NEW ORLEANS — As much as college football is a sport celebrated for the indelible moments it gives us in real-time from game to game of a long slog of a season, it is also a sport that celebrates its own history more than just about any other.
There are records and traditions set many moons ago that are held up for reverence at every turn while legends few ever saw live are treated like gods walking among us. A select few are bronzed in statues designed to last forever. On every broadcast, there is undoubtedly a number of references to a handful of plays that are instantly recalled by a fan base in a memory firmly etched into their minds.
The 2019 season was a campaign where such nostalgia was turned up a few notches from its already high standard by virtue of college football trumpeting its 150th anniversary. Amid a backdrop of looking back at greatness however, the season also unfolded with some historic greatness of its own as LSU capped off one of the most incredible runs ever seen by thumping previously undefeated Clemson 42-25 in their own backyard at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and win the national title.
"I think it's magical, I really do. When we saw the national championship would be in the Superdome at the beginning of the year we set our target on that although we did not talk about it," Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron said in his unforgettable Cajun accent. "I felt like we could have played for another month. We were not tired. This team was ready to go. They were enthusiastic. One team, one heartbeat."
Orgeron's satisfaction was unbridled, with as emotional a coach as you'll find soaking up every moment as he walked nearly every inch of the turf twice over with a smile as wide as Lake Pontchartrain. It was special to win it for his home state and his home team in front of a heavily purple and gold-clad crowd but it was far more meaningful to do it with this team and this way after so many tweaks and changes throughout the years leading up to the moment he hoisted the trophy to roars heard well past the French Quarter on Monday night.
While Orgeron pushed every button correctly dating back to an offseason marked by hiring passing game coordinator Joe Brady from the Saints, the engine that made things go was undoubtedly their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow. Stellar once again in shattering a host of additional records in the title game, it's no stretch to say the kid from Ohio who few really knew about prior to his transfer to Baton Rouge had now joined the likes of Drew Brees and Steve Gleeson and Billy Cannon in local lore. He didn't just change the fortunes of a superpower long weighed down by offensive woes (despite no lack of talent) but left the field having assembled the greatest year a college quarterback had ever had regardless of the era.
"I don't know about the whole hero thing, but I know this national championship will be remembered for a long time in Louisiana," a cigar-smoking Burrow said. "To do it in New Orleans is even more special. This is going to be remembered for a long time."
This title and this season will undoubtedly be remembered forever, and not just by those tossing (or collecting) beads from the countless balconies around the Big Easy in the hours after beating those "other" Tigers from Death Valley.
It's almost stupefying. They became the first No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff era to win the championship and did so while beating five of the top eight teams in the final AP poll. LSU is just the second 15-0 team in the sport's modern era and had to beat the other, Clemson, to do so — snapping an ACC-record 29-game win streak. LSU completely re-wrote the school record books on the offensive side (quite literally too many to list) and saw Burrow set a new NCAA record with 60 touchdown passes among the more notable accomplishments to round out the year.
In the process, they became the highest-scoring team... ever. They beat the top four teams in the preseason poll by an average of three touchdowns. They won in Austin and Tuscaloosa and topped Georgia in Atlanta. They were led by the consensus Coach of the Year in Orgeron, the Broyles Award winner as the top assistant in Brady and added Burrow's Heisman to the trophies hauled in by the nation's best receiver (Ja'Marr Chase) and best defensive back (Grant Delpit).
While it was Dabo Swinney's crew who emblazoned their championship rings with GOAT after running mighty Alabama off the field last season, LSU's incredible run in 2019 has every right to truly lay claim as the greatest of all those 150 seasons of college football.
"Definitely. Look at the teams that we played. Look at the schedule that we had. Look at the results of those games," tight end Thaddeus Moss calmly remarked while waiting to hear from his Hall of Fame father Randy. "You know everything speaks for itself."
"We're the best in college football history if you want to be real," linebacker Michael Divinity Jr. added, making a surprising impact in his first game back from suspension to help shut down Clemson's offense. "Every game we set a record. Offensively and defensively we did things that other teams couldn't do. This is a special, special team."
Special. Historic. Record-setting. Use any adjective you want. The 2019 campaign was a season about Joe, O and these Tigers and it will forever be etched into history for what they finished off at the Superdome less than an hour from campus.
We've spent months celebrating the championship runs of the Miami's and Florida State's and USC's and Ohio State's and Alabama's of the sport and now it's time to add LSU into the mix. Where you might put them depends plenty on what color glasses you might have but there's little questioning the conversation can start with them.
Stat of the Title Game
Tweet of the Title Game
Superlatives of the Title Game
Best player: Joe Burrow
Goat of the title game: Pac-12 refs
I'm a voter in the FWAA/National Football Foundation Super 16 Poll and have been releasing my ballot here every week. Here's how I voted to conclude the 2019 season:
3. Ohio State
9. Penn State
11. Notre Dame
Best of the rest: Auburn, Memphis, Michigan, Virginia, Appalachian State, Cincinnati, California, Boise State, Air Force
An early snapshot look at a top 16 for the 2020 season:
2. Ohio State
5. Penn State
10. Notre Dame
15. Texas A&M
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.
(Top photo courtesy of @LSUfootball)