When LSU toppled Clemson on Monday night in New Orleans to claim the College Football Playoff championship, it wasn’t much of a surprise.
In fact, it wasn’t a surprise at all. LSU, thanks to some tremendous play from quarterback Joe Burrow, dominated all season long. There’s an argument to be made that the 2019 Tigers are the greatest college football team of all time.
But while it wasn’t a surprise on Monday night, it would’ve been a big surprise if someone would’ve said a few years ago that LSU would win it all in 2019.
In late 2015, the Tigers were a mess. They tried to fire Les Miles, but ended up keeping him after the governor intervened — only to fire him a few games into the 2016 season.
When LSU hired Ed Orgeron to be the Tigers’ permanent head coach in late 2016, there were a lot of folks who questioned the hire. Some even mocked it.
Those questions grew louder when LSU lost to Troy at home in early 2017, dropping the Tigers to 3-2 on the season.
Yesterday a CFB coaches agent called me. All he said was “LSU hired Ed Orgeron.” We laughed for a few minutes.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 1, 2017
Of course, LSU rallied in 2017 to finish 9-4. Their momentum from 2017 propelled them to a 10-3 season in 2018 and ultimately to a championship in 2019.
The doubt surrounding Orgeron at the start of 2017 turned into hope by the end of the season.
What happened in 2017 in Baton Rouge isn’t unlike what happened in Knoxville in 2019.
Some folks (mostly national media talking heads) were ready to axe Jeremy Pruitt after Tennessee’s brutal 1-4 start in 2019. But after watching the team rally to an 8-5 finish, there’s suddenly a lot of buzz surrounding Pruitt and the Volunteers.
If I told you right now that Tennessee will win a championship in 2021, you’d think I was absolutely insane.
(Let’s be clear, that’s not what I’m predicting, that would be silly to predict anything about two years from now.)
But it’s really not that crazy. Tennessee can make the exact same leap that LSU made. All they need is a transcendent quarterback (Harrison Bailey will be in his second season in 2021, if he’s as good as advertised that could be a big season for him).
The Vols have the coaches, they have the resources and they’re showing they can develop players.
If they continue on their upward trajectory, there’s no reason the program can’t compete at an elite level in the very near future.
LSU is proof that a lot of good can come out of a tough situation.
Featured image via Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports