A Football Rarity is Getting Closer to Reality, And It's Forming Like a Perfect Storm in 2019

Something special is brewing in the bayous of Louisiana this fall, and it's not just catfish courtbouillon and crawfish etouffee, because that's always in the pot.

The LSU Tigers and New Orleans Saints have a chance to pull off a feat never seen in the Super Bowl era. They have a chance to be the first college and pro teams from one state to win their titles in the same season. The Saints and Tigers not only have very good teams this season, they have history on their side. Oh, and both have phenomenal quarterbacks.

The Saints and Tigers are playing their best ball, and both are on paths to their respective championship games. This weekend is big, and a pair of wins on Saturday and Sunday will go a long way to making a national rarity a Louisiana reality.

It all starts with the quarterback wearing No. 9 for the two teams, separated by 81 miles along Interstate-10. Joe Burrow of LSU is the frontrunner to win this year's Heisman Trophy, and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints is chasing down the last of the great NFL passing marks he doesn't already own.

LSU is 12-0, ranked No. 2 in the latest College Football Playoff (CFP) ranking and will face No. 4 Georgia in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship game in Atlanta on Saturday—in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. A win would guarantee LSU a spot in the CFP semifinals as the No. 1 or 2 seed, but a loss would likely still get them in the playoff.

Meanwhile at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday at noon, the Saints (10-2) play the visiting San Francisco 49ers (10-2). The 49ers were a longtime rival and nemesis of the Saints in the old NFC West division, before expansion and divisional realignment. New Orleans has already clinched the NFC South this year, and a win over the 49ers would put them as the current top seed in the NFC with three regular-season games remaining. A top seed means home-field advantage through the playoffs.

In addition, the Saints have a fire in their eyes after devastating playoff losses each of the last two years, including the infamous no-call on pass interference in last year's NFC Championship.

New Orleans Saints
A New Orleans Saints fans is seen during a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 28, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

No NFL team has won the Super Bowl during the same season a college team from that same state won the national championship. There have been two times where an NFL team appeared in the Super Bowl in the same calendar year that its college team won a national title:

  • 1976 — Pittsburgh Steelers (1975 season) won Super Bowl X in January and the Pittsburgh Panthers were college champions that fall.
  • 1983 — Miami Dolphins (1982 season) lost Super Bowl XVII in January and the Miami Hurricanes won the national championship that fall.

Neither of those happened in the same fall season that poured into the same January.

Digging back through 100 seasons of professional football, the feat has happened only twice, when the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns actually competed for championships. In 1952, the Lions won the NFL Championship while Michigan State won the college title, and the same happened in 1954 when the Browns won the NFL championship and Ohio State was named college champs in one national poll—UCLA was named the champion in another poll.

There are no more split polls to declare national college champions, but rather a four team playoff. LSU looks poised to make the playoff. LSU has made the national championship game three times this century—2003, 2007 and 2011. All of those games were played in the Superdome, with LSU winning the first two times. The Superdome has not hosted a college national championship since 2011, but it will host this season's title game.

In LSU's last national championship season (2007), the Tigers were ranked No. 2 and beat No. 1 Ohio State in "The Dome," as they call it in Louisiana. Ohio State is currently No. 1 ahead of LSU in the CFP rankings.

LSU Quarterback Joe Burrow
Joe Burrow #9 of the LSU Tigers thanks the fans after his team finished the regular season 12-0 against the Texas A&M Aggies game at Tiger Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The site of this season's Super Bowl will be in Miami, which has not hosted the big game since 2010, which followed the 2009 season. That year's winner? The New Orleans Saints.

The Saints that season—with Brees still at the helm— had home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and defeated one legend in the NFC championship game (Minnesota QB Brett Favre) and then another (Peyton Manning) when they beat the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl.

Should the Saints make it to the NFC Championship, possible quarterbacks they could face would be Russell Wilson (Seattle) and Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay). Possible opposing quarterbacks in the Super Bowl could be Tom Brady (New England), Lamar Jackson (Baltimore) and Patrick Mahommes (Kansas City).

Folks in the Bayou State are excited about 2019, with possibly one of these teams winning a title. However, something special could be brewing for fans from Calcasieu to Ouachita, and Bossier to Bourbon Street by way of the Atchafalaya. Their teams have never both been this good, this late in the season.

There really could be something in the water this year in Louisiana, and right now it's tasting pretty good to those who root for both the Saints and the Tigers.