Coach O vs. Coach Swinney. Burrow vs. Lawrence. Stingley vs. Higgins. ‘Tigahs’ vs. Tigers. This is LSU vs. Clemson. This is the College Football Playoff National Championship that will kick off the new decade. This game has Instant Classic written all over it. In what could go down as the best College Football Playoff ever, with 3 of the 4 teams having come in undefeated, the top 2 offenses (LSU and Clemson) and defenses (Ohio State and Clemson) in the nation featured, and 3 of the 4 best coaches in the game right now (Coach O, Swinney, and Lincoln Riley). It is only fitting that the way this season ends, is with the best matchup possible at every position, coach, stat, you name it. Here is how this heavyweight matchup will be won:
#1 LSU vs. #3 Clemson: Jan 13th, 8:30PM, ESPN/ABC
To win or not to win is the question with two undefeated teams remaining going into the National Championship, the first time that two 14-0 teams have ever met in the College Football National Championship. Since the inception of the Playoff, the higher-ranked team has never won the championship, and Clemson vs. Alabama has been the most frequent matchup. This year, Clemson goes to play a different top dog in the SEC in LSU, and a transcendent talent like no other.
While many people thought that Trevor Lawrence could be the next transcendent QB talent, it was Joe Burrow who stepped into the spotlight after transferring this year from Ohio State to LSU. Burrow’s pocket presence, throwing on the run, accuracy, poise, and winning attitude caught the eyes of many, as he has beaten at the time top-10 teams in Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. If he were to win this National Championship, he and LSU would have beaten 7 Top-10 teams in the Nation in one season, the most ever in College Football history in one season. All these traits and wins led him to win the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, and now he is on pace to be the most obvious Number 1 pick in the NFL since Jadeveon Clowney in 2014 when the Houston Texans drafted him. Burrow in the semifinal against Oklahoma had 403 yards passing and 7 TDs at halftime, 8 in total, 4 of them to Justin Jefferson, and Ja’Marr Chase added 2 more. Oh, and starting RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire got shut down after the first half and they still put up 63 points. Don’t be surprised if they put up 50 on Clemson.
Clemson, on the other hand, had a much tougher matchup against the 3rdundefeated team in the playoff in Ohio State. Looking very lost and lifeless while down 16-7, Trevor Lawrence slid awkwardly and had a helmet-to-neck collision with an Ohio State defender which was called targeting. Lawrence looked gimpy but only sat out one play, and that play ended up being a 67-yard touchdown run by Lawrence to bring Clemson right back in it. The rest of the game ended up being a classic, but the determination from Trevor Lawrence, the big plays down the stretch by Travis Etienne, having Tee Higgins healthy for the right moments (him and Justyn Ross’s health will be key to the Championship Game), and the interception to seal it by Nolan Turner were key. At the end of the day, Dabo Swinney did what he does best, outcoach the opposing coach.
So, the big question rising is, can Dabo outcoach Coach O? Well, yeah, he could outcoach him, but the way LSU has played this year, is outcoaching Coach O enough for you to beat LSU? One thing you have to realize is that LSU has only scored under 35 once, and that was against Auburn. In that game, Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn outcoached Coach O, but then Coach O got LSU’s offense to turn on the jets in the second half with a heavy dose of read option between Edwards-Helaire and Burrow, and once Auburn got down, they couldn’t come back. If Clemson wants to have a chance against LSU, it has to be the players on the field, not the coaches, who find their way to sustain the lead, if they get one. I think Clemson could get off to a hot start, but LSU won’t be slowed down long enough to not win this game. Coach O will have the whole nation saying ‘Geaux Tigahs’. Prediction: 51-41, LSU.