Expectations are a funny thing.
The consensus feeling about Ed Orgeron’s first two seasons as LSU head coach: Year two was a vast improvement from year one. Strange, considering both teams finished the regular season with identical 9-3 records.
The difference? Expectations, of course.
Orgeron had his doubters in 2017, doubters that grew louder after a blowout loss to Mississippi State, an embarrassing home loss to Troy and the program’s seventh consecutive loss to Alabama.
Followed by an inexplicable bowl loss to Notre Dame, the lowest-rated signing class in more than a decade and an exodus of essentially the entire offense while facing one of the nation’s toughest schedules, expectations were—you guessed it—lowered in 2018.
Oddsmakers had set LSU’s projected win total at seven, with ESPN’s Football Percentage Index giving the Tigers a better than 50% chance of winning just five games.
But then: Blowing out Miami. Walking off Auburn. Dismantling Georgia. Winning a New Year’s Six game. All exceeded expectations.
What a difference a year makes. Orgeron’s third squad should carry a preseason top 10 ranking and will likely be favored in every game except its trip to Alabama in November. This squad is worthy of those lofty expectations.
Senior quarterback Joe Burrow is back under center, and he’ll be throwing to his top five targets from a season ago.
One-thousand-yard rusher Nick Brossette is gone, but Clyde Edwards-Helaire is back and is joined by two of the top freshman running backs in the country in John Emery Jr. and Tyrion Davis.
Wunderkind passing game coordinator Joe Brady promises to deliver the wide-open offense fans have waited years for.
Defensively, replacing Butkus Award winner Devin White and Greedy Williams is not easy, but the Tigers aren’t lacking for options.
Unanimous All-American Grant Delpit is back and will pace Dave Aranda’s unit with the help of seniors Kristian Fulton, Rashard Lawrence and Breiden Fehoko. Ace pass rusher K’Lavon Chaisson returns after tearing his ACL in last year’s season opener.
And let’s not forget about the schedule. Georgia rotates off, Vanderbilt rotates on. Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M all visit Death Valley.
Trips to Texas and Alabama are rough. But if the Tigers split those and run the table the rest of the way, a New Year’s Six appearance could become the program’s first College Football Playoff appearance.
Playoffs? How about those expectations.
Matt Moscona has hosted “After Further Review” on 104.5/104.9 ESPN Baton Rouge since 2010 and is now syndicated on 100.3 ESPN New Orleans, Alexandria’s 94.7 ESPN and on Cox Sports Television. Radio Ink magazine named him one of the United States’ Top 30 Local Sports Talkers six times since 2012. He is also the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Louisiana Association of Broadcasters Prestige Award Winner for Best Sports Show.
This article was originally published in the August 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.
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