After 2011 football, what LSU team do you think is the best to not win a national championship or the SEC?
As for best LSU team to not win a title.....you can have the pick of the litter from the 5 Final Four teams in a row from 04-08 that didn’t win it all, a crazy run of real bad luck. My choice would probably be the 05 team, which went 33-3, had only 1 loss in the regular season, mowed down its regional in the tournament. Gym has a similar run of being able to pick anyone of great teams who came up just short - 14, 16, 17, 19 all finished 2nd. I’d go for 16 out of the bunch though, they came so close to beating OU. And then the 2013 baseball team, which lost 1 series all year, started 33-2, won 57 freaking games, and then had the BABIP Gods strike them down in Omaha. Nola, Eades, Katz, Bregman, Raph Rhymes. What a team.
The 2013 team stands out as a team that should have done more. It seems like a sneaky team in that most people will remember one of the more prolific offenses under Les Miles, but the group came up short one time too many in-spite of having a loaded group of skill position guys.
Football wise, 2015 is an underrated team when it comes to this discussion. That was such a talented team that definitely had the ability to go undefeated on the regular and contend for a national championship in the College Football Playoff if not for a Les Miles offense hitting that post-Alabama slump. Leonard Fournette leading the offense and Jamal Adams and Tre’Davious White on defense made this team really something. They led the Tigers to a 7-0 start before falling to Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss and finishing the season with a Texas Bowl win over Patrick Mahomes and Texas Tech. The 2015 team obviously wasn’t anywhere near that level of 2011 or 2019, but they had a high ceiling that they never really reached. And if the season opener against McNeese doesn’t get cancelled due to rain...
Other sports, I always go back to 2017 for both baseball and gymnastics, when both finished a national runner-up. This was a hot topic on Twitter recently because of a story on this here website, but that 2017 LSU baseball team grinded their way to the championship series. That team had a pitching staff consisting of Alex Lange, Jared Poche, Zack Hess and Eric Walker along with a talented infield with Kramer Robertson, Cole Freeman and freshman Josh Smith. LSU was couple of base-running errors and a Tommy John surgery away from adding a sixth national championship.
The LSU gymnastics team has had the misfortune the last few years of existing at the same time as Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols, who in my opinion is the best collegiate gymnast to ever exist. That’s exactly what happened in 2017, when the Tigers won the SEC regular season title and the SEC championship meet. That team is probably the most talented and deepest in LSU history, including veterans Ashleigh Gnat and Myia Hambrick, the sophomore trio of Sarah Finnegan, Lexie Priessman and McKenna Kelley and stunner freshmen Kennedi Edney and Ruby Harrold. The team seemed poised for the first national championship in program history, especially after a runner-up finish in 2016, but a slow start on the first couple events resulted in the Tigers playing catch-up all meet. Gnat anchored the meet with a phenomenal routine on the balance beam to push the Tigers to second place as Oklahoma put up the highest score in Super Six history.
Kennedi is absolutely right about the gym team, though it’s hard to view that as a chance missed for the same reason she points out: Maggie Nichols was obscene and on top of that, the Sooner squad was absurdly deep. I did like the contrast of styles (the entertaining, high-flying, crowd pleasers of LSU and UCLA against the disciplined, technically perfect OU squad). I hated Oklahoma for it, but the loss didn’t sting... the Sooners were better. LSU deserved to be the runner up, and that’s what they earned. I don’t really look at that run with “What could have been” like I do with 2011 football.
The other team that is the What Could Have Been is the 2005 football team, which is sort of the zygote of the 2019 team. Believe it or not, LSU had the second highest scoring offense in the SEC that season, keyed by the quarterback play of JaMarcus Russell and a deep stable of wide receivers. They didn’t quite bludgeon teams like the 2011 squad as they had more than their share of close calls (Arizona St, Florida, Auburn, and Arkansas were all decided by less than a score on top of the usual Alabama squeaker), but this was a team that had its schedule destroyed by the twin hurricanes of Katrina and Rita.
LSU’s two losses were both due to the schedule and nature. They blew a huge lead against Tennessee in that delayed game because the team was sleeping on floors and some of the players had lost up to ten pounds due to the circumstances. They simply lacked the conditioning to play a full 60 minutes in the wake of Katrina. And the second loss was simply the team running out of gas in Atlanta after not having a week off since that Tennessee game. Neither loss was really the result of talent or coaching, it was bodies giving out under the extreme stress of the situation.
A healthy and rested LSU squad showed what it could do in the Peach Bowl, when they gutted #9 Miami 40-3. The 2005 team, had they played in 2006, would have won the national title.
As for another great team that didn’t win the title, we don’t talk enough about how close LSU was to avenging that loss the very next year. The 2012 LSU team was very weird because they frustrated us week in and week out, but they really were capable of winning it all. I don’t need to discuss how only a few plays need to go differently against Bama in Tiger Stadium for that game to be a different story. Let’s say it does. LSU winds up 11-1 and SEC Championship bound against a Georgia team also at 11-1. In our reality Bama edged out UGA in a thriller that was the real National Championship because playing Notre Dame that year was like the old days where titles were awarded in December and bowl games were just an exhibition. So in this scenario, LSU just has to beat Georgia in order to face a Notre Dame team it will beat for a national title. LSU’s offense was very anemic for much of 2012, but they really hit their stride in November. The storyline that would’ve dominated is Zach Mettenberger facing his former school after being kicked off the team. How would he have played that game? Probably not as well as he did in Athens the next year with Cam Cameron, but I believe that with a trip to Miami on the line he would’ve played excellent.
Of course, a scenario I’ve often posed is the Ravens decide to fire Cameron before the 2012 season and not halfway through it, allowing LSU to hire him a year early. With the trio of Mettenberger, Odell Beckham, and Jarvis Landry along with the full four-headed rushing monster from 2011 PLUS Jeremy Hill, LSU is able to unleash its deadly 2013 offense a year early. Remember in this scenario they still have Eric Reid, Kevin Minter, Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery on defense. Also just for the hell of it let’s imagine Tyrann Mathieu doesn’t get kicked off the team.
After 2013 I always dreamed about what that team would look like.
It would probably look a lot like 2019 LSU.
There is an alternate universe where LSU has football championships in both 2011 and 2012 and oh how I yearn to live in that one. The 2012 team wasn’t as good as the ‘11 team, but it brought back enough pieces to be a serious threat.
But there was one piece missing from the previous season, that being Tyrann Mathieu. We’ll never know, of course, what would have happened if Mathieu is on the roster when Alabama makes the return trip to Baton Rouge, but I’d bet my life LSU wins that game. Mathieu would have been on the field, not freshman Jalen Mills, and would have snuffed out that screen pass. I just know it. Mathieu makes the stop, LSU beats Georgia in Atlanta (again) and then does to Notre Dame what Alabama did.
Best case scenario, LSU has titles in 2011 and 2012. Worst case is they have one. But to have zero? That’s cruel.
I’m also in the camp that baseball should have won at least one title since 2009. The 2013 team flamed out in spectacular fashion in Omaha; I see Jake Slaughter’s runner interference call against Florida in the 2017 championship series in my nightmares. To take away the tying run in an elimination game when Florida still got both outs? That hurt won’t ever go away; plus when you add in the fact that neither Alex Lange nor Jared Poche’ got to pitch in that series I think that makes the 2017 LSU baseball the best non-2011 football team to not win a title.