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Sport LSU's 'dream' season enters final stages against No. 4 Oklahoma in national semifinal

08:57  28 december  2019
08:57  28 december  2019 Source:   statesmanjournal.com

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No. 1 Tigers face No . 4 Oklahoma in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Saturday. LSU RB Tyrion Davis-Price talks freshman season , preparation for semifinal - Продолжительность: 4:17 Tiger Details 1 730 LSU head coach Ed Orgeron talks about being in Peach Bowl, national championship desires

LSU football coach Ed Orgeron leads the No. 1 Tigers against No . 4 Oklahoma at the The College Football Playoff slate begins with No. 1 LSU battling No . 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl. 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship game. Who: No. 1 LSU or No . 4 Oklahoma vs. No

ATLANTA — Rashard Lawrence remembers the chants from just three years ago.

Ed Orgeron standing in front of a crowd: Dec 7, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron reacts after a catch by wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. (not pictured) in the first quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2019 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports© Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports Dec 7, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron reacts after a catch by wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. (not pictured) in the first quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2019 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

"We took a lot of pride in that. It wasn't just the fans. We were chanting, 'Keep Coach O. Keep Coach O,'" the LSU senior defensive end from Monroe said.

How To Watch: LSU vs. Oklahoma

The Tigers had just trounced No. 22 Texas A&M, 56-27, on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 2016, in College Station under interim head coach Ed Orgeron, a 55-year-old journeyman who opened the season as LSU's recruiting coordinator/defensive line coach on his fifth stop in 10 years.

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Line: LSU by 13 1/2. Series Record: Tied 1-1. What's at stake. The Tigers are playing in their first Burrow has thrived while making winning decisions on run-pass-option plays in LSU ' s spread This is the second straight year Oklahoma has played the No. 1 team in the semifinal , after losing to

No. 2 Ohio State (13-0) faces Swinney' s third-seeded, defending national champion Tigers (13-0) on Saturday night in a rare CFP semifinal that feels a like it could be a championship The Buckeyes are No. 1 in the nation in scoring and No. 3 in points allowed. 13 in New Orleans to face either No. 1 LSU or No . 4 Oklahoma . “It will be fun to see those guys playing against each other and competing.

"And it was a big deal," Lawrence said. "Obviously, we couldn't handle what happens at the top with who's going to hire who and what happens. But we wanted to prove to people that he was our coach."

a group of baseball players standing on top of each other: Oct 19, 2019; Starkville, MS, USA; Louisiana State Tigers defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence (90) reacts with safety JaCoby Stevens (3) and linebacker Patrick Queen (8) after a fumble by the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports© Matt Bush, Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports Oct 19, 2019; Starkville, MS, USA; Louisiana State Tigers defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence (90) reacts with safety JaCoby Stevens (3) and linebacker Patrick Queen (8) after a fumble by the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

After unsuccessfully trying for weeks to hire then-Houston coach Tom Herman and deciding not to pull the trigger on the price tag for then-Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, then-LSU athletic director Joe Alleva settled on Orgeron.

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No. 1 LSU and Hurts will lead No . 4 Oklahoma into a College Football Playoff semifinal in the to go, our defense has to play very, very well in the Peach Bowl against an outstanding offense." beat LSU in 2016 and 2017 before being beat out by Tua Tagavailoa and transferring to Oklahoma for this

Burrow is a hero on LSU ' s Baton Rouge campus, but he hasn't seen much of it because he took graduate The Tigers are playing in their first playoff semifinal . They will try to keep their high scoring going, even This is the second straight year Oklahoma has played the No. 1 team in the semifinal

Two days after Thanksgiving, Texas fired Coach Charlie Strong that Saturday morning, and Herman took the job he always wanted and the one to which his career path was always headed with the Longhorns. And a frustrated Alleva tapped Orgeron, one of Louisiana's own from Larose on Bayou Lafourche in deep southern Louisiana.

And the rest is history - two chapters from completion.

The Match-up: LSU vs. Oklahoma

Orgeron and his No. 1-ranked Tigers (13-0) can reach LSU's first national championship game since the 2011 season by beating No. 4 and 14-point underdog Oklahoma (12-1) on Saturday in a 3 p.m. national semifinal on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the Peach Bowl.

"Hey, we're the best, most complete team in the country," Lawrence said. "We want to prove that to everyone."

The winner advances to the national championship game on Jan. 13 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans against the winner of Saturday's 7 p.m. game between No. 2 Ohio State (13-0) and No. 3 Clemson (13-0), which play in the other national semifinal in Glendale, Arizona, at the Fiesta Bowl.

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Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray knows the Sooners' defense is preparing for its toughest challenge of the season and believes experience on the national stage will be a big factor. No. 1 LSU (13-0) enters the College Football Playoff semifinal in Saturday' s Peach Bowl leading the nation in.

No. 1 LSU , No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Clemson have established themselves as the nation ' s best teams The Sooners are a whopping 13 1/2-point underdog heading into their Peach Bowl semifinal against LSU In recent years, Oklahoma has maintained its place among the nation ' s elite programs.

Over the years, Alleva had become increasingly unpopular with fans despite and, more importantly, with the powers that be at LSU, despite the popularity of Orgeron, and he was fired last spring. But his hiring of Orgeron has proven him astonishingly correct.

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After his 6-2 interim season in 2016, Orgeron went a bumpy 9-4 in his first full season in 2017 with a 37-7 loss at Mississippi State and a 24-21 upset to 20-point underdog Troy.

"The Troy loss - that was the low point," Lawrence said.

But there has been nothing close since, other than a 29-0 loss in 2018 to Alabama, but it  was No. 1 at the time. LSU finished 10-3 in 2018 with a 40-32 win over No. 7 Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, 2019, to win double-digit games for the first time since 2013, and start the current 14-0 streak over two seasons.

"He's created steps," LSU senior defensive end Breiden Fehoko of Honolulu, Hawaii, said of Orgeron. "We won nine. Then we won 10. Then we beat Alabama, and we've won 13 this year. He's recruited better each year he's been here. That's how you build a juggernaut. That's how you build a dynasty. This year may only be a stepping stone to more to come."

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LSU has never been 14-0 in a season in its football history that began in 1893. It is in the College Football Playoff - a format that started in 2014 - for the first time.

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"Coach O proved us right," Lawrence said. "He definitely did. He's going to be here for a while."

LSU has been 13-0 before, but it lost the national championship that season, 21-0, to Alabama in the Superdome on Jan. 9, 2012. The Tigers are a win away from their fourth national championship game since the 2003 season when they won it all with a 21-14 win over Oklahoma in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 4, 2004, to finish 13-1. LSU won the national title in the 2007 season with a 38-24 victory over Ohio State in the BCS national championship game in the Superdome on Jan. 7, 2008, and finished 12-2.

"Coach O is one of the smartest people I know, other than my father," Fehoko said.

"I think Coach O is on his way to being probably one of the best coaches in college football. And being from Louisiana, it's special that he's one of us," Lawrence said.

"To me, it's one of my favorite parts of this job," Orgeron said. "I'm from here. I'm blue collar, a lot like they are. I tell them I represent them in every way I can - all the former players, all the former coaches, all the alumni."

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Orgeron, technically, is an LSU alum. He signed as a lineman at LSU in 1979 in the last class of Coach Charles McClendon, who will be inducted posthumously into the 2019 class of the Peach Bowl Hall of Fame.

Orgeron quit that August, though, returned home, transferred to Northwestern State, and became an assistant coach at McNeese State, Arkansas, Miami, Nicholls State, Syracuse and USC, a head coach at Ole Miss, an assistant with the Saints, Tennessee, and USC again before finally becoming an assistant at LSU in 2015.

It appears he is home to stay this time. "He's going to be here a while," Lawrence said.

"It's just been a wonderful mix of coming to LSU, coming back home, and us winning," Orgeron said. "We want them to make the Cajuns proud of being Cajun. I have a Cajun accent. The players like it. I like it. Obviously, you've got to give your own flavor, be your own person. That's just the way we do things. It feels good to be here. I'm happy for our team, happy for the state of Louisiana."

But technically, this is not a bowl.

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Orgeron made that very clear the Monday after LSU beat No. 4 Georgia, 37-10, in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in this same stadium on Dec. 7.

"This ain't no bowl. This is a playoff game. This is win or go home. Big stakes," Lawrence said Orgeron told them.

"This is not our final destination," Orgeron said. "Although we've had success this year, they're not satisfied. You've got to win this game. There's no time to relax. There's no time to sit back. This is a big game for us, and we're here to win it. When you walk in the Dome and you see College Football Semifinals, it hits them. It's all on the line. I think these guys are going to be ready. They've been fantastic."

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Many thought LSU would be a contender this season. The Tigers were ranked No. 6 before the season. But the domination? No. The offense has been the story of the year in college football as the Tigers are No. 1 in the nation in total offense with 554.4 yards a game.

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Quarterback Joe Burrow became LSU's first Heisman Trophy winner in 60 years on Dec. 14. He leads the nation with 48 touchdown passes and is on the verge of setting the NCAA record for completion percentage in a season as he is at .779 on 342-of-439 passing for a SEC record 4,715 yards.

LSU has defeated five top 10 teams at the time of the game - No. 9 Texas and Herman, No. 7 Florida, No. 9 Auburn, No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Georgia.

"You expect to do this at LSU," Orgeron said. "But I didn't know it would happen so fast - in our third year."

Few, if anyone, predicted a 14-0 start for LSU or a 15-0 finish, but both could happen.

"I never would have thought that things would end up this way," LSU freshman cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. of Baton Rouge said. "But it's cool. It's just one of the best feelings in the world. It's really been a dream."

And it could be miles before LSU wakes up.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: LSU's 'dream' season enters final stages against No. 4 Oklahoma in national semifinal

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