HOOVER, Ala. — For the first time in what seems like quite some time, the majority of the LSU fan base has positive feelings regarding the upcoming football season.
That includes facing Alabama.
Since head coach Ed Orgeron’s hiring in 2016, there's seemingly been a healthy split in terms of optimism. Going into last season, the sentiments from the LSU faithful were mostly negative after the Tigers’ 9-4 season, which ended in a disappointing loss in the Citrus Bowl to Notre Dame.
“Last year we came here with a lot of negativity about the program,” Orgeron said at the 2019 SEC Media Days on Monday afternoon. “Now there’s a lot of positive things going on in the program. When we get back to camp, we've got to forget all that.”
Last season faired better for LSU, with the Tigers finishing 10-3 and earning a Fiesta Bowl win over UCF.
However, one loss from last season dwelled on the minds of coaches, players and fans alike: Former LSU coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. The Tigers haven't enjoyed a win against the SEC West rival since 2011.
When asked about what the team learned from the 29-0 loss in Death Valley last season, quarterback Joe Burrow didn't mince words.
“It showed that we needed to be a lot better,” the graduate transfer from Ohio State said.
However, Burrow says he's completely confident in this year’s team, and has repeatedly expressed his faith in the team for the upcoming season.
“I think we’re going to score a lot of points, and I don’t think a lot of people are used to LSU scoring 40, 50, 60 points a game,” Burrow said in an interview with The Advocate. “I think if we do what we need to do up until fall camp and continue our hard work in fall camp, we can be one of the best offenses in the country.”
With Burrow assertively talking up the LSU offense, the Tigers fan base has slowly been regaining its own confidence in its team. It's beginning to believe that defeating Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9th is within the realm of possibility.
While the LSU faithful might be more confident this season than they have been in recent years, if you ask Orgeron and Burrow about the game, they’ll tell you how much work is left to be done and that the team needs to focus more on upcoming games.
“Obviously last year was not very fun,” Burrow said. “They kicked our butts. I think if you go into a year saying ‘We’re going to focus on this team, we’re going to beat this team,’ you kind of handcuff yourself in every other game. I think if we go into this season thinking we’re going to dominate every team in front of us, then that’s the recipe for victory.
“I don’t think you can focus on one team going into a year.”
Orgeron respects the passion of the Tigers’ fans, but he has two months of games before Alabama comes up on the schedule.
“I think that it’s a great tradition,” Orgeron said. “It’s the benchmark obviously. I don’t talk about Alabama every day. I’m going to talk about Alabama during Alabama week. We take it one game at a time, but obviously it’s an elite football team, it’s an elite rivalry, and I love the emphasis.”
The excitement is not completely unwarranted, though. Since the end of last season, Orgeron and Burrow have begun working on updating their style of offense in order to fix some of last year’s mistakes.
“This is a system that Joe is used to,” Orgeron said. “He fits into it. The quarterback runs, there are checks at the line of scrimmage. This is the stuff he ran at Ohio State. He was very quick to learn it. Loved it. I think he is going to do well.”
Both Orgeron and Burrow have been very secretive about some of the intricacies of the new style of play that they and the offense have adopted.
However, they have admitted that it focuses on getting the ball to the Tigers’ playmakers in the open field without completely abandoning the power running game.
Burrow believes that his offense is the best that Orgeron has had at LSU, and that this year’s team could be making a trip to Atlanta in December.
“That’s the goal for everybody in the conference, so I think it’s kind of cliché to say ‘Oh we’re going to go to the SEC Championship,'" Burrow said. “That’s obviously the end goal, but I think you need to create little goals each week that if you reach those, and those cumulative goals add up to where you need to be in the SEC Championship.”
Although the projected order of finish by those attending media days won't be announced until later this week, LSU is heavily-favored to finish second in the SEC West — behind the Crimson Tide again.
Only time will tell what happens when the two teams meet up in Tuscaloosa on the second Saturday of November, but one thing is for sure: the ferocity of the fanbases will only escalate as the showdown slowly approaches.