Opinion: Could the Red Scare be over? Will LSU take over the SEC and push the Tide aside?

Glenn Guilbeau
Lafayette Daily Advertiser
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Alabama head coach Nick Saban walks away after meeting with victorious LSU head coach Ed Orgeron.

BATON ROUGE — LSU football coach Ed Orgeron was caught up in the greatest moment of his career and of probably all of his 58 years — at the time, that is.

There could be a more significant moment at about 11 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans if the No. 1 Tigers (14-0) beat No. 3 Clemson (14-0) in the national championship game (7 p.m., ESPN).

How to Watch: LSU vs. Clemson

But back to the first one. It was the evening of Nov. 9, 2019 ... about 6:30 p.m. The site was Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

In the locker room, Orgeron spoke to his team, not realizing one of his players was recording on his phone and would soon post it on social media. It would go viral, and the rest is history.

The Night the Tide Died: LSU beats arch enemy

"We're going to beat their (expletive deleted) in recruiting," Orgeron shouted after his No. 1 Tigers had just defeated No. 1 Alabama, 45-41. "We're going to beat their (expletive deleted) every time they see us. You understand that? Roll Tide what? (Expletive deleted) you!"

Orgeron later apologized for that private conversation with his team getting out. He did not apologize for what he said. And he should not have. Such comments were understandable after an eight-game losing streak by your school, including three shutouts, with one of those (21-0) in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans.

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) and coach Ed Orgeron celebrates with teammates after defeating the Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Orgeron was not around for the first four, but he was for the last four — 30-16 in 2015 as an assistant, 10-0 in 2016 as an interim head coach, 24-10 in 2017 as head coach, and 29-0 in 2018 as head coach.

"It was just a fiery moment, a very emotional moment with our team," Orgeron said. "That's all that was."

Flashback: Orgeron cusses Crimson Tide

Actually, it may be much more. One tends to tell the hard truth when one is intoxicated. In vino veritas is Latin for, "In wine lies the truth." Works for beer, too.

When one is very emotional, one also tends to be more truthful.

And Orgeron may have been F-ing prophetic when he said F-you to Alabama.

LSU at 14-0 is currently three wins better than Alabama, 11-2, this season. The last time the Tigers won three or more games than the Tide in a season was in 2007, when LSU won the national championship at 12-2 and the Tide finished 7-6 in Coach Nick Saban's first season. And that was thanks to Alabama's 30-24, Independence Bowl win over Colorado — just six weeks after UL-Monroe won, 21-14, at Bryant-Denny.

Related: Saban may have seen loss to LSU coming

Alabama had not lost more than one game in a regular season since 2010. The Tide will likely be in the national championship hunt again very soon — like next season. It was missing a key cog in its defense in 2019 as Baton Rouge junior middle linebacker Dylan Moses missed the whole season with a knee injury. He is returning for the 2020 season.

But will Saban be able to keep signing kids from Louisiana like Moses, who was the No. 2 outside linebacker in the nation in 2017 out of University High on LSU's campus, or No. 3 defensive tackle Ishmael Sophser out of Amite last year, after Orgeron starts recruiting with possibly a 15-0 record and a national championship next Tuesday?

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) scores late against LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday November 9, 2019.

Orgeron also lost No. 6 wide receiver Devonta Smith of Amite to Saban in 2017.

Maybe, if LSU does win the national championship on Monday, Orgeron should see to it that a company in Amite makes the championship rings for all his players and staff and hangers-on. That would be a legal way of infusing cash into the economy of Amite, which is just 62 miles from Baton Rouge and 297 from Tuscaloosa. But it is a prep football mecca that LSU has not been able to make its own as Saban has.

The state of Alabama historically does not have enough top tier high school talent to fuel top tier football programs like Alabama and Auburn. Each has always had to go out of state more than LSU. And Saban has loved popping over to his old recruiting grounds in Louisiana to stomp LSU, where he coached from 2000-04 and did not have to leave the Louisiana borders for upper echelon players nearly as much as he has had to at Alabama or at Michigan State before he came to LSU.

Coast to Coast: Orgeron recruiting with a wide swath

Not only can the state of Louisiana's prep talent sustain a national championship program like LSU with less out-of-state recruiting needed than at Alabama and many other places, there is also no other major college football program to worry about in this state.

From that perspective, LSU should be a better football program than Alabama and should have been a better program historically.  

Saban said it himself last June in Destin, Florida, at the SEC Spring Meetings.

Asked if it was easier for him to recruit at LSU than at Alabama based on more players in proximity, he said, "Yeah, you had obviously a better recruiting base, especially in the state."

And the only power to really have to worry about to LSU's immediate east was Alabama — 348 miles away. To the immediate west, it was Texas A&M - 350 miles away. For Alabama, Auburn is only 159 miles away.

LSU is also just 268 miles from Houston, a place Saban loved to recruit while at LSU, while it is 614 miles away from Tuscaloosa.

"And you had only one school in the state," said Saban, who loved that part of the LSU job immediately as he came from Michigan State, which has had a forever disadvantage against Michigan in recruiting.

"So, even if we had the same number of great high school players in Alabama as Louisiana, you're still battling somebody else all the time to try to get them," Saban said. "So, it's been challenging in recruiting, no doubt." 

Looking Back: Saban says leaving LSU was a mistake

Earlier in the same conversation with Saban, he said the following:

"We loved LSU. We worked hard to build the program. If there was one thing professionally that I would do over again, it would've been not leave."

Now, what he meant was he would not have left college coaching for NFL coaching, which is what he did when he left LSU for the Miami Dolphins after the 2004 season.

Still, it is clear to Saban just how great the LSU program can be because of the recruiting geography. LSU has almost always had more players close to it than any other major football program, or most of them, and most of those have another major school nearby to deal with, whereas LSU does not.

This is why — based on recruiting geography alone the one-state, one-power- five situation — LSU should be closer to having the 17 national championships Alabama has won since 1925. And the two should be closer to even in national titles instead of Alabama leading, 17-3.

The difference? Alabama has had two of the greatest coaches ever in college football in Paul "Bear" Bryant, who won six national championships from 1961 through 1979, and Saban, who has won five from 2009 through 2017. That's 11 of the 17.

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Had Paul Dietzel, who won LSU's national championship in 1958 and came close in '59 and '61, remained at LSU instead of taking the Army job after the '61 season, and had Saban "not left" as he said, Alabama's national titles may be in the single digits with LSU's in the doubles. Dietzel may have taken one or two from Bryant, and Alabama may not have any from 2009-17 had Saban stayed at LSU.

In reality, though, LSU has only dominated Alabama in one brief stretch. From 2000 through the 2007 season, LSU was 7-1 against the Tide with two national championships to none. In fact LSU won two national titles in the first decade of this century after Alabama had not won one since 1992.

Could such a run start soon? Orgeron is on the cusp of being greater than Dietzel and Saban ever were at LSU - for one season. At 58 and with the way he has recruited without what he could be recruiting with soon, Orgeron could win another one, two, or three national titles before he is 65.

LSU coach Les Miles was also 58 when he was one win away from his second national championship at LSU on Jan. 9, 2012, and one win away from being 4-2 against Saban, and one win away from taking a 2-1 lead over Saban in national championships. But he lost 21-0, and things gradually, incrementally diminished after that, and Miles refused to adjust and keep up to a drastically changing world of offense. He also got tired.

Can't Touch This: LSU's monster offense requires a calculator

Orgeron, on the other hand, is an industrial-sized gumbo bowl of energy. He is also much better at hiring assistants than Miles. Pass game coordinator Joe Brady is not the only example. Offensive line coach James Cregg, secondary coach Bill Busch and special teams coach Greg McMahon have done excellent jobs as well.

Saban is 68, but he is still the best and has the energy and look of someone significantly younger. And he probably has at least one more national championship run in him. 

But for the first time since 2011, he could be entering a season at Alabama in 2020 with a SEC school other than his as the most recent national champion.

Orgeron will not have quarterback Joe Burrow next season. And Saban will not have quarterback Tua Tagovailoa next season. But Orgeron should have pass game coordinator Joe Brady back. You know Saban would love to have Brady. He also wanted LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, too, back when Miles hired him.

And it appears Orgeron could now have an even stronger hold on something else that Saban likes and perhaps needs to dominate at Alabama — Louisiana.

Without it, the tide could turn back to LSU.

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