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LSU coach Ed Orgeron leads his team onto the field for the first half of the SEC Championship Game against Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta.

To the last, everything went LSU’s way this football season.

Even the skies, which before Saturday morning were forecasted to spit rain on LSU’s national championship celebration parade, looked gray and swollen but only ever meted out a few misty drops on LSU fans as they made their way home.

As Tiger Stadium public address announcer Dan Borne always reminds us, it never rains in Tiger Stadium. Nor, apparently, even right outside when thousands are gathered to cheer on their champions one more time.

Borne more than anyone had some heavy verbal lifting to do Saturday: It was his task to list all the achievements, all the awards, from LSU’s 2019-20 national championship football season.

There were so many things to mention, those of us who were there are lucky we still are not.

Not that the thousands of LSU fans — the 15,000 or so who shoehorned their way into the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and the thousands more who were turned away for safety reasons — weren’t looking for a reason to keep this season from finally, completely drawing to a close.

Virtually everyone and everything associated with the Tigers got a lusty standing ovation. Or five, as seemed to be the case for Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow. And Louisiana’s favorite new parlor game is trying to figure out how closely you might be related to coach Ed Orgeron.

“Mais, you know, I think he’s my fifth cousin once removed on my Tante Clotille’s side!”

No one really wanted it to end for two reasons: to gather around the feel-good campfire still burning brightly from LSU’s perfect, unprecedented season; and fear of the future to come.

To be sure, the Tigers are going to take a step back in 2020. How could they not? LSU lost Burrow, along with key seniors like defensive end Rashard Lawrence, guards Damien Lewis and Adrian Magee, and cornerback Kristin Fulton, plus the nine juniors who shouted “We won! Goodbye!” and exited early for the NFL draft.

Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is gone, too, not to a similar role in the NFL as long expected but to be head coach at Baylor. Does Aranda really like recruiting that much? The deep-pocketed folks in Waco are about to find out. Passing game coordinator Joe Brady we’re told never did, so there was little way he could have been expected to turn down an offensive coordinator job with the Carolina Panthers. With the NFL’s current predilection for coaches so young they have to be driven to work by their moms, it would be no surprise to see the 30-year-old Brady as an NFL head coach before he turns 35.

All of that may burnish LSU’s image as a strong player and coaching destination. But it won’t help the Tigers gain a critical first down at Florida next season. Nor stop Alabama’s offense and force a key punt this fall in Tiger Stadium with the game on the line.

To borrow a line from the great Peter O'Toole, as I totter into antiquity I will likely never see a team this like again. But it doesn’t mean LSU can’t be great again. In fact, I fully expect LSU will be back in the College Football Playoff challenging for another national title within the next two or three seasons.

The reasons are threefold:

1. LSU has talent and will continue to acquire premium talent at a high rate. If you thought Orgeron was a recruiting closer par excellence before, wait until he goes into an in-home visit wearing a championship ring the size of Rhode Island.

2. LSU is paying top dollar for quality assistant coaches. For Aranda and Brady alone, LSU was likely willing to shell out about $4 million combined, plus whatever raise Orgeron and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger have coming to them. Believe me, top football coaches will take notice.

3. The lasting legacy of this 2019 LSU football team, beyond all the titles and victories and shattered records, is that of a massive culture shift in the program.

LSU showed with its offense this season that it has arrived in the 21st century. A decade and a half late, perhaps, but better late than never. Brady was an enormous addition to LSU’s offensive brain trust, but he wasn’t the only coach out there who could help bring RPO and cutting-edge passing concepts to Baton Rouge. And with him gone, those aren’t things that will get packed away.

Orgeron has embraced this new offensive philosophy, and that’s the biggest thing. And he knows you, the LSU ticket-buying, championship T-shirt wearing, Advocate poster purchasing (shameless plug, I admit, but it helps paint the big picture) public won’t stand for a regression to the Tigers’ power-I days of yore.

To long-time college football writer Tony Barnhart, Mr. SEC himself, this season was far more than a gigantic flash in the pan.

“Yes, they can continue to do this,” Barnhart said. “At this level? That is a bit much to ask. But they’ve made the commitment, they know what it looks like, and the fans will never let them go back. They won’t be able to do this every year, but in my mind this is now their offensive identity.

“And they’re not going to change.”

The last piece of the puzzle will be to attract not just talent at LSU’s current levels, but elite quarterbacks. As this year’s CFP final four proved, you MUST have one to do great things in the modern game. LSU had Burrow. Oklahoma had Jalen Hurts and Ohio State had Justin Fields, quarterbacks who got landslide by Burrow in the Heisman voting but players who could have won the trophy in many other years. And Clemson had Trevor Lawrence, who got thrown into the spin cycle by LSU’s defense in the CFP title game but is also regarded as the odds-on top pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

It’s the piece to the puzzle that is the most elusive. But if LSU can find it again, watch out.

So revel in 2019. And don’t fear 2020 too much.

LSU’s next national title may not be close at hand, but it probably isn’t as far away as you may think.


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