat the Pac-12 and Big East champs, away from Tiger Stadium mind you, easily. They destroyed Auburn. And Florida. And Arkansas. And Ole Miss. And Tennessee. And Georgia. They beat the eventual national champs in their building. They may not have beaten Alabama when it mattered most, but that team went on the road and beat those guys. That should mean something.

Am I over 2011? I don’t know, I don’t think you ever get over that. Maybe being in the building that night left a scar. I don’t think you can just shrug away a team that good losing to who they lost to in the manner in which they lost. But I know this, they gave every member in Tiger Band commemorative BCS hoodies prior to the game. I still have mine and thanks to Joe Burrow and the 2019 season, I can wear that hood in peace.