The crystal ball forecasts another wild year in Louisiana sports

Columnist Jeff Duncan's annual forecast for Louisiana sports predicts another year of twists and turns for local teams.

Happy New Year, New Orleans.

In honor of the late, great Peter Finney, the legendary oracle of New Orleans sports, let’s dust off the crystal ball and see what 2024 portends for the world of sports.

And as Pete always advised: Do not bet the kids’ tuition money on this inside information.


Garrett Nussmeier passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns as LSU routs Wisconsin 42-23 in the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa. … Alabama upsets Michigan 28-23 in the CFP semifinal at the Rose Bowl. In the other CFP semifinal, Texas outscores Washington 36-35 in a shootout at the Sugar Bowl. … The Atlanta Falcons defeat the Saints 26-20 at a half-empty Superdome. Quarterback Derek Carr blames the loss on a pair of blown-out shoes by teammates, the expected growing pains of adjusting to a new system and the Superdome lights being in his eyes. The Saints finish the season at 8-9 under head coach Dennis Allen, who afterward says the team just needs “to keep chopping wood.” … On Black Monday, the Commanders fire head coach Ron Rivera. A day later, the New England Patriots announce that they and head coach Bill Belichick have agreed to mutually part ways. … The Saints announce that they plan to overhaul their offensive coaching staff and plan to conduct a national search for a new offensive coordinator. … In a rematch of their Week 2 regular-season game, Alabama avenges its loss to Texas by defeating the Longhorns 41-30 in the CFP championship game, winning its seventh national title under head coach Nick Saban. Jalen Milroe is named the game’s MVP after passing for three touchdowns and rushing for two more. … The Cowboys upset the 49ers 27-24 to win the NFC Championship Game. … The Baltimore Ravens rout the Miami Dolphins 35-13 to win the AFC Championship Game…. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and linebacker Demario Davis announce their retirements. … The U.A. Army Corps of Engineers announce that the saltwater wedge has re-entered the Mississippi River, sparking a massive run on bottled water supplies from panicked citizens across south Louisiana.


Jahri Evans and Reggie Wayne are inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They are joined in the Class of 2024 by fellow modern-era inductees Julius Peppers, Andre Johnson and Patrick Willis. … Before the NBA trade deadline, the Pelicans deal center Jonas Valanciunas, Kira Lewis and a protected 2024 first-round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for rim protector Jarrett Allen and backup point guard Ricky Rubio. … Dak Prescott caps a last-minute drive with a 7-yard TD pass to Jake Ferguson as the Cowboys rally to edge the Ravens 30-28 in Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas. … The Saints hire former NFL head coach Jon Gruden as assistant head coach/offensive coordinator. Allen expresses excitement at the hires and states that he can’t wait to see them “start chopping wood” in the 2024 season. … Ryan Blaney wins his first career Daytona 500. … Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram combine 60 points as the Pelicans rout the Wizards 122-101 at the Smoothie King Center and take a 32-23 record into the All-Star break. … For the 114th consecutive year, the Zulu parade starts late on Mardi Gras Day and is delayed by a series of tractor breakdowns.


In preparation for the start of free agency, the Saints restructure the contracts of several key veterans, including Carr and Cesar Ruiz, and release receiver Michael Thomas. Thomas immediately restores his social media platforms and cryptically tweets his plan to take a brick to anyone who @s him on X (formerly Twitter). … The Saints trade running back Alvin Kamara to the Los Angeles Rams for a third-round draft pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. … Catching Freedom closes strongly down the stretch to overtake the field and win the Louisiana Derby for trainer Brad Cox. … As part of their international marketing rights initiative with France, the Saints announce plans to conduct a future offseason minicamp in Monaco. … New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell plans to represent the city of New Orleans at the Saints minicamp workouts in Monaco as a cultural ambassador. … At the NFL league meetings in Orlando, Florida, owner Gayle Benson petitions the NFL to change the team’s nickname from the Saints to the Lumberjacks.


Angel Reese scores 28 points to lead the LSU Tigers to an 81-74 victory over Baylor in the Portland Regional finals and advance to a second consecutive Final Four in Cleveland. … Guard Johnell Davis hits a driving bank shot at the buzzer to lift Florida Atlantic past Purdue in the NCAA men’s Final Four. … South Carolina defeats LSU in the NCAA women’s Final Four semifinals, then routs UCLA to finish the season unbeaten and give coach Dawn Staley her third NCAA championship. … Former UNO cross country standout Kolyn Saltzman wins the Crescent City Classic for the second consecutive year. … Rory McIlroy rolls in a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to win the 88th edition of the Masters and earn his first green jacket. … Trey Murphy scores 26 points off the bench to lead the Pelicans to a 125-121 win over the Lakers at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans earn the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a 48-34 record. … After finishing as runners-up last year, the Canadian team of Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor wins the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at the TPC of Louisiana. … The Washington Commanders trade the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and a 2025 first-round selection to the Chicago Bears in exchange for the No. 1 pick, which they use to select Southern Cal quarterback Caleb Williams. The Arizona Cardinals take Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. with the No. 2 pick. … The Saints select Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt in the first round of the draft, then trade a 2025 first-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles to select Washington quarterback Michael Penix with the No. 28 pick in Round 1, making him the first quarterback selected by the club in Round 1 since Archie Manning in 1971. …The Atlanta Falcons select LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels with the No. 10 overall pick in Round 1. … The Green Bay Packers select LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers with the No. 13 overall pick. … Standing at a packed dais that includes roughly every staff member who works at City Hall or as worked there in the past decade, Mayor Cantrell announces the city’s “cutting edge” plan to balance the city budget by erecting 44 additional traffic camera lights in key Uptown, Lakeview and Mid-City neighborhoods in the interest of “the safety of schoolchildren.”


Timberlake closes from mid-pack to edge Catching Freedom at the wire and give Louisville native Brad Cox his first Kentucky Derby victory as a trainer. … Chet Holmgren and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander each score 27 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a Game 7 win over the Pelicans in their first-round series in the Western Conference playoffs. Zion Williamson sits out the game for rest and conditioning purposes. … The ping-pong ball again bounces the way of the San Antonio Spurs, who win the No. 1 overall pick in 2024 NBA Draft. … Viktor Hovland wins the first major championship of his career by going wire-to-wire to win the PGA Championship at Valhalla Country Club in Louisville, Kentucky. … Nikola Jokic scores 41 points to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 130-126 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. … The Boston Celtics dominate the Philadelphia 76ers in five games to win the Eastern Conference finals and advance to the franchise’s 22nd NBA Finals.


Xander Schauffele wins his major championship at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst (N.C.) Golf Resort. … Right-hander Luke Holman throws seven shutout innings to lead LSU past East Carolina 3-1 in the finals of the Baton Rouge regional. LSU advances to a second consecutive College World Series…. Jrue Holiday sinks a putback shot at the buzzer to give the Celtics a 112-110 victory over the Nuggets in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, and the club wins its 18th NBA title and first since 2008. … Texas and Florida knock off LSU in back-to-back games to eliminate the defending champions from the College World Series.


Todd Helton and Adrian Beltre are inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the Class of 2024. … The San Antonio Spurs select Serbian lead guard Nikola Topic with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. … The Pelicans select Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham with the No. 13 overall selection. … Two-time defending champion Jonas Vingegaard wins his third consecutive Tour de France. … New Orleans city officials issue a ReadyAlert to residents warning that the saltwater wedge is threatening to move back into the Mississippi River, “and this time we mean it.”


Texas opens the season at No. 1 in the preseason AP football poll. LSU checks in at No. 15. ... The Saints open training camp as the consensus pick to finish third in the NFC South Division. … Tulane routs Southeastern Louisiana 40-17 at Yulman Sadium to give first-year coach Jon Sumrall a victory in his debut. … After an inch of rainfall in the Orleans Parish, tens of thousands of residents lose power in their homes and streets flood across the city because of pumping station failures. Via a Zoom call from Tahiti, Mayor Cantrell assures residents that city officials are on top of the situation and Entergy has assured her that power will be restored to homes "sometime this week."


LSU knocks off Southern Cal 38-31 in the Vegas Kickoff Classic behind Garrett Nussmeier’s 340 yards passing, giving Brian Kelly the first win of a season opener in his three-year tenure in Baton Rouge. … The Saints open their 58th season with a 27-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa. … Tulane drops consecutive games to Kansas State, Oklahoma and UL before beating Rice at Yulman Stadium to finish the month at 2-3. … After a rout of Nicholls State, LSU is upset by South Carolina in Columbia, then reels off home wins against UCLA and South Alabama. … The Saints win their home opener against the Raiders but are then routed at Arrowhead Stadium by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. They finish the month with a home win against the Commanders to improve to 2-2.


LSU avenges its heartbreaking 2023 loss to the Ole Miss Rebels by whipping them 45-27 before a sellout crowd at Tiger Stadium. LSU is penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct when Kelly mocks Lane Kiffin by dancing to “Neck” at midfield during a fourth-quarter timeout. … The Tigers defeat Arkansas but are upset the next week by Texas A&M in College Station. … Tulane continues its midseason roll by beating UAB, Navy and Temple before losing to Memphis to finish the month at 5-4. … Juan Soto hits a game-winning two-run homer to give the New York Yankees a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, the franchise’s 28th championship. … Boos rain down from the stands every time Carr’s name is introduced over the PA system at the Superdome as the Saints lose back-to-back home games to the Rams and Eagles to go 0-for the month. They fall to 2-6.


The Saints snap their losing streak with a win against the Giants in New York but lose to the Denver Broncos on a Monday night the following week as coach Sean Payton enjoys a successful return to the Superdome. … Alabama hands LSU a second consecutive loss on a last-minute touchdown run by Heisman Trophy front-runner Jalen Milroe. … The Tigers fall to the Florida Gators the next week in Gainesville as the Gators improve to 8-1 on the season and move into the Top 10. Coach Billy Napier is doused in Gatorade and carried off the field by UF students. … Tulane closes out its season with consecutive wins against South Florida, North Texas and Charlotte to go 8-4. … Green Wave running back Makhi Hughes finishes his sophomore season with 1,878 yards rushing, the second most in school history, and is named the American Athletic Conference offensive player of the year. … In a blowout loss to the Cowboys, Carr is benched at halftime, and Penix takes over as the Saints starting quarterback. … LSU closes the month with wins against Vanderbilt and Oklahoma to finish the season at 8-4. … Penix leads the Saints to an upset of the Cleveland Browns in the Superdome. On the day after the win, Mayor Cantrell awards Penix a key to the city.


LSU misses the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff and accepts a bid to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando to play Nebraska. … Tulane earns a trip to the First Responder Bowl in Dallas to play Houston, setting up a rematch between Willie Fritz and his old program. … Penix leads the Saints to a second consecutive win by beating the Carolina Panthers. The following day, the New Orleans City Council passes a special ordinance to immediately change Poydras Street to “Penix Street” in his honor. ... The Saints finish the month by alternating losses to the Chargers and Panthers around wins against the Falcons and Bucs. They finish 7-10 for a third consecutive season under Dennis Allen…. The day after the season, the Saints name Penix the first player-coach in franchise history and city officials issue another ReadyAlert about the saltwater wedge.

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