1971 Nebraska. 1995 Nebraska. 1972 USC. 2001 Miami. 1956 Oklahoma. 1947 Michigan…
It is impossible to truly judge “the greatest of all time” in anything in sports, especially since times and rules of the game change while athletic abilities are constantly increasing. It is as easy to decipher a greatest of all-time college football team as it is to name a national champion in high school football.
But since we do have national rankings and champions in high school football nowadays, it is more than fair to take a stab at naming the greatest college football team of all time.
The names above are often associated with the greatest for many reasons, including the statistics by which they dominated their opponents and the team’s star power.
The 2011 LSU Tigers had a chance to be included in the discussion because of its strength of schedule and the way it dominated it. Until the 21-0 loss to Alabama in the final game of the season, the Tigers had media pundits putting them in the “greatest of all-time” discussion after it beat three top-3 teams, including Alabama on the road, and eight top-25 teams by an average of 22 points per game.
Even with the loss to the Crimson Tide, who finished 12-1, the Tigers finished last season as the only team to win 13 games by virtue of its SEC championship victory over No. 12 Georgia. Such a magical season, the return of key players all over the field, and the emergence of a legitimate quarterback threat has Tiger fans salivating for another chance at a national title.
It also has people quietly whispering that if this season unfolds even close to the level it is expected to, college football fans and media may very well include the 2012 Tigers up there with the greatest college football teams of all time.
This list does not include things like “LSU must finish 14-0.” Some of these things are givens. But if these seven things do happen, it would be difficult to imagine a scenario that would not have the Tigers finishing undefeated. Every game is important, obviously, but the Alabama game is singled out for one reason: It is the team that denied the 2011 Tiger team a chance at immortality, and it is the only team on this year’s LSU schedule that can match it physically and athletically.
So here they are, the seven things that must happen for LSU to become the greatest of all time. You may find that nothing on this list is that far-fetched.
The greatness of Reed is obvious. He holds the SEC record for receiving yardage in a game (293 vs. Alabama in 2001), season (1,740 in 2001), and receiving yardage per game (145 in 2001). He was a first-team All-SEC selection in 2000 and 2001, and a consensus first-team All-American in 2001.
He also won the Biletnikoff Award after the 2001 season.
Beckham Jr. does not have to shatter records. He simply has to be quarterback Zach Mettenberger’s go-to man. Too much is made of the Tigers needing multiple threats at the wide receiver position. All it needs from the other receivers is threat enough to where defenses can’t double team Beckham Jr. If he is left to roam against single coverage, look out.
“I want to have an amazing season as a receiver. The ultimate goal is always to win the Biletnikoff Award,” said Beckham. “We want to get back to the BCS and win it this time. I want 1,000 yards receiving and make game changing plays.”
The only thing that may prohibit this from happening is actually a boon for the Tigers. The truth is that Les Miles has stockpiled talent at that position, and receivers like James Wright and Jarvis Landry could prove to be more than just complimentary pieces to Beckham Jr.’s budding star power.
In other words, a fearsome threesome could be just as impressive in the “all-time greatest” discussion as one player having an award-winning season.
2. Zach Mettenberger needs to pull off his best Rohan Davey impression and simply be a good quarterback and leader.
Game manager? No. All-American? No. Somewhere in the middle? Yes.
Like Rohan Davey was, especially in 2001 when he helped make Josh Reed, well, Josh Reed. As a senior in 2001, Davey led LSU to its first SEC title since 1988 and its first top-10 finish since 1987, introducing the golden era of Tiger football in which top-10 finishes are now expected every year. Davey passed for 3,791 yards, becoming the first QB in LSU history to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season. He threw for 528 in the game Reed set his record with 293.
And yet for all his worth, Davey wasn’t even a first-team All-SEC selection.
This is what Mettenberger has to be. Just good. Averaging 200 yards per game through the SEC Championship game would put him at 2600 yards, well short of Davey’s senior production. But that 200 yards per game will feel like 400 to defenses who couldn’t stop the run or LSU’s dominance in spite of the Jefferson-Lee parade last year.
Come back tomorrow to read No. 3-7 on the list.