The narratives practically write themselves. It’s Jalen Hurts vs. Joe Burrow, Lincoln Riley vs. Ed Orgeron, Big 12 vs. SEC. Any way you slice it, there are plenty of reasons why this is shaping up to be one of the most compelling semifinal matchups in the College Football Playoff era. Factor in two of the nation’s most lethal offenses and this game could easily turn into a shootout for the ages.
Before the Sooners and Tigers touch gloves on Saturday, check out the need-to-know intel on this LSU team and what this program has accomplished throughout its history.
Five Names to Know
- QB Joe Burrow - This player needs no introduction for anyone who’s paid the tiniest bit of attention to college football this year. In addition to winning the 2019 Heisman Trophy, he was also named the AP, Walter Camp and Sporting News Player of the Year, while also winning the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Awards. If that’s not enough, he’s also a unanimous All-American. I’ll have more on his ridiculous statistical production later, but for now you can marvel at the highlights from his historic season.
- WR Ja’Marr Chase - While Burrow has been a super star for LSU, by no means is he a one-man-show. He has an extremely talented corps of receivers, including 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner Ja’Marr Chase. All season long, this No. 1 target has beaten defenses on the outside in every way imaginable. He possesses all the tools for an ideal receiver: strong hands, excellent route running ability, great speed, vision, balance, toughness, the list goes on and on. Chase’s 18 TDs rank first in the FBS, while his 1,498 receiving yards rank second overall.
- S Grant Delpit - On defense, the talent level is just as deep for this LSU team, starting with 2019 Jim Thorpe ward winner Grant Delpit. This safety does it all and does it at a high level. Ranking fourth on the team in both total tackles (56) and interceptions (2), the numbers alone give enough reasons as to why he’s a player Oklahoma ought to account for on every down. Then you watch the actual plays he makes, and it becomes painfully clear just how much of a headache he can create for offensive coordinators. I’ve already got one just thinking about that No. 7 flashing across the screen anywhere near the ball.
- OLB K’Lavon Chaisson - LSU’s front seven is a formidable unit in its own right, but the player Oklahoma will likely have the toughest time blocking is K’Lavon Chaisson. Coming off an ACL tear in 2018, this pass rushing nightmare has wreaked havoc on anybody who has tried to pick him up in pass protection. Not only does he get after the quarterback exceptionally well, he’s quick enough to drop into coverage and make plays in the open space. Still, his greatest strength is in his ability to affect the pocket. If he’s around Hurts early and often, it could be a long night for the Sooners’ offense. This season, the first team All-SEC LB racked up 52 tackles, a forced fumble and a team-leading 4.5 sacks.
- CB Derek Stingley Jr. - If there was an award for top overall true freshman in the nation, Derek Stingley Jr. would have as strong of a case as anybody to win it. Since the season opener, this cornerback prodigy has looked like a seasoned veteran with every tool in his belt. His six INTs are tied for fifth in the nation, and he’s proven that he not only has a nose for the ball, he has the hands too. Word of warning to Lincoln Riley and Jalen Hurts: do not test No. 24.
- Honorable mention: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire - LSU’s go-to running back all season long is currently listed as questionable going into the Peach Bowl CFP semifinal after suffering a hamstring injury in practice. His status is one to keep an eye on because if he’s unable to play, the Tigers would be missing its leading rusher (1,290 yards, 16 TDs). As good as Joe Brady’s passing attack is, it wouldn’t be in optimal form if rendered one-dimensional.
LSU’s 2019 Season
After kicking off the campaign ranked No. 6 in the preseason AP Poll, LSU’s shiny new offense flexed its muscles for the first time in an all-out thrashing over Georgia Southern. Then one of the marquee nonconference contests of the year was set to take place in Austin, where the Tigers would go toe-to-toe with the Texas Longhorns. A 45-38 win catapulted Ed Orgeron’s team into the early short list for legitimate CFP contenders.
LSU then cruised past Northwestern State, Vanderbilt and Utah State before hosting a top 10 showdown against the Florida Gators. The Tigers dominated UF, 42-28, then took care of business versus Mississippi State.
Even with so much momentum already built, the season really ramped up as LSU welcomed the Auburn Tigers to Death Valley for another top 10 matchup and sent them packing with a 23-20 defeat. Then came the game circled on everyone’s calendars — LSU at Alabama. The Crimson Tide were led by a recovering Tua Tagovailoa, but that simply wasn’t enough as the Joe Burrow’s Tigers were ready for a shootout. In the end, the Purple & Gold prevailed, 46-41.
It was pretty much smooth sailing from that point on until the SEC Championship game. Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M posed zero threats to this vaunted LSU squad. Then on Dec. 7 the Tigers clashed with the Georgia Bulldogs in a battle for the conference crown between the SEC’s best from the East and the West. Like most of the games for LSU this season, this one, too, presented little challenge.
By the Numbers
Offensive SP+: 47.3 (1st)
Defensive SP+: 17.6 (19th)
SP+ Margin: 29.7 (4th)
Total offense per game: 554.4 (1st)
Passing: 386.8 (2nd)
Rushing: 167.5 (60th)
Points per game: 47.8 (3rd)
Yards per play: 7.79 (3rd)
Offensive efficiency (ESPN): 96.3 (1st)
Defensive efficiency (ESPN): 76.8 (14th)
Total defense per game: 341.3 (32nd)
Passing defense: 221.7 (57th)
Rushing defense: 119.6 (23rd)
Third-down conversions: 50.6% (6th)
Third-down conversion defense: 30.2% (10th)
Fourth-down conversions: 57.1% (t-45th)
Fourth-down conversion defense: 46.4% (t-47th)
Win-Loss vs. top 25 (CFP): 4-0
LSU Football History
Wins: 810 (12th)
Win percentage: .655 (13th)
Bowl appearances: 50 (8th)
Conference championships: 16 (31st)
Consensus All-Americans: 35 (16th)
First-round picks: 47 (7th)
Weeks in the AP Poll: 846 (3rd)
2007: In what was arguably the wildest season in modern college football history, Les Miles’ 12-2 Tigers were the last team standing after defeating Ohio State in New Orleans, 38-24. This LSU squad is the last team to win a national championship with more than one loss, but it should be noted that both losses came in triple OT. The heart and soul of this team was unanimous All-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.
2003: Before the ‘Mad Hatter’ manned the Bayou Bengals, Nick Saban ran the show. He coached LSU to its second national title in a controversial game in its own right. While the AP Poll ranked USC in the top two going into the postseason, the BCS computers gave OU the nod. Ultimately, Matt Mauk led the Tigers to a 21-14 win for all the marbles as an injured Jason White failed to play like his Heisman-winning seff.
1958: This Tigers team finished their season 11-0 to complete the program’s first undefeated and untied campaign since 1908. Coached by Paul Dietzel, the champs were led by the three-headed rushing attack of Johnny Robinson, Warren Rabb and eventual Heisman winner Billy Cannon. The season culminated in a 7-0 victory over No. 12 Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.
Yes, you read all of this correctly. Ever LSU national championship has been capped by a win in New Orleans, and the opponents were Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State.
Heisman Trophy Winners
QB Joe Burrow (2019) - Rest assured, there will be a statue of this man on the LSU campus before it’s all said and done. After finishing ahead of OU’s Jalen Hurts in the largest margin of victory the Heisman race has ever seen, the Ohio native still isn’t done yet. Coming into the bowl season, Joe Burrow leads the nation with the following stats: 48 passing touchdowns, a 77.9% completion rate, a 93.7 QBR and a 201.5 passer efficiency rating. In total, he’s amassed 4,715 passing yards (second nationally) and thrown just six INTs on 439 attempts. He’s also rushed for 289 yards and three more scores in his 13 games.
HB Billy Cannon (1959) - Before Burrow, there was only one LSU Tiger who had ever lifted the Heisman Trophy as his own. Back in the day when it wasn’t uncommon for star players to shine in multiple roles, Billy Cannon simply did it all. Not only did he run the ball from the backfield, he caught passes from the tight end position, played as a defensive back, returned punts and kicks and also punted the ball himself. There was no denying him the trophy that season, and in 1960 he became the first Bayou Bengal to go first overall in the NFL Draft.
Memorable Moments in Program History
Billy Cannon’s Halloween Run
The 1988 Earthquake Game
The 2002 Bluegrass Miracle
Mike the Tiger
Mike VII - After Mike VI tragically lost his battle with cancer in 2016, there was an opportunity for a new Bengal to assume the mantle. Enter Mike VII. This beautiful yet ferocious feline made his debut in 2017, and has ever since been the face of Tiger Athletics. Historically, the Mike moniker originated in 1936 after the head trainer of the athletic department, Chellis ‘Mike’ Chambers, brought a one-year-old tiger to LSU, sparking a legacy of live LSU mascots for decades to come.
It’s no secret that LSU houses one of the most fearsome home field advantages in all of college football. Under the lights, Death Valley becomes a place where dreams go to die. Not only can Tiger Stadium rock with the best of them with a staggering capacity of 102,321, the talent level on the field usually makes it an almost impossible task to come away with a victory as the road team. Also, watch out for LSU’s rendition of ‘Neck’. It’s NSFW, but it’s glorious.
Deep in the heart of South Louisiana, you’ll find Baton Rouge, the capital of the Bayou State. Located just over an hour northwest from New Orleans, it’s the state’s second-most populous city. Notable people native to Baton Rouge include Odell Beckham Jr., Lil Boosie, Stormy Daniels and Randy Jackson. Sounds like a party already!
Of course, the Cajun cuisine in Louisiana separates it from most other places in America, and in Baton Rouge you can find some of the very best kitchens to satiate your palate. Do yourself a favor and check out any of these places next time you’re in town.
Looking for the best places to eat in Baton Rouge? The team over at @MarucciSports recommends their favorite local restaurants here:#ExploreBatonRouge #MarucciWS #FeedYourSoul— Visit Baton Rouge (@visitbatonrouge) July 25, 2019
Find these and more at https://t.co/RPb0oSMs3E pic.twitter.com/9o19wEDkvn
For an even closer look inside Tigers Athletics, head on over to And the Valley Shook — SB Nation’s site for LSU. You should also follow them on Twitter @valleyshook for more musings from our Bayou brethren.
Also, Berry Tramel interviewed a bunch of OU fans about their experiences during the last matchup between these two schools. My impression? LSU fans are beyond brutal, but also almost kind of admirable in a very twisted way.
“I saw a shirtless man carrying his shirtless son, who was around six years old, on his shoulders and the son was screaming ‘f*** you Sooners, Tiger bait’ over and over.”
That’s just funny.
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