LSU’s Ed Orgeron, once ridiculed over imperfections, cements 15-0 Tigers in college football lore
NEW ORLEANS — LSU coach Ed Orgeron put a national championship season into perspective in the most in-your-face way possible.
“People, they tease me the way I talk, tease me the way I look, and it’s kind of funny,” Orgeron said before a thoughtful pause. “The things that I was doing at Ole Miss I was ridiculed for, and now I punch myself in the jaw and everybody at LSU likes it. So, it just depends where you’re at.”
Orgeron literally came out swinging before the College Football Playoff championship matchup between No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Clemson when he got off the team bus at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He threw air punches. He pounded his chest. He high-fived fans and screamed. Of course, it went viral.
And with that, a team that can be considered the best SEC team of all time — and perhaps the best team of all time — finished off the perfect season with a 42-25 victory against the defending national champions.
Who is laughing now? LSU punched all of college football in the face for the second 15-0 season in as many years. They beat seven top-10 teams. They averaged 48.4 points per game. They had the Heisman Trophy winner in Joe Burrow, Biletnikoff Award winner in Ja’Marr Chase, Thorpe Award winner in Grant Delpit and Broyles Award winner in Joe Brady.
That recipe was untouchable against Clemson. Burrow passed for 463 yards and five TDs. Chase had 221 yards and a pair of TDs. Delpit had six tackles, a sack and forced a Trevor Lawrence fumble in the fourth quarter. Brady helped dial up another close-to-perfect game plan.
Orgeron’s team landed every punch. The coach who went 10-25 at Ole Miss from 2005-07 is now 40-9 at LSU since taking over as interim coach in 2016 and comes with a distinct sense of Louisiana pride. For Orgeron, that started in his hometown of Larose.
“I remember growing up and losing was not an option,” Orgeron said. “It was not an option. You had to win, win at basketball, you had to win in the backyard. Cajun people took a lot of pride in who they were. … It means a lot to everybody in the state of Louisiana, everybody that bled the purple and gold. I think it’s a tremendous night for everybody.”
No longer are there questions about how Orgeron talks, looks or acts. They are more like this …
Did Burrow have the best season ever? Is this the greatest team SEC team ever? The greatest team ever?
Burrow finished with 5,671 passing yards and 60 TDs, and he closed with a two-game stretch in the CFP against Clemson and Oklahoma that included 1,036 total yards and 14 total TDs. It is the best single-season performance by a quarterback, and a coin flip with Barry Sanders’ 2,628 rushing yards for Oklahoma State in 1988.
Burrow, however, refused to take all the credit.
“I think what we did tonight can’t be taken away from us,” Burrow said. “I don’t know about the whole hero thing, but I know this national championship will be remembered for a long time. To do it in New Orleans is even more special.”
LSU joined some exclusive company in the SEC. A total of 11 SEC teams have finished undefeated and won the AP national championship. Those schools include Alabama (1961, 1979, 1992, 2009), Auburn (1957, 2010), LSU (1958, 2019), Tennessee (1998), Georgia (1980) and Texas A&M (1939). If you want to do a mythical Playoff between ’92 or ’09 Alabama, ’10 Auburn, ’80 Georgia and ’19 LSU, we would watch ’92 Bama against ’19 LSU in the ultimate championship game.
We would take LSU and the spread, too.
It’s the spread — the offense that offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and Brady shared — that transformed LSU into something college football has never seen before.
The points. The statistics. The victories against seven top-10 teams. You can’t say LSU ain’t played nobody. They beat everybody. Clemson, which had a 29-game win streak and has played in four of the six College Football Playoff championship games, was the last victim.
“I thought LSU played a beautiful game,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “I thought their quarterback was tremendous. Those receivers, man, they made some incredible plays that were really well-covered. Several of them, but they made the play.”
Orgeron looks pretty good, now, huh? LSU did to Clemson what the Tigers did to Alabama in last year’s CFP championship game in a 44-16 blowout. That made for back-to-back 15-0 seasons in a format where that is not supposed to happen.
There is a strong case as any of those teams that were celebrated in college football’s 150th season.
“This is a special group of guys that really came together and it’s as close a group as I’ve ever been around,” Burrow said. “I’m just glad I was able to do it with Coach O.”
Coach O did it. Everybody at LSU likes it. And yes, in a sport where fit is everything, it happened at the right place.
Does that make this the greatest team of all time?
“That’s for you guys to decide,” Orgeron said. “We’re national champs. We’re 15-0. Whether we’re mentioned as one of the greatest teams or not, that doesn’t matter to me. I think we’re going to get to work, go to class on Wednesday and we’ll start working on next year.”
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