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Delusional Optimism is Not Supposed to Be Here

Have we considered how unlikely this all is?

Syndication: The Montgomery Advertiser
OK. He’s awesome.
Jake Crandall / Advertiser / USA TODAY NETWORK

LSU is the 2022 SEC West champions.

How is that possible? This team didn’t just win the division, it has won the division with half of the month of November to spare. This isn’t just a win, this is a blowout.

You look back on some of the great teams which did not win the division, it becomes genuinely shocking how this team managed to pull the trick. No one will confuse this team with the 2019 squad, loaded with future NFL stars.

Outside of Harold Pekins, who is a shoo in for All-SEC honors? Probably BJ Ojulari. Maybe Mekhi Wingo. But that’s about it. And I don’t just mean first team, I mean second team as well. This is truly a team in the full sense of the word, lacking individual standouts, carrying this team on their backs.

Every week, a new hero.

But take the biggest symbol of LSU’s development this season: Jayden Daniels. He has turned his season around, and has already set the LSU record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. While unlikely, a season of 3000 yards passing and 1000 yards rushing is within reach.

It is a remarkable year and without it, LSU is groping for bowl eligibility. That said, there’s no way he’s going to be among the honored at season’s end. Hendon Hooker is a Heisman contender, Stetson Bennett is guiding an undefeated Georgia squad, and Bryce Young is still the most talented player in the conference.

Daniels, as great as he has been, ranks 8th in yards per attempt, 7th in passer rating, and 6th in total passing yards. That’s about as middle of the pack as you get.

He does lead SEC QB’s in rushing yards, but he only ranks 10th in total rushing yards. LSU’s leading rushers among running backs is Josh Williams, who ranks 20th in the SEC in rushing yards. He may be a folk hero, but he will not rush for 1000 yards this season, barring a miracle.

LSU’s preseason All-American receiver, Kayshon Boutte, does not even lead the team in receiving yards, Malik Nabors does. But Nabors only ranks 15th in the SEC in receiving yards. No postseason honors likely there, either.

The line is much improved and it is remarkable simply that it is not a liability, but the top performers on the line are the freshmen tackles who have had their share of freshman moments as well.

The secondary, which promised to be a team weakness, has held up remarkably well this season. But Mekhi Garner is 19th in the SEC in passes defended which is not overly impressive, and no interceptions to go with it.

We owe the secondary a deep round of applause, as they have kept the lights on this year when we had genuine reason to believe teams were going to pick them apart. They most likely won’t be receiving postseason plaudits outside of Louisiana.

Maybe a special teams player could sneak onto the All-SEC list but, have you seen our special teams?

When a team in a conference as loaded as the SEC wins their division going away, you expect them to be loaded with stars and players who will dot the postseason award lists. That is not this team.

Much has been made of the fact that only 39 scholarship athletes played in the bowl game, the last game before Brian Kelly took over. That actually understates the issues with the roster, as only 25 of those 39 were on the roster after fall practice. 25.

This is a team which is not supposed to be here. It is not supposed to be doing this. But it did. Forget about “imagine what Kelly can do with more talent.” That insults this team and this accomplishment.

This is one of the biggest upsets in the expansion era SEC. This team is genuinely remarkable and they did it by getting every last bit of production out of every last player on the roster.

I am beyond proud of this team. The 2019 team is obviously better. But this… this might be the more remarkable team accomplishment. This team is special. These are the modern Chinese Bandits.

Cue the band. Bow down.