NEW ORLEANS — Early on it looked like maybe LSU’s Dream Season had met its match.
The Tigers weren’t really looking like themselves against Clemson, were kind of hanging around, oddly using defense to keep things from slipping away early.
There wasn’t much of home dome advantage, to be honest.
But hang on. Not to worry.
Joe Burrow noticed that Clemson was trying to cover Ja’Marr Chase one-on-one, probably chuckled to himself — that’s his style — and squeezed off a 52-yard touchdown strike.
OK, so that looked familiar. The LSU team everybody knew and dropped jaws over was going to show up. The national championship stage was not too big.
Never mind that a defensive lapse or two and LSU was down 17-7 early in the second quarter. That was a new twist, being down more than a touchdown. Hadn’t happened all season.
But everybody had seen this drill.
Clear the decks — avalanche on the way.
Burrow gets hot, unleashes the wildest offense in NCAA history and the Tigers — beep-beep, get out of the way — scored 21 points in the final 10 minutes of the first half — 28-17.
The circus was starting.
Looked easier than it probably was. But it didn’t look much different than what they’d been doing all season.
By the time the fourth quarter started, LSU had established that it was going to win, that the Tigers were going to be the national champions and, by validating the season with the final trophy, the 100 percent no-doubter best LSU team anybody has ever seen.
Oh, but yes, there was more.
By the time LSU was mercifully taking at knee inside the Clemson 5-yard line, it was time to ask the biggest question:
(Insert dramatic pause here)
Is this the best college football team of all time?
Maybe it’d be prudent to let the purple-and-gold confetti and streamers settle in a bit or at least get cleaned up off the Superdome turf.
Believe me, Alabama will certainly dig up something from its expansive trophy case as a counterpoint.
The awesome intimidating Miami teams of yore might want a word.
Your father’s Nebraska might be in the mix from football’s archaic days.
But LSU circa 2019 can certainly state its case, beginning with 15-0, which has only been done once in the modern era — by Clemson, last year, which had its 29-game winning streak mowed down.
But nobody ever had a résumé like what LSU can throw at you.
Start from the beginning. LSU beat all of the preseason top four teams — Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma — which had never been done … certainly not by an average of 21 points per game.
Now that the dust has settled, the Tigers beat a record seven teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of the game, putting up 40 or more points against five of them.
They scored 726 points against that schedule, the most ever by a national champion in the modern era.
That’s just numbers.
Better yet, LSU did it with style, with a lovable homegrown Cajun coach in Ed Orgeron who even the Tigers’ worst enemies have trouble not adoring. It all seems like a fairy tale.
Then, of course, there’s that offense you couldn’t take your eyes off.
As word spread, LSU became must-see TV, capturing the imagination of fans well outside of Louisiana and The Plains, Ohio.
The president of the United States dropped by twice to get a gander.
It’s not true that LSU’s offense could score whenever it wanted to. But this is certain: all season long it scored every time it mildly needed to.
Maybe that’s what Clemson’s fans didn’t realize when they started rumbling after their team cut the margin to 28-25 early in the third quarter.
This LSU team never had a down game.
By the time it finished the season, the nagging questions about its defense had been answered.
LSU not only rang up 628 yards against the nation’s No. 1-ranked defense on Monday, LSU had the best defense on the field.
Clemson’s dynamic offense was held 144 yards below its average, which gave it a lot in common with the Georgias and Oklahomas of the world.
And there’s still more.
As I understand it, Burrow is not eligible for the discussion on college football’s all-time best player. Some unwritten bylaws say you have to have more than one great season.
But Joe Burrow, or Burreaux, if you prefer, is right there for having greatest single college football season of all time.
Burrow had already won the Heisman Trophy in the award’s biggest landslide.
And then, in two playoff games against the elite competition in the biggest game, he strafes Oklahoma and Clemson for 12 touchdown passes, 956 yards, and runs for two more.
Go ahead, try topping that.
“Yeah, I think this is a team for the ages,” Orgeron said, “especially how prolific we were on offense, and to have that type of quarterback that we have, to go 15-0 and to beat the teams that we beat, all the top teams that we played … these guys didn’t blink. We didn’t have a bad game. We played 15 good football games, and this is going to be hard to beat.”
He’s right. Forget the sensible wait. If the scene in the French Quarter into Tuesday’s wee hours was any indication, LSU fans are for crowning this team the greatest in college history right now.
Maybe write your congressman.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at