Hello College Football fans, we have made it to the end of the season, with only the CFP National Title game to be played. What a season it has been!
The #1 surprise of the season was the emergence of a team never expected to do anything. The Minnesota Golden Rodents (Gophers) came from nowhere to win 11 games. They fell short by one game of going to the Big 12 title game. They did go to the Outback Bowl, where they surprised #12 Auburn for the win.
The #2 surprise of the season was Alabama. Picked in the preseason to play for another national title, Bama could not even win their own conference, losing to both LSU and Auburn.
The #3 surprise of the season was LSU. Though the Tigers were expected to have a strong team and to finally compete for the SEC title, just how good they are was really not appreciated. Now, led by Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, LSU has a great shot at winning the National Championship against Clemson.
The 2019 season had it share of disappointing teams as well. Notre Dame and Penn State, once again, did not live up to expectations. Michigan, under Coach Jim Harbaugh, continued to disappoint, losing three games, the most important of which was to Ohio State. Once again, Harbaugh’s fate as coach of the Wolverines is up in the air.
The matchup that everyone had been waiting for, Harbaugh and Michigan versus Saban and Alabama, finally occurred. Bama thoroughly dominated Michigan for the win.
The National Championship game is to be played on January 13. #1 LSU meets #3 Clemson for the title. Both teams are undefeated. The LSU Tigers are 6 point favorites
The title game is sure to be a hard fought game. Each team has solid defenses, good offenses and excellent quarterbacks. Both teams are named the Tigers. And both teams call their stadiums “Death Valley.”
Given all of this, let’s take a look at the Title Game and see what to expect.
GAME SITE – Super Dome
The game is being played at the Superdome, about 80 miles from the LSU campus. For all intent and purposes, this will be a home game for LSU. With Clemson traveling from South Carolina, there will be some disruption disproportionate to LSU.
LSU’s previous two National Titles, in 2003 and 2007, were won at the Super Dome, so that adds to LSU’s confidence.
Dabo Swinney has been the Clemson head coach since halfway through the 2008 season when Tommy Bowden resigned. Since them, Swinney has earned 3 national championships. One more championship and Swinney joins the ranks of Knute Rockne, Urban Meyer, Tom Osborne and Bud Wilkinson.
Ed Orgeron has not had a national championship team. He drifted around going from 3 years at Ole Miss, to interim coach at USC, until finally named by LSU to replace Les Miles in the middle of the 2016 season.
Ed Orgeron, who was fired after three losing seasons at Ole Miss and was passed over after serving as interim coach at USC, again was named a midseason replacement, when LSU fired Les Miles in the midst of the 2016 season. Oregeron has two titles as defensive coach for the 1989 and 1991 Miami teams and two national titles with USC during Coach Pete Carrols head coach stint.
A head coach is only as good as the “sum of the parts” that make up his team, coaches and players. Give this one to LSU.
Advantage – LSU
This is the matchup everyone is talking about, Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, “the unwanted quarterback” versus Trevor Lawrence, last year’s National Title game winner.
Everyone knows the story of Joe Burrow, a third string quarterback riding the bench for Ohio State. What they don’t know is that Nebraska turned Burrow down as well. So Burrow packed his bags leaving Ohio State to join the LSU Tigers, where he has proven everyone who dismissed him wrong.
Joe Burrow has led LSU in a record breaking season, demolishing both team and bowl records. In the Peach Bowl, he had perhaps the best first half in the history of modern era football, throwing for 7 touchdowns all in the first half, a record for both LSU and CFP single game stats.
Burrow also passed with ease against Oklahoma for 493 pass yards, his third game of more than 470 yards this season. He has 17 passing touchdowns and no interceptions in his past four games.
Trevor Lawrence has been no slouch either, leading Clemson to an undefeated season and the Title game. But he had a slow start to the season, and only started to perform as was expected in the last few games of the season. It was in the Ohio State win where Lawrence came back into his own, but by using his legs and not passing.
Lawrence led the Tigers in both rushes (16) and yards (107). He exploded for a 67-yard scoring dash shortly before halftime which very likely saved the season for Clemson. On the game winning drive, he led Clemson 94 yards in only four plays and 78 seconds, before finding Travis Etienne for a 34-yard touchdown.
These two quarterbacks are closely matched, but give the edge to Joe Borrow.
Advantage: Edge to LSU
COACHES – Defensive Coordinators
Besides being a battle of the quarterbacks, the game is going to revolve around the defensive units of each team. Both defensive coordinators are at the top of the ladder for pay, and among a handful of the best in the country today.
LSU’s Dave Aranda ($2.5 million) and Clemson’s Brent Venables ($2.2 million) are the nation’s highest-paid assistants. Under Aranda, the LSU defense has been impressive all season, but even more so in the final four games of the season. Most impressive was the LSU defense holding Oklahoma to only 322 yards in the semi-final playoff game.
The Clemson defense under Venables was just as impressive. In the first half of their playoff game, Clemson kept Ohio State out of the end zone, limiting them to field goals each time. This was the difference in Clemson being able to come back in the second half to win the game.
LSU kept Jalen Hurts off kilter the entire game with Oklahoma. Hurts could not put together the type of game one would expect out of him and fueled the Sooner loss. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is the best passing quarterback that LSU will have seen in the last two years. It will be up to the defensive line and secondary to stop the Clemson passing game. Defensive backs Derek Stingley Jr. and Grant Delpit will be called on to play their best games of the season.
Clemson faces the same problem with LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, but with one added problem. Burrow also has a tremendous ability to scramble out of trouble or run on designed plays which adds another dimension to the ability of Clemson to contain him. Add in the third intangible, Burrow’s ability make the right play at the right time, and it will be a tough day for the Clemson defense. Watch for how Clemson safety Tanner Muse and linebacker Isaiah Simmons performs in the first quarter to see how the game might go.
Advantage – Tie
LSU – KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
There are several key players to watch besides the quarterbacks. Any of them could be the difference between winning and losing.
For LSU, receiver Justin Jefferson is one to watch. He came of age in the Oklahoma victory, setting a CFP record with four touchdown passes, all in the first half, and finished with 14 catches and 227 yards.
Ja”Marr Chase is the year’s Biletnikoff Award winner. He caught 75 passes for 1,559 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. He and Jefferson are tied in td’s this year, an LSU record and tied for the SEC single-season mark.
Tight end Thaddeus Moss had a season-high 99 receiving yards, highlighted by a 62-yard grab, against Oklahoma, and he has four or more receptions in six games. Clemson cannot afford to lose track of Moss, or risk getting burned by him for solid gains.
LSU should have running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire fully healthy again to go with the receiver combination of Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall Jr. This gives them the first-ever combination of 5,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher (Clyde Edwards-Helaire) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson).
Linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson has been the standout in LSU’s defense renaissance since a less than stella performance against Old Miss. He has 4.5 sacks in the past three games, including two against Oklahoma. He must put pressure on Trevor Lawrence to aid cornerbacks Derek Stingley Jr. and Kristian Fulton, while safety Grant Delpit, the Thorpe Award winner, will prowl the back end.
CLEMSON – KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
Clemson has its own share of players to watch. It begins with multi-threat junior running back Travis Etienne. Etienne led the Tigers with 98 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State, to go along with 36 rush yards and a touchdown. For the year, he has 1,536 yards and 18 touchdowns. (Etienne grew up in Jennings Louisiana, but chose Clemson over LSU.)
Clemson also has a trio of quality receivers that Trevor Lawrence will be throwing to, Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers. Junior wide receiver Tee Higgins is the leading wide receiver with 56 receptions for 1,115 yards and 13 touchdowns. Sophomore wideout Justyn Ross has added 61 catches for 789 yards and eight scores. They will benefit with additional speed by playing on the artificial turf of the Super Dome.
Linebackers Isaiah Simmons and S K’Von Wallace will be keys to the Clemson passing defense. Simmons proved his worth against Ohio State, impacting the game from multiple areas of the field. He will need to step up once again for Clemson to have any hope of winning.
LSU scores big in every game. Joe Burrow leads a talented offense that offers both solid rushing and passing games. And when the going gets tough, Borrow takes off running.
LSU’s defense is solid, but can be scored upon as Oklahoma showed in the semi-final game. The LSU secondary will have to play at their top level against the passing of Trevor Lawrence, while also watching for Lawrence running out of the backfield. However, when you can score the points that LSU does, then they can afford giving up some points.
Clemson’s defense will also have to play with the same intensity as they did against Ohio State. They too must put pressure on Joe Burrow while not letting him escape the pocket for long runs. At the same time, they must guard against Clyde Edwards-Helaire ripping off big runs. And if LSU gets the passing game established, it will be a long day for Clemson.
Prediction – TIGERS WIN! LOL (Got that covered.)
Okay, here it is. LSU wins and COVERS the spread. Joe Burrow goes out on top and is the #1 pick in the NFL draft.
Well Football Fans, this is it. PU has done his final post for the 2019 -2020 football. It has been great fun and enjoyment to bring you his amazing insights into the world of College Football.
He has also loved the “cements” (comments) by the readers. Those who won money picking against PU’s predictions and giving him a hard time were particularly enjoyable.
After the game Monday night, PU and Gigi will take some time off from writing and predicting the coming season. They are both worn out and have to rest before starting to prepare for the 2020-2021 season.
Watch for PU to write about other things, including finishing up his 12 Days of News Media Clowns which was put on hold through the Christmas season. And watch for political musings about the 2020 election throughout the year.
So, until we meet again upon the gridiron, PU Predict’s wishes everyone a Happy New Year and Good Fortune in 2020!
GO LSU TIGERS!!!!