The LSU football team reports to work Wednesday, and many believe this season will end with the Tigers hoisting the BCS crystal trophy on the floor of the Superdome on Jan. 9.
We’ll see. It’s a long way - 160 days to be exact - from here to there.
In geometry class, we’re taught that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Thankfully that doesn’t apply to football seasons. You don’t show up on Day 1 looking straight ahead at a championship in the distance, then proceed there without negotiating a few curves along the way.
Look at Auburn last season. Sure those Tigers finished 14-0 and weren’t detoured by any losses. But they and their followers had plenty of anxious moments as they navigated tricky turns. Auburn trailed Clemson 17-0 and needed overtime to win by a field goal. It had to overcome a 20-7 deficit to win its regular-season meeting with South Carolina. It was tied with LSU with less than six minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers’ road to the title seemed to be derailing when they fell behind Alabama 27-0, but they rallied and won.
They needed a field goal on the last play of the game to beat Oregon in the title game, just as they did to beat Kentucky in the regular season.
LSU fans will remember times when their championship dreams seemed to be evaporating in 2003 and 2007 only to see their Tigers ultimately hoist those crystal footballs. The 2003 title run was jeopardized by a mid-season loss to Florida, and a berth in the title game wasn’t assured until the last game of the last weekend tilted the computer LSU’s way after it had beaten Georgia for the SEC title.
The 2007 season featured far more anxiety as the Tigers had to overcome fourth-quarter deficits four times to win games. A triple-overtime loss to Arkansas on the day after Thanksgiving seemed to KO the Tigers, but a Missouri loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game and an improbable upset by Pittsburgh against West Virginia - as well as LSU’s hard-fought victory against Tennessee in the SEC title game - put the Tigers back in the Superdome. There, they overcame an early 10-0 deficit to whip Ohio State, 38-24.
The joy of following special seasons is watching that which you could not have anticipated play out as a unique team scripts its own narrative.
Expectations are so high that it’ll be easy to view every development from here on out in the context of how it could affect the Tigers’ title chances. But this season is going to unfold however it chooses to unfold, and just when you think you know where it’s headed, it’ll probably veer off in another direction and surprise you.
It’s a long way to January, but this should be a fun trip - wherever it ends.