It's not 'heat of the moment' to say LSU had the best season in college football history
That word is thrown around too much these days. Everyone is a G.O.A.T. because in the social media era, everything is black or white. It’s used to squash debates, and far too often, it’s used without context, and far too often in the heat of the moment.
But yes, that was a “G.O.A.T.” season that LSU just pulled off. The Tigers had a perfect season, and it culminated with the sweetest of all victories — by taking down the defending champs and ending a 29-game winning streak … in the state of Louisiana.
Don’t worry about being called a prisoner of the moment for declaring something was the G.O.A.T.
You see, declaring LSU’s season as the best in college football history is by no means just the product of 1 game. But it’s the obvious place for us to start because what LSU did to Clemson should serve as the closing argument for the G.O.A.T. discussion. And if you rolled your eyes at that because the ACC had a down year, I’m sorry. You can’t be saved. You’ll never understand how hard it is to win 29 straight football games and come 60 minutes from winning a third national title in 4 seasons.
Against the No. 1 scoring defense in America, LSU put up over 600 yards of offense, which was roughly 2.5 times what Clemson allowed per game (264 yards). And the Clemson defense that hadn’t allowed more than 23 points in a game all season allowed more than that … by halftime (LSU nearly doubled that 23-point mark by game’s end).
Oh, and that Joe Burrow fellow had a G.O.A.T. season, too. Shoot, the guy had a G.O.A.T. kind of night. Against that aforementioned No. 1 defense, he put up 521 yards of offense and 6 touchdowns (5 passing, 1 rushing). Decent, I suppose. It’s probably worth mentioning that he bested Colt Brennan’s FBS record for touchdown passes in a season. Not bad for the Heisman Trophy winner.
As great as Burrow’s final stat line was, it wasn’t a perfect 60 minutes. The guy who threw for 7 touchdown passes in the first half against Oklahoma and claimed “he left some throws out there” would be the first to admit that it wasn’t a perfect start to the night.
LSU fell behind by 10 early to a Clemson team who had won 50 straight games when scoring first. The offense looked un-LSU like facing its first deficit since Oct. 26. The group that hadn’t been stopped all year looked like it was about to fall victim to Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables like Alabama did in last year’s blowout loss to the Tigers.
Nah. That’s not what a G.O.A.T. team would do.
What a G.O.A.T. team would do would be get protection to allow Burrow to take shots downfield to Ja’Marr Chase. A G.O.A.T. team would get Clyde Edwards-Helaire some key early-down touches to move the chains against Clemson’s 3-1-7 defense. A G.O.A.T. team would quickly make people forget that Trevor Lawrence entered the night with the chance to have arguably the best 2-year start in college football history having never lost a start.
LSU did all of that and more because why wouldn’t it? After all, nothing about the previous 4 months suggested that now was the time to turtle. Battle-tested, confident, unstoppable, etc. Pick your adjective.
Let’s start with that first one (battle-tested) because it needs some perspective. You simply cannot ask a team to do more in a season than what LSU did. Monday night marked the Tigers’ seventh win against a top-10 team this season.
If you want to look at where teams LSU beat finished, that’s fine. We can do that, too (Associated Press Top 25 rankings):
- No. 2 Clemson (neutral site): W 42-25
- No. 4 Georgia (neutral site): W 37-10
- No. 6 Florida: W 42-28
- No. 7 Oklahoma (neutral site): W 63-28
- No. 8 Alabama (road): W 46-41
- No. 14 Auburn: W 23-20
(That doesn’t include the Texas game, where LSU beat the then-top 10 and eventual No. 25 Longhorns thanks to a dagger touchdown from Burrow to Justin Jefferson in the closing minutes. That play served as the moment that Ed Orgeron knew his team could win it all.)
How impressive is that? Those 6 teams all finished as top-15 teams. Five in the top 8 is just ridiculous. That 2001 Miami team had 3 wins against teams in the final top 15 of the AP Poll, which was the same as 2004 USC, 2018 Clemson and 1971 Nebraska. The 1995 Nebraska team had 4 such wins.
Yeah, 2019 LSU is the most battle-tested team in college football history. No doubt. To go 15-0 with that slate of opponents is unprecedented. So is scoring 726 points in a season, which LSU also became the first to do in the sport’s history.
How fitting that in college football’s 150th season, this LSU team came along. The perfect storm of an all-time great quarterback, elite pass-catchers, a vastly improved offensive line and a do-it-all tailback was what allowed Joe Brady’s system to flourish. Orgeron’s vision — not to mention his Red Bull-fueled pregame speeches and his own personal revenge tour — was what allowed LSU to become this unstoppable juggernaut that made us rethink what a perfect college football team is supposed to look like in 2019.
7 top 10 wins
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) January 14, 2020
Some will say LSU didn’t have the best season of all-time because of the struggles the defense had against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss. They’ll say “2001 Miami never would’ve allowed that many points to Vandy.” That’s fine. I think LSU’s defense more than made up for it in how it finished the season by dominating the likes of Lawrence, Jalen Hurts, Jake Fromm and Kellen Mond en route to a national title.
To those saying “1995 Nebraska was more dominant because it beat everybody by at least 14 points,” that’s fine, too. I’d argue that a team that didn’t ever pass the ball (No. 89 nationally) wasn’t as complete as LSU, nor did it have to face nearly as many tests in a 12-game season against the Big 8 in the pre-Playoff/conference championship era.
I don’t know if this LSU team will end up with the NFL Draft talent those early 2000s Miami teams had, nor do I really care for this discussion. This is about the G.O.A.T. season.
The greatest season ever belongs to LSU. It belongs to the team who ended the streak against Alabama. It belongs to the team who played an SEC Championship and a Playoff semifinal in Atlanta and treated consecutive top-5 teams like FCS squads.
These years don’t come around very often. If ever. LSU fans know that better than anybody. They remembered watching that 2011 team come up short against Alabama the second time to ruin that perfect season. Had Clemson been the thing standing in LSU’s way, it would’ve been a sour end to an all-time great year.
But that didn’t happen. For the first time in 12 years, LSU fans didn’t have to drown their sorrows on Bourbon Street wondering “what if.” It was LSU’s time to be perfect. It was LSU’s time to cement itself as a team for the ages. There was nothing that was going to stand in this team’s way of that mission. There was no other way this was going to end.
It’s hard to even imagine Burrow walking off the field with his head down with confetti falling on Clemson. I’m sure he never imagined that for a second. There’s a reason why a Clemson team who was searching for its 30th straight win did so as nearly a touchdown underdog. LSU was never going to be denied its quest for perfection.
The more fitting ending played out as it only could in New Orleans — the LSU band played “Neck” and Burrow joined in as the Tigers closed the book on a national title.
If that’s not a G.O.A.T. season, I don’t know what is.