Why LSU's Win Down In The South Needs To Resonate Out In The West

Chris Dufresne

NEW ORLEANS--A Pac 12 team made it to this year’s national title game but, unfortunately, it was only the officiating crew.

Only God (certainly not Larry Scott) knows how long it will take for a Pac 12 football team to grace final-game grounds for the first time since Oregon lost to Ohio State in January of 2015.

What we can tell you after watching LSU defeat Clemson, 42-25 is college football does mean more in the South and the South keeps proving it year after year.

There are several reasons for this we can get to later.

“They’re still fighting the Civil War here,” a former major college coach recently told me.

Ok, there’s that, but also an undeniable and collective spirt that frankly makes Pac 12 football look like a Sunday meeting of the Ladies’ Auxiliary League.

The West Coast had better straighten up and take notice because the conference’s last national title was USC in 2004 and that has since been vacated.

Football colors burn brighter in the South and the pageantry is grander. The players are bigger, faster and stronger. The bands march in tighter lines and their tubas toot louder, in front of boosters who sign fatter checks after post-game celebrations where confetti shoots higher.

Pac 12 fans, administrators and players need to take notice of what’s happening if they have any notion of getting back anywhere near the top.

Coaches should study the tape of LSU-Clemson and then form study groups to analyze the situation in greater, corporate-landscape terms.

Quick observation: the interior linemen in Monday’s game, on both sides of the ball, are ginormous and fast. Pac 12‘s Oregon is the closest thing to LSU and Clemson right now but maybe not that close.

In the final Associated Press poll released after Monday's game, no California schools made the list for the first time since 2000.

If that's not a wake-up call...

Oregon impressively finished No. 5, thanks in part to the Ducks NOT making the playoff and having to face LSU in a national semifinal (whew).

USC could have potentially done what LSU did this year, yes, but we know that tragic sob story. The Trojans passed on Ed Orgeron in 2013 and paid for it Monday when the Cajun-kid from LaRose put it right back at Pat Haden, wherever he’s hiding these days.

Revenge, as they say, is best served cold, with a muffuletta.

“I’m at the right place at the right time,” Orgeron screamed to adoring LSU fans at the Superdome.

Right he was.

If there's any truth that USC didn't hire Orgeron because he didn't "look" or "talk" like a Trojan, well, that's going to be a long burn.

"Man, people are going to talk and all that but you can't let it affect you," Orgeron said. "People, they tease me the way I talk, tease me the way look, and it's kind of funny."

No one's laughing now.

Former USC Coach John Robinson, an 84-year-old consultant for LSU this year, stood alone near the 40-yard line after Monday’s game and soaked glory in before slow walking over to give LSU linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson a hug.

“I’m relevant again,” Robinson said two days prior as he pondered one more taste of what a national title tastes like.

You could feel USC Nation seething as pundits and other people started rightly comparing this year’s 15-0 LSU team to the great teams of all time. That would include the 1972 Trojans coached by John McKay and assisted by Robinson.

USC, and the rest of the Pac 12, needs to stop whining and start taking this football thing seriously.

“Get busy living or get busy dying,” as Morgan Freeman said in “The Shawshank Redemption.”

How far is the climb?

Clemson, which lost by double digits, is better than anything the Pac 12 can put forth these days. With Burrow leaving but Trevor Lawrence returning, Clemson will likely open next season at preseason No. 1.

It hasn’t been easy, frankly, to be one of the few West Coast chroniclers of the Southern Clambake all these years.

It’s sort of lonely out here. Half of me always wants to mock and diminish the over-the-top religiosity of the devotion yet, somehow, year after year, I walk away impressed at the incredible level of entertainment, conviction and performance.

Facts are stubborn things: since Texas defeated USC to spectacularly end the 2005 season, two Pac 12 schools have competed in the national title game.

Both are named Oregon, which advanced to the finals in 2010 and 2014 and lost to Auburn and Ohio State.

It would be nice if a team outside the South stepped up in prime time, but that isn't done with messaging or a finger snap.

Football isn’t life or death in the South—it’s more important than that and it involves a bit of pseudo, dime-store psychology.

College football in the South seems indelibly tethered to self-esteem, or lack thereof, and football has long given its people a chance to argue a larger truth, in barber shops and diners, for 365 days a year.

Mike Leach just left Washington State to accept a job at Mississippi, leaving the top-ranked state in a recent U.S. News survey of “best” places to live in the United States.

Mississippi ranks No. 48.

The states involved in Monday’s title game in New Orleans are also struggling on non-football fronts.

Louisiana ranks dead last, No. 50, on the “best” list, ranking No. 45 in healthcare, No. 48 in education and No. 49 in economy.

The "education" bracket may be impacted with the announcement that LSU had canceled classes for two days in wake of Monday's victory.

So, it does have deeper meaning when Orgeron bellowed as he lifted the trophy, “This is for the great state of Louisiana!”

The great state of South Carolina ranks No. 42 on the list. However, the two national titles Clemson football has won in recent years doesn’t hurt to tamp the negatives down.

“This was a long time coming, “LSU quarterback Joe Burrow said after claiming the school’s first national title since 2007.

In the Pac 12, well, it’s just been a long time…it's still waiting for "coming."


Chris Dufresne