Come Saturday the 236-day wait, which probably seems longer than that, will mercifully come to an end.
When LSU opens the season against North Texas at 6:02 p.m. in Tiger Stadium it will have been 236 days since the Tigers last played a football game, 236 days since the most successful regular season in school history was tainted by the biggest postseason flop in school history.
The LSU players and coaches have done their best to put that 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS title game behind them even as they have used it as fuel while they began work toward another, and perhaps more successful, trip to the title game.
They have moved on, but Saturday provides a cleansing opportunity that hasn’t been available at any point during the previous 235 days — the opportunity to play a game, the expectation of the first victory since winning the SEC title last Dec. 3, the first game in Tiger Stadium since last Nov. 25.
The complications caused by Hurricane Isaac — three days of canceled classes, a lost practice, the spectre of a possible postponement as well as concerns for family and friends — likely will make the opportunity to take the field Saturday even more cathartic.
The team that showed up in the Superdome on Jan. 9 didn’t look much like the one that had shown up at stadiums for the 13 previous games. Now it’s time for a new team — one that is comprised mostly of players from last season, but a unique unit nonetheless.
This team doesn’t pick up where the last one left off. It does, however, begin this season within the haunting context of how the last season ended.
Fair or not, for better or for worse, the last game is always the one most vividly remembered. The disappointment of January trumps all of the triumphs of last September, October, November and December.
But a new story begins to unfold in earnest Saturday.
“It’s time for us to display our talent and show the world where we stand after the national championship game,” defensive tackle Bennie Logan said.
The Tigers are where they stood throughout last season — at the top of the polls. After being atop at least one poll from late September until the title game last season, LSU is the preseason No. 1 team in the USA Today coaches poll, which was compiled before All-America cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was kicked off the team.
The Tigers are the No. 3 team in the Associated Press poll, dropping from No. 1 when the AP allowed a re-vote after Mathieu was dismissed Aug. 10.
Of course, preseason polls are meaningless in terms of who will ultimately be the best teams in the country, but there’s every reason to expect that LSU has as good a chance as any team to be in contention for the BCS title game.
This team has talked about getting back to where it was at the end of last season and finishing the job this time.
The first step toward doing that is Saturday night and it’s about time, isn’t it?