Regardless of the SEC Championship outcome, Brian Kelly’s first season at LSU is a success

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Even before their embarrassing loss to the underachieving Texas A&M Aggies, nobody in the college football world confused the LSU Tigers with championship contenders. Despite boasting a No. 5 ranking going into rivalry week, the overwhelming opinion was Brian Kelly‘s team was overachieving and playing with house money. A terrible loss to Jimbo Fisher’s 4-7 (at the time) team shouldn’t change anything, and whatever happens in the SEC Championship won’t change anything either — Year 1 under Brian Kelly is already a success.

When he took over the program, LSU was embroiled in controversy that resulted in a mass exodus of players. The program had 39 scholarship players available for its bowl game against Kansas State; hell, a wide receiver played quarterback. Whether it was the transfer portal or NFL Draft, the Tigers lost talent everywhere on the roster — Cordale Flott, Dwight McGlothern, Eli Ricks, Derek Stingley Jr., Max Johnson, Tyrion Davis-Price, Damone Clark, and four of the team’s five starting offensive linemen. It was a dumpster fire.

Kelly essentially pieced together a roster via the transfer portal. And Kelly’s staff was formed from scratch with an influx of over 40 new support staff members. Nobody expected a ragtag bunch from the Bayou to do much this season, let alone win the SEC West. Vegas had LSU winning just six games. Now, Kelly is getting his team ready to face the defending National Champions in the conference title game in his very first season after leading the Tigers to a win over Alabama in Death Valley for the first time since 2010.

Beating the Georgia Bulldogs will be nearly impossible, but it doesn’t matter. Regardless of what happens in Saturday’s SEC Championship, Brian Kelly’s Year 1 at LSU should be seen as an overwhelming success. After opening the season with a demoralizing loss to Flordia State in the Superdome, LSU rattled off four straight wins to build its fan base up, only to be knocked back down after Tennessee and Hendon Hooker dominated in Tiger Stadium. Ending the season with a downright embarrassing loss to one of the worst teams in the conference still shouldn’t overshadow beating Bama, winning nine games, and punching a ticket to Atlanta.

Photographer: John Korduner/Icon Sportswire

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