When it comes to LSU football, O is for Orgeron.
More to the point this season, O is also for Optimism.
Optimism is not a word always associated with LSU football. It’s certainly a word that makes LSU fans, for whom griping about the Tigers is a time-honored tradition, squeamish. They tend to regard optimism warily, like a call from an unfamiliar number that pops up on your cell phone. Fortunately, at least, LSU is not calling from somewhere in darkest Peru (home of a Mr. Paddington Bear), claiming something is wrong with your home computer.
Joe Burrow picks up the volleyball near his apartment's pool, and his friends can already sense where this is going.
But even the grumpiest LSU fan has to admit things are looking up circa 2019. Some examples:
• LSU has a new and popular athletic director in Scott Woodward (well, he’ll at least be popular until he raises ticket prices).
• They’re selling beer and wine stadium-wide in Tiger Stadium for the first time. This will have the double effect of allowing LSU fans to finally enjoy an adult beverage in the “cheap” seats, yet still complain about the long lines at concession stands to purchase said beverage.
• LSU has a quarterback who looks like he can play in Joe Burrow — a quarterback who has imbued the rest of the team with his blue-collar Midwestern mindset. No truth to the rumor he snacks on rusty nails provided in LSU’s new athletic nutrition center.
It may have seemed a lot longer ago to many fans, but the LSU football team reached double-digit wins for the first time in four seasons when …
• The Tigers have just the right kind of schedule to allow them to be a College Football Playoff contender, provided they don’t lose more than one game.
A rash of camp injuries aside, there were no major issues befalling the Tigers early in preseason camp. It’s an LSU team that has the talent, the experience, the schemes (more on that later) and, seemingly, that extra kick of good vibes to propel a consensus top-10 team into what may be the Tigers’ most anticipated season in a decade.
Now all they have to do is deliver.
The key, of course, to making this LSU engine go is the offense. After years of false starts, the Tigers appear ready to join the 21st century, catching up to other college offenses with a new devotion to the spread offense.
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Similar claims in the past are what makes the optimism pill to hard for LSU fans to swallow. Remember the end of the 2015 season, when Les Miles, after an 11th-hour reprieve on his career, declared the engine of his offense to be “pretty stinkin’ strong”? That lasted about 10 months.
Then there was the Matt Canada experience two seasons ago, the misdirection-filled attack that proved the greatest misdirection was bringing him from Pittsburgh.
Now, Coach O says, he has gone over to the other side. A spread, run-pass option attack.
“Yes, we’re running the spread,” Orgeron said last month, on the eve of camp. “We’re throwing the ball to the tight end. And yes, we’re going to throw the ball over the middle.”
Safety Grant Delpit, LSU's ninth unanimous All-American, has created a name separate from the legacy of former defensive backs. After a transformative year on and off the field, Delpit wants to "put his name in stone" at LSU.
Orgeron is effective at selling the faith of his convictions. But it’s easy to remember all those plans that ended in disaster. At stake is the faith of legions of LSU fans who have known the pain of falling victim to the overheated air of unrealistic aspirations.
The Tigers are going to have to walk a bit of a tightrope, attempting to be more prolific on offense while maintaining LSU’s long-standing identity as a defensive school. This is the one and only DBU, remember?
But this is the modern way to championship contention. LSU’s playbook for years has been filled with empty pages that failed to provide an answer the Tigers’ most pressing, recurrent question: How to take down Alabama? And beating Alabama, at least once in awhile, is mission critical if LSU is to make the College Football Playoff for the first time.
College football is throwing itself a big 150th birthday bash all season long.
Something has to be done. The losing streak to Alabama has reached eight, and the offensive frustration has risen right along with it. The Tigers have scored just 10 points in their past three games against the Crimson Tide. Desperate times call for … well, you know the rest.
What definitely comes to pass for LSU’s offense definitely deserves a skeptical eye until the Tigers prove their new ways on the field. But for now, the commitment to change is a reason for optimism.
Then it’s LSU’s job to prove there is reason for optimism past the first snap.
The Associated Press will release its preseason Top 25 today at 11 a.m. The poll includes 62 voters across the nation, and LSU football beat r…