Tomorrow’s the national championship game, and I can’t tell you how glad I am to not have to worry about pulling against someone. Nor can I tell you how glad I am not to have to pull for the entire stadium to collapse (see January 8th, 2018 in Atlanta).
Instead, there’s a new contender to the Playoff in top-ranked LSU and the defending champs in third-ranked Clemson. The Tigers are on a 29-game winning streak, and the Tigers boast one of the best defenses in the country along with a surefire #1 overall NFL draft pick. Meanwhile, the Tigers have a surefire #1 overall NFL draft pick and the best offense in the country, with one of the more dominant seasons in recent memory. See what I did there?
To be honest, you really don’t have to care as much as you have in recent years about who wins this game, but there are definite reasons to pull for one or the other. At least they’re not Bama.
WHY YOU SHOULD PULL FOR LSU
We’ll be real, the SEC Champion was going to be in the championship game. After hearing that LSU coaches didn’t think that Oklahoma should’ve actually been ranked in the top fifteen, and after watching their 63-28 evisceration of the Sooners, any doubt that LSU was for real evaporated.
There were three options in terms of a team from the SEC sitting in this spot. LSU played Georgia for the SEC title, and the winner of that game was guaranteed a playoff berth. There was also talk about sticking Bama in there anyway, because that makes sense. If you had to pick between the three of those teams, LSU is the clear runaway winner from an Auburn standpoint. Having to watch Bama in the playoff every year since its inception was tough, I won’t lie. Even with losing our bowl game, not having to turn around and watch the Tide win a title takes a bit of the sting out of it.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s just been moonlighting as a team that can compete with the big boys. Yeah, they got that 2017 SEC Championship, but playing in the weaker division has given them an inflated sense of worth, and when they end up against the West when it really matters, they embarrass themselves.
That leaves LSU. Auburn hasn’t played LSU nearly as long as Alabama and Georgia, so the historic vitriol isn’t as present in the rivalry. Pee balloons aside, there’s not much I have against LSU. This year, no team gave them a tougher shot than Auburn did. Joe Burrow’s quarterback rating was a fraction of what he posted the rest of the year when he had to play Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson, and Big Kat Bryant. I think Ed Orgeron knows that he got a little lucky to hold Auburn’s defense at bay enough to win.
It’s an integrity move, and I honestly like Ed O. He’s the unlikely winner. He’s the complete opposite of a football robot, and he’s what made Les Miles fairly likable in comparison to Nick Saban. He’s just a dude who loves football and loves his guys. They’ll run through a brick wall for him, and they’ve done it all year long. He really is the guy that Dabo tries to be. It’s effortless for Coach O. Dabo tries way too hard — to be that country boy, to be the underdog, to be the player’s coach. There’s something there that seems fake. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised though, he is an Alabama boy at heart. After beating Auburn in 2011 to end our winning streak, he said it was only appropriate for a guy that went to Alabama to end the streak. Come on, dude. It’s like talking about how great your ex girlfriend was when you’re at your wedding. Ed O is a real dude, though, and you can tell he’s not trying to be that guy. He just is that dude.
The only downside to pulling for LSU is that they’re a direct competitor to Auburn, and that leads us into...
WHY YOU SHOULD PULL FOR CLEMSON
There are some people that are all about conference pride. Who cares in the slightest about conference pride? Do these people not realize that conference pride can jump off of a tall building when you have to compete against these teams every season on the field and in recruiting? Man, I love that literally Auburn’s entire schedule is filled with elite teams and elite recruiters. Conference pride is a crock. The SEC doesn’t have to be strong, and I don’t really care about anyone other than Auburn.
There are also some people that want to see some parity in college football. Well, if that’s the case, you should embrace Aw Shucks Why Not Us Little Old Clemson led by Aw Heck Dabo Swinney. Some of these same people are in the conference pride boat, so why don’t they all go support Kentucky football?
The main reason you should pull for Clemson is because a Clemson win doesn’t affect Auburn. Sure we’ll have to go head to head on a recruit or two here or there, but that ship has sailed. Dabo’s got a machine going over there, but that’s not our problem save for a few rare instances. We don’t have Clemson on our schedule, and if they win, they just increase their stranglehold on the ACC. It doesn’t really affect Auburn.
Plus, and I hate to make these points about our cross-state rivals, but we all know that there’s one name at the top of Alabama’s list once Nick Saban retires. That’s Dabo. If he keeps winning championships at Clemson, he’s not leaving the monster he built to follow in someone’s footsteps. Yeah, mama’s calling and all that, but he’s already bested the God-King in Tuscaloosa. He, along with Gus, are the only active Power Five coaches with multiple wins over Nick Saban. Gus has three, Dabo’s got two. More wins keep him in South Carolina instead of West Alabama.
Plus, a Clemson win at least, for the time being, prevents LSU from becoming that super elite group. The way the Bayou Bengals have navigated this season has been one of the swaggiest displays I’ve ever seen. Joe Burrow and his guys are wild, and the LSU players going over the recruiting section after beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa was a major power move. They’re on the rise, but our hope is that they’re like we were in 2010. A solid team with a true difference-maker at quarterback. What happens when Joe Burrow leaves? Maybe they look like we did in 2011. Gus was the best coordinator in the country with Cam Newton at quarterback. He looked rather pedestrian a year later. Maybe the shine comes off Joe Brady when he doesn’t have a number one pick of his own. Clemson winning may send LSU into the offseason without a championship and no real plan to truly replace this season’s magic. I wouldn’t mind seeing that. If it’s not Auburn, I don’t want the SEC to succeed.
Conclusion? It depends on what you care about. Do you want the road to be easier for Auburn, or do you want to engage in schadenfreude? There are a ton of options, and maybe you won’t know how you’re actually pulling until the first big play tomorrow night. Just enjoy the game, and be thankful nobody that we really hate is in with a chance to win a title. War Eagle.