Congratulations to the LSU Tigers, whose football team won its third national championship in the past 17 seasons.
The Tigers started slowly Monday night against defending champ Clemson, but came on strong in the second quarter and added a couple of second-half touchdowns for a convincing 42-25 victory that left no doubt as to who had the best college football team in 2019.
There are three people largely responsible for LSU’s success this year, and their stories can be seen as good examples of the way college football is evolving.
You’ve heard of two of the three: gravel-voiced coach Ed Orgeron — “Go Tigahs!” — and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow. The third is less well known — “passing game coordinator” Joe Brady — but you are going to hear a lot more about him very soon.
“Coach O,” whose Cajun conversation makes his Louisiana background clear, has been one of college football’s most entertaining characters since he was an assistant with the powerful Southern Cal teams in the 2000s. He flopped at Ole Miss more than a decade ago in what clearly was a poor fit for both sides, but LSU took a chance on a hometown guy and got it right.
Orgeron himself took a chance this season: He wanted to improve LSU’s passing game, so he hired Brady away from the New Orleans Saints. If his plan worked, the Tigers would be using large parts of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees playbook against unprepared opponents.
It worked. Brady is a young guy of 30, but he clearly can direct a passing game. LSU had a bunch of excellent receivers, and Orgeron then matched them with a quarterback for the ages in Burrow.
As everyone knows by now, Burrow is a coach’s son who grew up in small-town Ohio. He went to Ohio State but didn’t play much, so with a bachelor’s degree and a two years of football eligibility left, he moved to Baton Rouge.
His Heisman victory in his final season was no fluke. Burrow torched opposing defenses all year, setting a record for the most passing touchdowns in a single season. The Tigers simply outscored everybody on their way to the title.
Burrow will be an LSU hero along the lines of Billy Cannon, but there is one bothersome thing about his time in purple and gold. He took only online courses for a graduate degree, and by some reports had little to no interaction with anyone outside the football team.
His job at LSU was to learn football, not socialize, and he clearly excelled at it, though you have to wonder if he missed out on part of the college experience. But to look at it another way, Burrow was preparing for a job offer in the NFL draft — just like an engineering major would seek employment interviews.
For 2020, the spotlight will be on Coach O. Burrow is heading to the NFL, as is Brady, who will be the Carolina Panthers’ offensive coordinator. It’s a sure bet the head coach will be looking for a new passing game coordinator — and so will a bunch of other college coaches.