But Orgeron imbued in his team a swagger — “We coming,” he declared two years ago after getting beat by Alabama — and Burrow flourished with a full off-season surrounded by N.F.L. talent at every skill position, and a scheme that was poached from the New Orleans Saints. Burrow set an N.C.A.A. season record with 60 touchdown passes.
“The first time I met Joe, I didn’t know who this dude was,” said guard Damien Lewis, who arrived as a transfer the same time as Burrow. “This is our quarterback? He was silent, kept to himself. But once he got out there, I was like, ‘O.K., we got something.’”
That L.S.U. had something with Orgeron was not immediately apparent, either.
Five years ago, he was at home in Mandeville, across Lake Pontchartrain, watching his son play high school football and cooking up gumbo after being passed over at U.S.C. after leading the Trojans to six wins in eight games as the interim coach.
“I remember sitting on the sofa at my house, I had a year to reflect,” Orgeron said. “I remember watching SEC games going, I can compete with these guys given the right place.”
He added: “Man, people are going to talk and all that, but you can’t let it affect you. I use that as internal motivation. People, they tease me the way I talk, tease me the way I look and it’s kind of funny. The things that I was doing at Ole Miss I was ridiculed for, and now I punch myself in the jaw and everybody at L.S.U. likes it.”
L.S.U.’s offense took a few shots to the jaw before getting itself right.
Though Clemson was trying to win its third championship in four seasons, Coach Dabo Swinney was well justified this time in playing his familiar lil’ ol’ Clemson card, knowing the game would be played nearly 80 miles from L.S.U.’s home stadium.
Clemson fans turned out, as they regularly do, transforming one end zone into a sea of orange. But as anyone who roamed the streets of the French Quarter in the days leading up to the game might have surmised, this was L.S.U.’s town.