LSU Tigers Football: Are They the Greatest Team Ever?
It has been a field of glory for the Bayou Bengals before. For sure...
But much more than that, for Louisianans, it is a sacred place.
It is Monday night, Jan. 9 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Chance of rain is...never!
And the LSU Tigers have just defeated their bitter SEC rival, the Alabama Crimson Tide, for the second time this season and in the midst of a blizzard of confetti, have hoisted the Waterford Crystal ball.
The question now arises—unfortunately much like the sun will on some of the giddy revelers who mistook the BCS National Championship Game for Mardi Gras—is this LSU team the greatest of all-time?
This is not a question you are going to find on an LSAT. There is no definitive answer to these types of questions, and they are usually reserved for friendly debates at your local sports bar.
But, beware...some have been known to go quite awry at times.
I am going to provide you with some numbers and comparisons from the three college football teams that are widely considered to be the greatest of all time to allow for the debating to begin. And hopefully, this will be a peaceful process.
If you arrive back at your table to find that your draft beer appears a little different in shade, and your chicken wings are no longer tolerable, you can assume that someone did not agree with your opinion.
Overcoming Numerous Obstacles.
"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do."
This 2K11 version of the Tigers has risen defiantly in the Delta each and every time they have been knocked off their feet, which I think should account for a heck of a lot when discussions open on this topic.
The first in a series of knockdowns came just weeks prior to the much-anticipated opener with Oregon, when newly hired offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe announced that he had Parkinson's disease and immediately relinquished his play-calling duties.
The second blow followed rather quickly when senior starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson, the could-be benefactor to a preseason Heisman campaign, was involved in an off-campus bar brawl and was subsequently suspended by coach Les Miles. Jefferson returned to the team in a limited capacity five games later.
Around the same time, a third set back... Russell Shepard, an ultra-quick receiver, was suspended for three games by the powers that be due to his discussions with a teammate following an interview he had with the NCAA.
Jarrett Lee, the much-maligned backup senior signal-caller, who had struggled terribly earlier in his career, was thrust into the starting role. Then, the Tigers went into Jerry's World and handled the Ducks mightily 40-27, seemingly not missing a beat without Kragthorpe, Jefferson or Shepard.
All was good for a minute.
And then, just days prior to the Oct. 22 meeting with the defending national champion Auburn Tigers, cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon and starting running back Spencer Ware were suspended for a game after testing positive for a synthetic marijuana.
What the heck is synthetic marijuana anyway?
Enter freshman running back Kenny Hilliard, and tweak a few other things here and there, and the Tigers play possibly their most complete game of the season, defeating Auburn 45-10 in front of a kindled Tiger Stadium crowd.
Must we not forget—because sometimes they are forgotten about—Josh Dworaczyk, LSU's best offensive lineman, has missed the entire season with a knee injury, and center P.J. Lonergan has missed several games also due to injuries.
So, to say that the Tigers have overcome some obstacles on their way to a perfect season might just be an understatement.
1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Many consider the 1971 version of the Cornhuskers the best college football team ever. Prior to the start of this season, they were voted so by a panel consisting of dozens of former coaches, players and national media members for an issue of The Sporting News celebrating it's 125th anniversary.
Do the Tigers have a case here? Sure they do.
The Huskers, led by coach Bob Devaney, quarterback Jerry Tagge and running back Johnny Rodgers (who would win the Heisman the following year) finished the season 13-0 and were obviously crowned consensus national champions.
In 12 of their 13 contests, the Huskers managed to outscore their opponents by double-digits. A Thanksgiving matchup with Oklahoma coined "The Game of the Century" marked the lone single-digit margin of victory, as the Huskers outlasted the Sooners 35-31 in Norman.
Very similar to that of LSU, the Tigers' lone single-digit victory was also titled "The Game of the Century" and found them a three-point overtime winner in Tuscaloosa over the Crimson Tide.
The Huskers averaged 39 points per game in 1971 while allowing their opponents just 8.2 per contest—very similar to the Tigers' numbers of 38.2 and 10.6 this season.
And much like the Bayou Bengals, should they win the BCS National Championship, both will have beaten the No. 2 ranked team twice (Nebraska defeated Oklahoma and Alabama, while the Tigers will have defeated Alabama twice.)
So, go ahead and drink up because you have just presented a very good case.
1972 USC Trojans
The Trojans started the 1972 season as the No. 8 team in the country, but after a crazy opening week, they found themselves sitting atop the polls after defeating the then No. 4 Arkansas Razorbacks 31-10.
USC, coached by John McKay, finished the season 12-0 after blowing out Ohio State 42-17 in the Rose Bowl. In the process, the Trojans became the first team to be ranked No. 1 on every ballot of both the coaches and media polls.
Keith Jackson, the former voice of college football who has seen a big game or two during his enduring broadcasting career, described the '72 Trojans as the best ever. But, The Sporting News disagreed and gave them second billing in their poll.
During their run to perfection, the Trojans defeated six ranked opponents. A victory over Ohio State in the Rose Bowl was their biggest of the season, as the Buckeyes had entered as the No. 3 team in the country.
The Trojans managed to light up the scoreboard to the tune of 38.9 points a game while allowing 11, which are numbers very comparable to those of the 2011 Tigers.
Once again, there is legitimacy in the argument as to whether or not the Tigers' 2011 version is every bit as good as this team that many have considered one of the greatest.
Numbers don't lie.
And I know they do not always tell the whole story, but...
Hey, you did a fine job anyway.
And this beer is on me.
1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers
1. The fact or state of being dominant.
see: the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers
OK, well that last line is not really found in Merriam-Webster's definition of dominance, but it very well could be.
The Huskers finished the 1995 season with a 12-0 record and were consensus national champions after taking the chomp out of the No. 2 Florida Gators 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl to close out their perfect campaign.
Playboy magazine named this Huskers squad as the greatest team of the Playboy era (which began in 1957).
Not sure how they beat out the Dahm triplets of 1998 fame unless, of course, it was meant to be a voting of college football teams only.
The Big Red Machine was dominant from the kickoff of the season to the last snap in Tempe, having averaged an astonishing 53 points per game while their Black Shirt defense allowed just 14.5 per.
The Huskers faced only four ranked opponents all season, but outscored them by an average of 49-18. They set records by averaging seven yards per rushing attempt and also by allowing zero quarterback sacks on the season.
Did you get that? Zero.
You could make a case for the Tigers here because remember...it's your debate, and there is no right or wrong answer.
However, this is probably not an ideal time to rise up to take that restroom break you have been in need of.
Sit still, take a couple sips, and try to think of something fast.
Make some numbers up if need be.
Chances are—after having just provided some genuine information allowing your argument to stand up amongst the table—your friends may not be paying as close attention any longer.
Then again, maybe they are.
Here are the numbers you need to remember when you are first posing this question at Hooters in the very near future and later on down the line, when you have surrounded yourself with new friends that don't carry on such foolish games involving hot sauce.
The Tigers have averaged a little more than 38 points per game and have only allowed 10.
They have defeated (BCS National Championship Game not included) 12 of their 13 opponents by double-digits, including a Georgia team that had entered the SEC Championship Game on a 10-game winning streak.
They have defeated eight nationally ranked teams (the most in the history of college football).
They have defeated three teams in the Top 4 (four if they can manage to beat Alabama again).
Three of those four were away from their own pantheon of concrete and steel, Tiger Stadium.
The best ever? Well...
Now that is a great question! (I think I'm going to use it.)