J. Brady McCollough looks at the 25 biggest storylines in college football heading into the 2019 season. Will LSU challenge for a national title?
Twice in Ed Orgeron’s coaching career, he has been named interim head coach in September and led his team to a 6-2 record the rest of the way.
The first school, USC in 2013, passed on making him permanent head coach. The second, Louisiana State in 2016, saw enough potential in the Cajun wild man to give him a shot.
So, with each season that begins with Orgeron still pacing the sidelines in Death Valley and USC awaiting its return to the glory of the Pete Carroll years, there is an opportunity for Orgeron to win big with the Tigers and in conjunction twist the knife in the hearts of USC fans who wish Pat Haden had kept him instead of hiring Steve Sarkisian.
It hasn’t happened yet.
Sure, LSU may be preseason No. 6 in the coaches poll, and it may have finished last year with a 10-3 record and a rousing win in the Fiesta Bowl over Central Florida, but Trojans fans will need to see more than that to feel true envy. Their current embattled coach Clay Helton, after all, has accomplished similar feats at USC.
Last year appeared to be the year that LSU could make its first College Football Playoff appearance. The Tigers, ranked third in the CFP rankings, hosted Alabama for what could have been one of those Richter-scale-shaking nights at Tiger Stadium. Instead, only LSU’s team was shook, taking a 29-0 whipping from the Crimson Tide that will sting until Orgeron — or some future head coach — can beat Nick Saban.
The jury is still out on Orgeron. He is such a dynamic recruiter that it’s hard to imagine he would not have had USC cranking out top-five classes, and he’s doing just fine in that regard in his native state. But it takes a lot more than recruiting to win in the SEC West, with Saban, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn as the competition and Georgia establishing its dominance in the East.
The word is that last year’s continued offensive struggle — particularly in that one game that matters most — have brought a modern offensive plan to the Bayou. Senior quarterback Joe Burrow has the ability to run a spread offense, and he would have plenty of skill position talent around him. But we’ll believe it when we see it.
Orgeron isn’t on the hot seat, so to speak, but if the Tigers don’t fare well in their marquee early game at Texas on Sept. 7, the doubters will begin to beat the drum. There would be room for recovery with Florida and Auburn coming to Tiger Stadium before LSU goes to Alabama.
Always, it comes back to Saban for LSU. His lordship over the Tigers is the reason that USC fans should not have to look back on 2013 and Orgeron with too much regret.