I had a couple more LSU thoughts. I never fully process everything the first night. As you may know, LSU has not had an undefeated season since 1958. Now that I’ve seen two national championships, really my long-term hope as a fan is to see another, so the first loss will always be somewhat frustrating.
There has been a game or two every season going back as long as I remember where I get intensely frustrated with the coaches and so forth. I was going to detail several of them, but I decided it would be pointless griping to do so. Hopefully it won’t happen again this season even if there are losses. I think I gave an adequate explanation of why I felt that way in the post-game blog.
I do have some hope that this season can turn out well. Some of the prognosticators have already written LSU off as a contender, but how many one-loss teams have been written off for the two-team playoff (aka BCS) only to come back into the picture or even to play in the title game? There was a one-loss team just about every year.
Of course, in 2007 we had a one-loss team many did write off at #1 (Ohio St.) and a two-loss team at #2 (LSU) going into the championship. If they have to finish with one loss to make the playoff, that means they have to win nine in a row to do so. I certainly wouldn’t put money on that, but I would be less surprised by that than I was by everything that happened in the 2011 calendar year.
To paraphrase the Mark Twain quote, the reports of LSU’s long-term demise are greatly exaggerated.
I’m not worried about it yet. The last time I was worried about it was 2009 when LSU lost to Houston Nutt’s unranked Ole Miss Rebels. Disastrous time management and Les Miles’ instructing quarterback Jordan Jefferson to spike the ball had caused time to run out on LSU’s final possession at the Ole Miss 6-yard line (Final score: Ole Miss 25, LSU 23), not that they really deserved to win anyway. That was LSU’s 8th loss in 20 games. Rather than spiraling downward from there, LSU has gone 47-10 since the 2009 season ended. If you’re winning over 80% playing the type of competition LSU typically plays, you’re doing something right.
However, a long-term decline is inevitable. I don’t think a single early-season loss to a veteran dual-threat quarterback is a sign it’s all going to hell in a hand-basket, but at some point LSU is not going to be a serious title threat for a while. It will even happen to Alabama. Saban may have to retire, but it will happen. It wasn’t that long ago that Alabama had no serious national-title-contending teams for a decade or so. When they did win in 1992, it was their first national championship since 1979.
Anyway, if LSU has peaked, it has still been a period of success to be extremely proud of. Compare the Tigers to other top programs from around 2003 (the year of LSU’s first national championship since that 1958 undefeated team I mentioned).
Seasons with losses of four games or more since 2003 (inclusive):
LSU 2, with two BCS championships, one runner-up in the same period.
Ohio St. 2, with two BCS runners-up
Oklahoma 2, with two BCS runners-up (I initially forgot to count 2003)
Oregon 4, with one BCS runner-up
USC 4, with one BCS championship, one runner-up (and one AP title)
Texas 4, with one BCS championship, one runner-up
Florida 5, with two BCS championships
Auburn 6, with one BCS championship, one runner-up
Florida St. 7, with one BCS championship
LSU has won two national championships since the last time either Oklahoma or Ohio St. won one, so I wouldn’t switch places with them either.
Tennessee had won a national championship in 1998, just 5 years before LSU won in 2003, but the Vols haven’t had a season with fewer than four losses since 2004. They had a decent run in 2007, but the loss to LSU in the SEC championship game (after Les Miles told everyone to have a great day) was Tennessee’s fourth. That’s certainly an example of a program I hope LSU is not similar to in the foreseeable future.
Alabama wasn’t really a relevant team in the early 2000s, but they’ve had 4 seasons with four losses or more in case you wanted to know, all from 2003 to 2007. Of course, since then the Tide has had three BCS championships and two Sugar Bowl berths.
Tennessee and Alabama were the only programs that won a major national title from 1992 forward that I did not include on the list above. I included Oregon, which hasn’t won any, but they arguably should have made the BCS championship game in 2001 and have been a consistently strong program since, so I thought they deserved inclusion.