Ed Orgeron wasn’t wanted at USC. He also wasn’t desired at LSU, not initially anyway.
Yet, today there is not a hotter — and better — coach in America than the fiery, barrel-chested Cajun.
Already the Associated Press’ No. 1-ranked team, on Tuesday Orgeron’s LSU Tigers earned their first No. 1 ranking in the six-year history of the College Football Playoff thanks to Saturday’s victory over rival Alabama. LSU’s historic win also ended the Tigers’ eight-game losing streak to Bama and the Tide’s 31-game home winning streak.
What makes these accomplishments more special for Orgeron is how far he has come. From a disastrous three-year head coaching stint at Ole Miss (a 10-25 record from 2005-07) to USC (he was interim coach for eight games after Lane Kiffin was fired, but USC AD Pat Haden opted to hire Steve Sarkisian instead).
And then there was LSU.
In 2016, six games into Orgeron’s stint as interim coach, the Tigers were preparing to play Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night when agents started leaking info to reporters, and all hell broke loose surrounding LSU’s coaching search.
We’ll let Orgeron explain.
“(In 2016) we got to Texas A&M and (Florida State’s) Jimbo Fisher was getting the job,” Orgeron said. “That was Wednesday night. Then Thursday night, (Houston’s) Tom Herman was getting the job.
“Then Saturday, Ed Orgeron got it. So anything can happen, you just got to keep on competing. I’m glad I’m here, I thank God for this job.”
Orgeron was LSU’s third option in 2016 to replace Les Miles full-time, but he’s clearly turned into its best option.
While Orgeron is most recognized for a distinct accent, his he-still-looks-like-he-could-play defensive lineman physique and his passionate, emotional, profane-laden locker room celebrations, something has been glossed over about Orgeron: He is a helluva coach.
In fact, you could make an argument — and I will — that since replacing Miles after four games in 2016, Orgeron has been the nation’s best coach against the toughest competition.
Yes, Orgeron doesn’t have any national titles (yet) and hasn’t even won a conference or SEC West division title, but take a closer look at Orgeron’s tenure — and the competition he has faced — at LSU, and it becomes clear that no current head coach has faced a tougher schedule than Coach O.
In 43 games at LSU, 51 percent (22) of his games have been against Associated Press Top 25 opponents, including 28 percent against Top 10 programs.
In that span, no other current head coach has faced more Top 25 or Top 10 teams. Not only has Orgeron played the hardest schedule in America, but he’s 9-3 against Top 10 opponents — 8-0 against those not named Alabama.
Quick comparison: The difference between the strength of schedule faced in Orgeron’s 43 games at LSU and some of the top Group of Five programs is staggering. UCF, Boise State and Houston, in each of their past 43 games since late 2016, have only played a combined 21 ranked opponents in 129 games, one less than Orgeron’s 22 ranked opponents in 43 games.
Besides playing the nation’s toughest schedule since 2016, Orgeron has accepted that maybe he doesn’t always have all the answers, which is why he’s recruited some of football’s top assistants to Baton Rouge, most notably an unknown New Orleans Saints offensive analyst named Joe Brady.
“The game is changing,” Orgeron told The Washington Post. “It changes on a daily basis, especially on offense, spread offense, new ideas.
“Obviously, I’m 58, been coaching college football for a long time. Now, there’s some young and up-and-coming coaches like we have on our staff, and I have no problem listening to them, especially in an area where I’m not in expertise.
“My expertise is motivation, recruiting, defensive line play, and I work as hard as I can on those subjects and let the other guys I hired, people who are experts at their position, and let ’em go.”
And the Tigers are “geauxing” alright — perhaps on their way to their first national title since 2007.
The below charts show notable programs over their past 43 contests and the number of games they’ve played against Top 25 and Top 10 opponents.
Ed Orgeron has coached 43 games at LSU with 22 coming against AP Top 25 opponents, including 12 matchups featuring AP Top 10 foes. No other current coach has faced more in that span.
|Coach||# of Games vs. Top 25 Teams (Past 43 Games)||Record in Those Top 25 Matchups|
|Ed Orgeron (LSU)||22||15-7 (.681)|
|Nick Saban (Alabama)||18||14-4 (.777)|
|Gus Malzahn (Auburn)||18||8-10 (.444)|
|Jim Harbaugh (Michigan)||18||8-10 (.444)|
|Charlie Strong, Tom Herman (Texas)||18||8-10 (.444)|
|Urban Meyer, Ryan Day (Ohio State)||16||14-2 (.875)|
|Clay Helton (USC)||16||8-8 (.500)|
|Brian Kelly (Notre Dame)||15||8-7 (.533)|
|Bob Stoops, Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma)||14||11-3 (.785)|
|James Franklin (Penn State)||14||7-7 (.500)|
|Dabo Swinney (Clemson)||14||13-1 (.928)|
|Chris Petersen (Washington)||14||7-7 (.500)|
|Paul Chryst (Wisconsin)||12||7-5 (.583)|
|Coach||# of Games vs. Top 10 Teams (Past 43 Games)||Record in Those Top 10 Matchups|
|Ed Orgeron (LSU)||12||9-3 (.750)|
|Gus Malzahn (Auburn)||12||4-8 (.333)|
|Nick Saban (Alabama)||11||7-4 (.636)|
|Urban Meyer, Ryan Day (Ohio State)||10||8-2 (.800)|
|Charlie Strong, Tom Herman (Texas)||10||4-6 (.400)|
|Jim Harbaugh (Michigan)||9||1-8 (.111)|
|Clay Helton (USC)||8||3-5 (.375)|
|Bob Stoops, Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma)||7||5-2 (.714)|
|Chris Petersen (Washington)||7||2-5 (.285)|
|Dabo Swinney (Clemson)||6||5-1 (.833)|
|James Franklin (Penn State)||6||2-4 (.333)|
|Paul Chryst (Wisconsin)||4||1-3 (.250)|
|Brian Kelly (Notre Dame)||4||1-3 (.250)|