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LSU completes its mission

The lights were out in the basement at 1224 North Brooks at 20:10 last night. The CPAP mask was on, and I was going to try to get as much sleep as possible.

I woke up at 00:48, went back to bed, then was up for good at 03:50.

I waited a few minutes before venturing to The Advocate website.

The header screamed “THIS IS FOR ALL OF US”.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out LSU defeated Clemson to become the 2019 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision national champion.

The Bayou Bengals fell behind the Tigers from South Carolina 17-7 early in the second quarter, the first time LSU has trailed by more than seven points since losing 29-0 to Alabama in November 2018.

I felt 95 percent sure LSU would not lead wire-to-wire, as it did against Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl and Georgia in the SEC championship game. I figured Dabo’s boys would build a two-score lead at some point, which it did.

By halftime, the tenor of the game changed 180 degrees.

LSU scored three touchdowns to turn that 17-7 deficit into a 28-17 lead.

Clemson scored early in the third quarter and added the conversion to make it 28-25, but Trevor Lawrence and his team did not score again.

Final: LSU 42, Clemson 25. The Bayou Bengals joined the 2018 Clemson Tigers as the only college football teams to finish 15-0 since 1900. The others to win 15 (or 16) without a loss played in the 1890s, before the NCAA was founded.

Ed Orgeron proclaimed his 2019 team the “best ever”.

He has many great points.

LSU, which was ranked #6 in the Associated Press preseason poll, defeated the teams ranked #1 (Clemson), #2 (Alabama), #3 (Georgia) and #4 (Oklahoma) in that poll. That never happened until 2019.

LSU defeated seven top-10 teams: the four aforementioned teams, plus Texas, Florida and Auburn.

Joe Burrow had a season for the ages, throwing 60 touchdown passes (yes, he did so in 15 games, but four TD passes per game is incredible), finishing with 467 yards and five TDs against Clemson.

Burrow is headed to Cincinnati barring something cataclysmic. The Bengals would be asinine not to pick him first overall in the upcoming NFL draft.

LSU fans got a dose of bad news late this afternoon when it was announced Joe Brady, the 31-year old wunderkind who came to Baton Rouge and installed the high-powered passing attack Bayou Bengal fans could only have dreamed about prior 2019, would be going back to the NFL as offensive coordinator for Matt Rhule and the Panthers.

The worry is without Brady, Orgeron and Steve Ensminger will resort to the prehistoric offense which hastened Les Miles’ demise. I don’t think it will happen, but Orgeron needs to move swiftly and decisively to fill this hole.

Coaching turnover is an inevitable part of football. However, Brady is going to the NFL, not to another SEC school. The bad news is he’ll be facing the Saints twice a year.

Many fans would have been mighty disappointed had LSU lost last night, but many might not have been. The Bayou Bengals defeated Alabama two months ago to end an eight-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide, and Nick Saban was sitting next to Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit all night in a suit and tie, which meant he wasn’t on the sideline coaching Alabama.

With that in mind, I hope LSU fans who are 25 and under are grateful for the success the Bayou Bengals have enjoyed since 2000.

LSU’s WORST record since 2000 is 8-5, which occurred in 2008, one year after LSU defeated Ohio State for the BCS national championship.

I’m old enough to remember LSU suffering through six consecutive losing seasons from 1989-94. Two words: CURLEY HALLMAN.

Hallman, who only got the LSU job because Brett Favre was his quarterback at Southern Miss–gifted to him by Jim Carmody–and Joe Dean was too freaking cheap to hire anyone better. Dean got bamboozled by Hallman’s record as a drill sergeant and he was an assistant on national championship teams at Alabama (1973) and Clemson (1981).

Too bad Hallman put together a mostly incompetent staff, save for Phil Bennett. He didn’t recruit all that poorly, because Gerry DiNardo came in and took LSU to three consecutive low-level bowl games from 1995-97.

I’ll never forget just how excited LSU fans were over a 6-4-1 regular season in 1995 which sent the Bayou Bengals to the Independence Bowl to face Michigan State When LSU defeated Nick Saban’s Spartans 45-26, LSU fans reacted like they were well on their way to a national championship.

Yes, there was a national championship coach in the house in Shreveport on 29 December. Only he was wearing green, not purple.

LSU went 10-2 in 1996 and won the Peach Bowl. It was one of the worst 10-2 teams I’ve seen. The Bayou Bengals played a pillow soft schedule, and in the two biggest games, they were routed 56-13 by eventual national champion Florida and 26-0 by Alabama when Shaun Alexander rushed for 291 yards.

Then came the most overrated win in LSU athletic history, the 1997 game vs. then-No. 1 Florida, which it promptly pissed away a week later by losing to Ole Miss.

With mostly his own players, DiNardo had two horrible years in 1998 and ’99, which was a blessing in disguise, because it forced LSU to open its wallets to pay for a quality coach. That quality coach was Nick Saban, a choice which angered many fans who considered him a “Yankee” from Michigan State.

Saban went 48-16 in five seasons in Baton Rouge. Les Miles followed and went 114-34 over the next 11-plus campaigns, combining for 25 more wins than Charles McClendon had in 18 seasons (137-59-7).

It wasn’t all wine and roses for Orgeron, either. LSU fans were up in arms after losses to Alabama and Florida in November 2016, and many hoped Tom Herman would leave Houston to come to Baton Rouge. When it was announced Orgeron would get the job full time two days after LSU defeated Texas A&M to close the 2016 regular season, a collective groan could be heard from Shreveport to Port Sulphur, from Lake Providence to Cameron, and many points in between.

Orgeron’s seat heated up again when LSU lost at home to Troy in 2017, and again when Alabama came to Baton Rouge in 2018 and laid the 29-0 beatdown on the Bayou Bengals.

Today, no coach in college athletics is more beloved by his or her fan base than Ed Orgeron. More so than Nick Saban, Coach K, Bill Self, Geno Auriemma, and Dabo.

Part of me wishes I were in Louisiana to experience the season. The other part says I’m better off from a distance. Regardless, it’s history. Time to let the pros take it from here.

Tuning out the Tigers

You would think I would be watching LSU and Clemson play for college football’s national championship (at least for the highest level).

I’m not.

I am so convinced Clemson will win I am not watching.

The game kicked off at 19:15. I am self-censoring. The TV is off. I have set my devices to do not disturb. I am not checking any sports sites. I think I’ll go to bed really early, considering I rose at 05:00 and have a lot of work to get done tomorrow morning.

The last time I self-censored was the night of the 2016 presidential election. I watched some crap on LMN, then went to bed early. I had no earthly clue who had won what state.

I went to bed convinced Hillary would win, just as almost every major media outlet predicted.

It wasn’t until I came upstairs, where my mother had the TV tuned to Today, when I learned Trump won.

When LSU played Alabama for the BCS national championship in January 2012, I didn’t watch the game, but I made the mistake of looking at Twitter. It was there I learned just how badly LSU was getting its ass kicked by Alabama. Of course, a few jerks had to rub it in.

This season, I purposely did not watch most of the first half in LSU’s game at Alabama and the Peach Bowl vs. Oklahoma. I didn’t see a score until I came upstairs, because my mother was watching. In each of those games, the Bayou Bengals built up a big enough lead, making it okay to watch. Not tonight. It won’t be that easy vs. Clemson.

Tonight, no social media, Nothing. If I want to watch the game, I can watch a replay on ESPN+. Something tells me those wearing orange are going to be much happier tonight than those wearing purple and gold.

More sports woe in Houston.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch for the 2020 season for their roles in Houston’s sign stealing throughout the 2017 postseason, which ended with the Astros defeating the Dodgers in the World Series.

Houston was also fined $5 million, believed to be a record for a major sports league due to an on-field incident. Too bad Roger Goodell doesn’t have the guts to fine the Patriots that much.

Astros owner Jim Crane went one step farther than Manfred, immediately firing Luhnow and Hinch. Houston has a huge hole in the rotation now that Gerrit Cole is in the Bronx, but it still has many strong pieces in Justin Verlander, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Corriea and George Springer. The question is who will manage them, and who will step into this mess?

I didn’t mention the Oilers blowing the 35-3 lead in Buffalo in the 1992 playoffs, but I figured you knew about that already. It has been repeated ad nausem following the Texans’ collapse yesterday in Kansas City.

On the other hand, Chiefs fans are convinced more than ever the Super Bowl is their destiny. Mahomes is God. The Titans might as well stay in Nashville. Bring on the 49ers or Packers.

Before the season, a Kansas City Star online poll asked “What would it take for you to consider the Chiefs season a success?”. I don’t remember the exact split, but at least 80 percent said either “get to the Super Bowl” or “win the Super Bowl”. If the Titans win Sunday, mental health professionals will be in high demand in the so-called “Chiefs Kingdom”.

Good night, blogosphere. Hopefully I’m waking up to good news in a few hours…but I have my doubts.

Rumblings from Red Stick (too bad I'm not there)

So much for posting every day this year. I missed yesterday. I’m a bad boy. However, given my lack of posts over the last two and a half months of 2019, 9 out of 10 ain’t bad, to paraphrase Mr. Meat Loaf.

If Matt Rhule has his way, Joe Brady will be a one-year wonder with LSU. The new Panthers coach has targeted Brady, the wunderkind who turned Joe Burrow from a former Ohio State backup into this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, to be his offensive coordinator. Ed Orgeron and LSU athletic director Scott Woodward are going to give Brady a significant pay raise if he remains in Baton Rouge, but LSU can’t match the resources of an NFL team, especially considering Rhule will make more than $8 million per season.

LSU plays Clemson for the national championship Monday in New Orleans, and the casinos are worried Burrow, Brady, Orgeron and the team in purple and gold take the golden trophy west on Interstate 10.

Sports books across the nation are reporting heavy action on LSU, by far the most one-sided action for a championship game since the first College Football Playoff in January 2015. For every nine dollars bet on money lines, eight is on LSU, while the spread action is 4-to-1 in favor of the Bayou Bengals.

It’s hard to believe Alabama did not receive anywhere near the action in its three national championship games vs. Clemson, two of which the Crimson Tide lost. However, the public is betting LSU is more battle-tested by playing in the SEC than Clemson is in the ACC, although the South Carolina Tigers had a much tougher semifinal vs. Ohio State than the Bayou Bengals did vs. Oklahoma.

If LSU wins, the casinos will take a bath. If Clemson wins, the bettors will take the bath.

This is a disturbing trend for the Bayou Bengals.

Sports books are reporting they have not seen this much one-sided action on a championship football game since Super Bowl XLVIII, when most of the betting public put their money on the Broncos, believing Peyton Manning would cap a record setting season by winning his second championship.

Instead, the Seahawks demolished Denver 43-8, and the books made almost $20 million, a Super Bowl record.

Yesterday’s Baton Rouge Advocate had a wide-ranging interview with former LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who was forced out of the job last year after 11 years in Baton Rouge. Two things Alleva said were of particular note.

First, Alleva did not want to hire Jimbo Fisher, then at Florida State, to be LSU’s football coach. Alleva, who had ties to the ACC during his days as Duke’s athletic director, did not want to give in to Fisher’s exorbitant demands, demands which were similar to those Nick Saban made at LSU and Alabama before taking each of those jobs. The most exorbitant of which was a fully guaranteed contract, which would have to run at least eight years and pay Fisher at least $7 million per season.

Late in the 2015 season, it was rumored LSU would fire Les Miles, who led the Bayou Bengals to the 2007 national championship but whose teams had slipped following the 2011 BCS championship game loss to Saban’s Crimson Tide. Most thought Fisher would be the successor, but Alleva now says it wasn’t so.

Alleva didn’t want to fire Miles in 2015, and when LSU defeated Texas A&M 19-7 in the regular season finale, Alleva went to the locker room after the game and told the media Miles would be back in 2016.

Four games into 2016, Alleva fired Miles following losses to Wisconsin and Auburn. Orgeron was named interim coach, then got the full-time position two months later, angering many LSU fans at that time. Of course, it has all worked out.

Ironically, Woodward hired Fisher at A&M, giving in to Jimbo’s demands with a 10-year, $75 million contract which is fully guaranteed. Not even Saban had that at LSU, nor does he have that at Alabama. Like Saban, Fisher does not owe a buyout if he leaves College Station.

The second nugget from Alleva’s interview which struck me was regret over hiring men’s basketball coach Will Wade.

Wade came to LSU from VCU after Johnny Jones was fired following a disastrous 2016-17 season. Wade was suspended in March 2019 when the NCAA announced LSU was under investigation for numerous violations, and did not coach the team in its last regular season game or in the SEC and NCAA tournaments, where LSU lost in the Sweet 16 to Michigan State. Wade was reinstated following the season, but the NCAA is still investigating.

Alleva told Advocate sports columnist Scott Rabalais “he got bad information” about Wade. Hmm.

What wasn’t discussed was hiring the awful Nikki Caldwell-Fargas to coach LSU’s women’s basketball team.

LSU went to five consecutive women’s Final Fours between 2004-08, but hasn’t been close since. LSU has slipped to an SEC afterthought under Caldwell-Fargas, while former league doormats Mississippi State and South Carolina have become powerhouses, with the Gamecocks defeating the Bulldogs in the 2017 national championship game after State ended Connecticut’s record 110-game winning streak in the semifinals.

LSU women’s basketball has fallen into gross disrepair since the glory days of Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles. It was never going to eclipse football, baseball or men’s basketball in importance, but now it is far behind gymnastics, softball, and track and field, and even men’s golf has won a national championship recently.

Someone, either the UCLA, where Caldwell-Fargas coached before leaving for LSU, or the late Pat Summitt, who coached Caldwell at Tennessee, sold Alleva a bill of goods. This was a terrible hire, one which Woodward must rectify switfly, or the PMAC will again become a tomb for women’s games the way it was in the mid-1990s before Sue Gunter got it back on track.

Alleva blundered big time by not going after Kim Mulkey when there was a vacancy in 2011. Mulkey, who has coached Baylor to three national championships, grew up 45 minutes from LSU’s campus in Hammond, then went on to become an All-American at Louisiana Tech and a gold medalist on the 1984 United States Olympic team. Alleva should have taken a blank check to Mulkey and asked her to fill it in. Even if she stayed in Waco, Alleva would have won fans for going for it. Instead, he copped out and hired someone who is getting circles run around her by Dawn Staley and Vic Shaffer.

The only good things I can say about Caldwell-Fargas is (a) she’s a woman coaching women’s basketball, and (b) she is nowhere near as inept as the men leading Power Five women’s basketball teams in my current home state. Kansas State hiring Jeff Mittie and Kansas hiring Brandon Schneider were only eclipsed by the Wildcats hiring Ron Prince and the Jayhawks hiring Turner Gill, Charlie Weis and David Beatty.

It’s a good thing I was in Kansas City last weekend. This weekend is promising snow and ice, plus the myriad of travel problems it causes.