Great expectations.

Good title for a classic Charles Dickens novel.

Not necessarily great if you are a college football team.

Low expectations can inspire you, make you burn with something to prove. Frankly, it was a factor in Ed Orgeron going from merely being a placeholder as interim coach, when Les Miles was fired in 2016, to getting the job permanently by the end of the season.

Great expectations can lead to overconfidence. For that we present Exhibit A: Troy 24, LSU 21, from Sept. 30, 2017. A date which will live in infamy.

That result, a 21-17 loss to Notre Dame in the 2018 Citrus Bowl and a host of unanswered questions led to low expectations of the Tigers going into last season. At Southeastern Conference media days last year in Atlanta, LSU was picked to finish fifth in the SEC West. Not at all the kind of season that was suitable for enshrinement.

The Tigers proved us experts wrong and took relish in every single exceeded assumption. Yes, there was another loss to Alabama, a tough defeat at Florida and a could-have-gone-the-other-way, seven-overtime disappointment at Texas A&M. But there were uplifting and impressive wins at Auburn, over Georgia and in the Fiesta Bowl against Central Florida.

LSU is still getting thank you cards from the rest of college football for ending UCF’s 25-game winning streak and heading off any prospect the Knights were going to declare themselves national champions again. Maybe that’s part of the Tigers’ good preseason vibrations.

The bowl win, in particular, meant a lot, getting LSU to 10 wins for the first time since 2013 and No. 6 in the final polls. It’s a big reason there are big expectations for the Tigers, who report for preseason camp Thursday.

The expectations are high, despite unanswered questions about the proposed newfangled offense; about who can fill Butkus Award winner Devin White’s shoes at linebacker; and about whether Derek Stingley can do the same at cornerback for All-American Greedy Williams.

And LSU merely has to replace the most prolific field-goal kicker in NCAA history, Cole Tracy. Don’t forget that one.

Great expectations are paving over all those potential potholes with “They’ll figure it out” filler. It’s really not based on anything more than what the Tigers accomplished last season when answers were expected to be hard to come by.

To Orgeron, wisely, what was good for LSU last year — getting the to distance itself from distractions — still works in 2019.

“Block out the noise,” Coach O said earlier this month. “That statement is going to be there again this year.


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“Last year, there was negativity. People didn’t know what type of football team we were going to have. Now this year, they say we’re going to have a really good football team. I do believe we’re going to have a really good team, but we have to get back to work. We have to get back to the true grit, the fundamentals it takes at camp.”

LSU has the skill to be a preseason top-10 team and, by that, a contender for one of those coveted four berths in the College Football Playoff. It is even presumed LSU has the schemes even though we have heard the words “the offense is going to be different” coming out of the football complex before. Maybe it’s the new state-of-the-art locker room pods that add an injection of credibility.

Now LSU has to have the leadership — the wiser, older heads to tell the younger ones not to believe too much in the headlines and the hype videos and preseason magazine covers.

A great season comes not from words but from digging it out of the dirt in the boiling days of preseason camp.

“I know our team is going to do that with tremendous leadership,” said Orgeron, the south Louisiana distributor of optimism.

Asked at media days what game he was looking forward to the most this season, All-American safety Grant Delpit didn’t say Alabama or Texas A&M, or even the highly hyped week two matchup at Texas.

“Week 1,” Delpit said, referring to LSU’s Aug. 31 home opener against Georgia Southern. “We can’t take any team for granted.”

OK. Boring answer. But truly great expectations demand that kind of focus. They don’t regard dazzling quotes as tangible currency.


Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com