sportsthrills 2021 NFL Mock Draft

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, & Rohan Krishnan

The NFL Draft is just a day away and the storylines, smokescreens, rumors, and everything in between are out of control at this point. Here is our 2021 NFL Mock Draft, with trades:

Pick #1: Jacksonville Jaguars

Consensus Pick: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

Should not be much to say here. Trevor Lawrence is probably the best QB prospect we have seen since Andrew Luck. In all of the years that the Jaguars have existed as a franchise, they have yet to have a franchise QB, and Lawrence would be the first.

Pick #2: New York Jets

Consensus Pick: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

This is another one where there is not much to say. We have known for months about the Jets’ high interest in Wilson, and trading away former top-3 pick Sam Darnold opens the door for Wilson to be the next franchise QB for Gang Green.

Pick #3: San Francisco 49ers (Via Miami & Houston)

Consensus Pick: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

While many believe that it is a smokescreen that the 49ers are deciding between Alabama QB Mac Jones & North Dakota State QB Trey Lance, the 49ers have raved about these two at QB. Jones would make more sense for the vision of the 49ers due to how he would play in this explosive offense and how he played with the explosive offense in Alabama. Lance would be the better QB, or better yet, Ohio State QB Justin Fields, but we expect Jones to be the pick here.

Pick #4: Philadelphia Eagles (Mock Trade Via Atlanta)

Consensus Pick: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

*Trade: Philadelphia acquires Pick 4 from Atlanta in exchange for Pick 12, TE Zach Ertz, & 2022 1st-Round Pick

Over the past few months it has become inevitable that Zach Ertz, arguably the greatest TE in Eagles history, has seen his time in Philadelphia come to an end, but recent reports, along with him still being on the team this long, suggests that Philadelphia will be using Ertz as a valuable trade asset, and for a Falcons team that is looking toward the future, taking Ertz to add to the young, up-and-coming pass-catching core, along with stacking up future draft picks, would be a great move for both sides. Ja’Marr Chase is the top WR on the board, and with Philadelphia having missed out on an elite WR option in Justin Jefferson last year, it would be hard to see them miss out on the opportunity again. Philadelphia trades up and makes a splash.

Pick #5: Cincinnati Bengals

Consensus Pick: Penei Sewell, OL, Oregon

Chase being drafted by Philadelphia gives Cincinnati the choice to do what they need to build an offensive line to keep last season’s #1 Pick in Joe Burrow healthy. Sewell is one of the best offensive linemen in recent drafts, and Cincinnati getting their franchise QB some protection. 

Pick #6: Miami Dolphins (Via Philadelphia & San Francisco)

Consensus Pick: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Tua Tagovailoa certainly did not have the start to his NFL career that Miami hoped for, but to write him off while he dealt with a serious hip injury is not fair to him. To reunite him with DeVonta Smith, the 2021 Heisman Trophy-winning WR & one of Tua’s favorite targets at ‘Bama, there is no reason why Miami should overlook Smith.

Pick #7: Washington Football Team (Mock Trade Via Detroit)

Consensus Pick: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

*Trade: Washington acquires Pick 7 from Detroit in exchange for Pick 19, DT Tim Settle, & 2022 1st-Round Pick

Washington has long talked about trading up for a QB, but only if the right QB was available at the right price. Making this trade to get Justin Fields gives Washington the perfect QB for their offense, and gives Detroit draft capital, along with the extra time, to consider who to build their future around. This experiment with an Ohio State QB should work out much better for Washington than it did when they took Dwayne Haskins just two years back, as Washington can throw Fields right into the fold, right out the gate, or even have him sit behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, an excellent mentor, for part of the season.

Pick #8: New England Patriots (Mock Trade Via Carolina)

Consensus Pick: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

*Trade: New England acquires Pick 8 from Carolina in exchange for Pick 15, Pick 96, TE Dalton Keene, & 2022 2nd-Round Pick

New England is another team that has talked about trading up for quite a while, given the right available QB and price, and to go big for their future is exactly what they should do here at 8. Carolina is already set on Sam Darnold at QB, and while Cam Newton could be the QB this coming season for the Patriots, he is not the long-term answer. Trey Lance gives the Patriots their best-drafted QB since Tom Brady and assuming all works out, their QB for years to come.

Pick #9: Denver Broncos

Consensus Pick: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

With the top-5 QBs gone by Pick 9, Denver could trade back, but taking Patrick Surtain II to be the leader in their secondary on a roster with an up-and-coming defense is the right play here. Had Caleb Farley been healthy, this would be a different conversation, but Surtain II is the clear CB1 in this draft now. Putting him alongside Kyle Fuller would also be a great opportunity for him to blossom into a great NFL CB quickly.

Pick #10: Dallas Cowboys

Consensus Pick: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Jerry Jones & the Cowboys have raved over the talent and ceiling of Kyle Pitts, and adding him to this already incredible offense (when healthy) would make this offense nearly unstoppable. While Dallas should go defense and address it while they can, they will certainly go all-out for the uber-talented Pitts.

Pick #11: New York Giants

Consensus Pick: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Micah Parsons is by far the best linebacker in this class and would be the perfect Mike linebacker to commandeer the Giants’ defense. His off-the-field issues are the reason why he could fall past this and why he will not go higher than this most likely, but he at #11 is perfect.

Pick #12: Atlanta Falcons (Mock Trade Via Philadelphia)

Consensus Pick: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern

*Trade: Philadelphia acquires Pick 4 from Atlanta in exchange for Pick 12, TE Zach Ertz, along with 1st-Round Picks in 2022 & 2023

The plethora of picks that the Falcons get for the future, plus Zach Ertz, provides for an enticing future for Atlanta. Trading Julio Jones and Hayden Hurst could become major possibilities if the team decides to completely rebuild. Making the offensive line younger and improving them that way would be a great way to start in the offensive rebuild, and Rashawn Slater is that guy.

Pick #13: Los Angeles Chargers

Consensus Pick: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

CB Chris Harris Jr. played just 9 games due to injury last season, and with the Chargers shockingly trading away Desmond King, and letting Casey Hayward go, this secondary, especially the cornerback’s group, really needs an upgrade, and Jaycee Horn is that man. Him alongside CHJ, and with Derwin James at safety, this defense could see themselves back as a top-10 unit.

Pick #14: Minnesota Vikings

Consensus Pick: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC

Kirk Cousins was sacked 39 times, and a huge part of that was due to OGs Ezra Cleveland, who was unhealthy for a large portion of the season, and Dakota Dozier, giving up tons of pressure. Vera-Tucker is the best OG on the board, and Minnesota should not hesitate to take him.

Pick #15: Carolina Panthers (Mock Trade Via New England)

Consensus Pick: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

*Trade: New England acquires Pick 8 from Carolina in exchange for Pick 15, 96, TE Dalton Keene, & 2022 2nd-Round Pick

To maximize the potential of newly-acquired QB Sam Darnold, the Panthers must protect him, something that the Jets failed to do throughout his time there. Darrisaw is another situation where if he is the best lineman on the board, you take him.

Pick #16: Arizona Cardinals

Consensus Pick: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Either Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith could fall in this Draft, and Waddle, due to his injury history and brutal ankle injury this past season, could see his stock fall. The Cardinals want to find their true WR2 alongside DeAndre Hopkins, and Waddle is perfect for that.

Pick #17: Las Vegas Raiders

Consensus Pick: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

This Raiders defense was historically terrible in 2020, and getting toasted in the secondary certainly did not help. CB Damon Arnette showed flashes of being good but is not a true CB1, which is what Farley would turn out to be.

Pick #18: Miami Dolphins

Consensus Pick: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

The Dolphins defense showed great improvement last season, but struggled on the edges, as their strongsuit was creating turnovers in the passing game. Kwity Paye is a great run-stuffer and has a knack for getting to the QB that Miami has not had since they had Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake on their defensive lines years ago.

Pick #19: Detroit Lions (Mock Trade Via Washington)

Consensus Pick: Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah, LB, Notre Dame

*Trade: Washington acquires Pick 7 from Detroit in exchange for Pick 19, DT Tim Settle, & 2022 1st-Round Pick

Trading down makes sense for Detroit. You could stay at 7 and take a wide receiver, but you need a lot more than just that at this stage. Tim Settle has been part of this insanely elite Washington defensive line and can bring the heat for the Lions, and next year’s first-round pick will be a great addition (if used right) to what is expected to be a top-10 pick next year for the Lions. Having a hybrid LB/S like Owusu-Koromoah will be so valuable to Detroit, as he can be the Mike Linebacker alongside Jamie Collins Sr., and bolster this secondary to levels they have not seen. JOK & Settle will be great building blocks to begin rebuilding the defense of this team.

Pick #20: Chicago Bears

Consensus Pick: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern

Losing Kyle Fuller was brutal, but drafting Jaylon Johnson was a steal. Putting a CB alongside him and rebuilding a once-elite secondary would be a great idea at #20, and Newsome II being the best on the board makes this decision a lot easier.

Pick #21: Indianapolis Colts

Consensus Pick: Azeez Ojulari, DE, Georgia

The Colts have long searched for the perfect edge rusher for their team, and after acquiring DT DeForest Buckner, this team needs to solidify this elite defense with an elite defensive line, and Ojulari alongside Buckner would be a nightmare for opposing offensive lines to stop.

Pick #22: Tennessee Titans

Consensus Pick: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

The Titans letting WRs Corey Davis & Adam Humphries depart was a strange move, but they have made it clear that this Draft will be the time for them to address the position. Rashod Bateman has been regarded by some as better than Jaylen Waddle, and his current talent and ceiling put him in a situation to be the perfect WR2 alongside A.J. Brown.

Pick #23: New York Jets (Via Seattle)

Consensus Pick: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State

This is not an analysis of the Draft pick, but more so a plead to the Jets’ front office. Please protect Zach Wilson better than you protected Sam Darnold, and get him an offensive line. Teven Jenkins at #23 is a great start to doing so.

Pick #24: Pittsburgh Steelers

Consensus Pick: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

While it is hard for us to see any RB being a first-round talent, the Steelers desperately need to get their run game in order. Najee Harris is the best RB in this class and Pittsburgh should take him with no hesitation.

Pick #25: Jacksonville Jaguars (Via Los Angeles Rams)

Consensus Pick: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU

Jacksonville is another team, like the Jets, that has a lot of holes, but mainly on their once-vaunted defense, as opposed to their defense. Trevon Moehrig is a versatile safety who, like JOK, can be a hybrid LB and be the commander of this defense.

Pick #26: Cleveland Browns

Consensus Pick: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

The biggest weak point in the Cleveland defense is the linebacking core, and adding Zaven Collins to a potent pass-rush from the defensive line is an opportunity that the Browns cannot pass up.

Pick #27: Baltimore Ravens

Consensus Pick: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

Baltimore NEEDS to surround Lamar Jackson with receivers, and Kadarius Toney can be the speedy, big-play guy that this offense needs to be able to move down the field via the pass. Not to mention, his speed is also similar to that of Deebo Samuel, so do not be surprised if Baltimore uses him in the run-game as well.

Pick #28: New Orleans Saints

Consensus Pick: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State

New Orleans needs a CB alongside Marshon Lattimore, and Asante Samuel Jr. can be a great addition to the squad.

Pick #29: Green Bay Packers

Consensus Pick: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU

Many will consider this a reach, but Marshall Jr. was an elite player during LSU’s down year this past season. He can come in and be the perfect slot receiver for Aaron Rodgers & Co.

Pick #30: Buffalo Bills

Consensus Pick: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama

The Bills have a perfect secondary and near-perfect linebacking core, but this team needs pass-rush. Christian Barmore is a player who every opposing offense had to account for on every play, and he with this elite defense would solidify them even further as Super Bowl contenders.

Pick #31: Baltimore Ravens (Via Kansas City)

Consensus Pick: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas

Baltimore could get themselves another WR, but the offensive line is another huge need, and Samuel Cosmi can be a young stud they can develop to help protect Lamar.

Pick #32: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Consensus Pick: Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami

There are not many needs for the defending champions, but defensive line depth would be a good one. Jason Pierre-Paul is getting up there in age, and having Phillips be his backup for a few seasons would help Tampa tremendously in the long-run.

Predicting the 2021 QB Carousel

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, & Pranav Thiriveedhi

The 2021 NFL offseason has produced some of the craziest storylines and rumors we have ever seen, with quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson requesting a trade and Russell Wilson frustrated with Seattle and seeking options out. To sum it all up, many of these rumors are smokescreens and very far-fetched, but to not talk about them would be ludicrous. Here are our predictions for where 9 of the most notable quarterbacks, all of whom are free agents or have trade rumors revolving around them. 

Saransh’s QB Carousel Predictions

Dak Prescott, Current Team: Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott has been the franchise cornerstone for the Dallas Cowboys for the past 5 seasons, and he has progressively improved, and last season, despite just 5 games, he put himself in elite company, throwing for 1,856 passing yards (371.2 passing yards/game) in those 5 games, including 3 consecutive games of 450+ passing yards (502 against Cleveland). Overall in his career, he has a 42-27-0 record and is one of the winningest quarterbacks in all of football currently (by win percentage). The fact that a player with his resume has yet to receive the long-term contract extension that he deserves is just a long list of failures for Jerry Jones since the Super Bowl glory days of ‘96. Prescott is demanding around $38M-$40M per year on a 4-year deal, but the Cowboys want to sign him for 5 years and pay him around $33M per year, or even put the dreaded franchise tag of $37.7M for the second consecutive season, which would force multiple players on the roster to restructure their contracts or have to be released. If the Cowboys would want to give Dak the ‘Kirk Cousins treatment’ and place the tag on him season-after-season, Dak, like Kirk, will surely walk, and if a quarterback of that caliber hits the open market, Dallas can kiss their chances of keeping Dak goodbye. Prediction: Dak gets franchise-tagged & walks next offseason.

Mitch Trubisky, Previous Team: Chicago Bears, Currently: Free Agent

Mitch Trubisky is one of the most interesting stories in the NFL. The Chicago Bears traded multiple picks to go from the 3rd pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, up to the 2nd pick, to take Mitch Trubisky over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. This move did not work, but the move did not look so bad at one point. In his second season, Trubisky led the Bears to a 12-4 record and was a Pro Bowler. The season following, Trubisky led the Bears to be just a game short of another playoff trip, and in 2020, the Bears made the playoffs as Trubisky went 6-3 in the 9 games he played (was benched for Nick Foles and then was injured, however). The problem for Trubisky has not been winning, but more so his inability to show any consistency and also struggling around great pieces around him and a great defense year-after-year. The issue is that his mediocrity has carried over to the team and put them down, leaving Chicago with zero interest in wanting to bring him back, and much of the NFL viewing him as a backup, as he should be viewed. Teams like Carolina, San Francisco, and New England are very much in the mix in terms of teams that need a serviceable backup who can start a few games while the team figures out their QB situation. We have heard rumors of Teddy Bridgewater and Jimmy Garoppolo either being traded or getting some QB competition, and New England potentially drafting a QB or re-signing Cam Newton and bringing in QB competition. No matter where he goes, Trubisky will most likely be in the mix for the starting QB spot, but he will not be viewed by any team as a starting option. Prediction: 49ers sign Trubisky on a 2-year deal, have Jimmy G compete with him for starting QB spot.

Marcus Mariota, Current Team: Las Vegas Raiders

Marcus Mariota is in a very interesting situation. He was benched 2 seasons ago by the Titans after his first three seasons were rather successful, being named a Pro Bowler in 2016 & making the playoffs, and winning a playoff game in 2017. But Mariota’s downfall in 2018 saw him become a backup in 2019 after Week 6, and his only action since has included the 2019 regular-season finale, one snap in the AFC Championship Game against Kansas City, and a game with the Raiders in 2020 where he replaced an injured Derek Carr and threw for 228 yards & 2 TDs in a 30-27 OT loss to the Chargers. Mariota proved that day that he can still be a good NFL quarterback and rekindle his magic from the start of his career. That being said, his current contract is driving teams away from wanting him, and Derek Carr’s consistent improvement and leadership will keep him as the long-term Raiders quarterback. Mariota could be released according to multitudes of reports, which would result in a much cheaper and lower-risk contract for teams interested in him, such as Washington, Philadelphia, & New England. Prediction: Mariota becomes the long-term QB answer In Washington, signing a team-friendly 3-year deal.

Pranav’s QB Carousel Predictions

Taysom Hill, Current Team: New Orleans Saints

Taysom Hill is one of the craziest quarterbacks in the NFL, and probably one of the weirdest players in NFL history, in terms of what position they play. Like really, what the heck does Taysom Hill even play? In terms of position, he’s a quarterback, tight end, wide receiver, full back, running back, return specialist, and punt blocker. If you could make a player that could play every position in the NFL, Taysom Hill would be your guy. As a member of the Saints, Taysom helped Drew Brees as a wide receiver most of the time, but the guy has a heck of an arm. And with the retiring of Brees inevitable, who’s going to get the job? Taysom or Winston? Taysom Hill hasn’t shown us flashes of being a franchise quarterback, especially since he’s already pretty old at 31. If Taysom decides to be a full-fledged quarterback still, I can see him riding the bench back in New Orleans, under a probably one or two-year deal. But if anything, it would have to be small of a deal, considering the Saint’s cap situation. But Taysom’s dream is to play under center, so I can see him signing with the Atlanta Falcons on a test ride contract if the Falcons decide to move on from Matt Ryan and draft a quarterback in the first round. Prediction: Taysom Hill will be in the QB competition for a starting job in Atlanta for the next season.

Jameis Winston, Current Team: New Orleans Saints

Jameis Winston is the other moving part of the New Orleans Saints. The current backup to Drew Brees and even Taysom Hill is not like any other ordinary third-string bench warmer. Two years ago in Tampa Bay, before the entry of Tom Brady, Jameis Winston added 5000 yards and 30 touchdowns to his NFL resume but negatively added 30 interceptions as well. Winston is a rough-around quarterback who makes hasty decisions but is overall a diamond in the rough if played in a promising situation. Given a good offensive line, and a plethora of absolute brilliant wideouts, Jameis Winston can truly shine, as he did for Florida State many years ago. Winston was also playing on a very cheap contract for the Saints, and even though he sat all year long, picking a similar contract would suit beneficial for both the Saints organization, who are again deep in cap overflow and Jameis Winston, who deserves the restart on his career. Prediction: Jameis Winston will sign a 2-year deal to prove himself as the Saints’ long-term QB.

Russell Wilson, Current Team: Seattle Seahawks

Adding to the huge quarterback crazy moves is Russell Wilson, a proficient quarterback who is well known as the most liked player in the NFL. Russell Wilson is also one of the best quarterbacks in the league, who led the Seahawks to 2 Super Bowl appearances, including a win against the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. All that aside, Wilson and the Seahawks are in some sort of grudge match, due to the offensive line struggles and the fact that the Seattle front office is careless to hear what Wilson has to say. If Wilson is to leave the Seahawks, it would most probably be on a trade, which is because of his three years left on his contract. Earlier last week, Wilson told his agent that he desires to stay on the Seahawks but if trade breaks through, he only had four teams on his mind: Dallas, Las Vegas, Chicago, or New Orleans. We can already rule out New Orleans (they can’t afford him) and Dallas (Dak is the situation to deal with), so we are left with Chicago and Las Vegas, who are both looking to get a replacement at quarterback. If I see Russell Wilson leaving Seattle, it would probably be to the Las Vegas Raiders, who seem to be the only team that has a Wilson-like offense and have money to contribute to a hefty contract. Prediction: In 2022, we see Russell Wilson don the Silver & Black in Vegas

Rohan’s QB Carousel Predictions

Derek Carr, Current Team: Oakland Raiders

Derek Carr arguably had the best season of his career in 2020 despite the team going 8-8. In 16 games, Carr completed 67.3% of his passes for 4,103 yards, 27 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He is in the top half of the league at his position, and if the Raiders gave him a decent defense, they would easily be a playoff team. A recent report from Ian Rapoport said that several teams have called the Raiders about Derek Carr, however, the Raiders aren’t looking to trade Carr right now. He has improved in each of his 3 years with head coach Jon Gruden, throwing for 4,000+ yards in each and registering a 100-plus passer rating in back-to-back years. They also have a powerful bond, and it’s hard for me to see Carr being traded this offseason. Carr is also on a very team-friendly deal, averaging $19.5 million over the next 2 years. Prediction: Derek Carr will remain the Raiders starting quarterback in 2021.

Deshaun Watson, Current Team: Houston Texans

Houston is a huge mess and they are on the verge of losing their franchise star quarterback. It was a string of unpopular moves that led to this situation, from trading All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins for peanuts to keeping around heavily criticized executive Jack Easterby. Deshaun Watson requested a trade back in late January and to this day remains unhappy with no plans to play for the Houston Texans ever again. Watson just signed a lucrative 5-year contract extension last offseason so his only leverage right now is to sit out games. They can play hardball with Watson and wait until the regular season to see if he sits out games and that is what I think they are going to do. According to Ian Rapoport, the Texans do not plan on trading Deshaun Watson for a long, long time and if Watson decides to skip 2021, he would spark a total financial loss of roughly $20 million. Also, I think new GM Nick Caserio is operating on a much longer timeline and is perfectly fine with Deshaun sitting out. I don’t see Watson’s value changing much if he does sit out a year and this upcoming season is a lost one for Houston anyways. Prediction: Houston plays the long-game, wait until 2022 to trade Watson.

Sam Darnold, Current Team: New York Jets

Sam Darnold was the 3rd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but he has not lived up to the hype. Most of that blame can be put on the Jets as they have done the least to help out their quarterback, but Darnold has also had his fair share of mistakes. His decision-making and processing have raised lots of questions and he is near the NFL bottom in several areas including passer rating and QBR. However, Sam Darnold is still salvageable and young at 23 and could improve with a change of scenery. The Jets hold the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft and have the chance to pick up a terrific QB prospect like Zach Wilson or Justin Fields. Multiple teams have reached out to the Jets and inquired about trading for Sam Darnold, and it is the right move for New York to deal with him. I think possible landing spots for Sam include the Steelers, Bears, 49ers, and Washington Football Team. Let’s talk about Pittsburgh which is where I think Sam is headed. Ben Roethlisberger’s time is quickly coming to an end and they need a new quarterback to build around. Striking a deal for Darnold would make a lot of sense for Mike Tomlin and his crew as Darnold can develop behind Big Ben. Prediction: The Steelers send a 2021 4th-rounder and 2022 2nd-rounder for Sam Darnold.

2020 College Football National Championship: ‘Geaux Tigahs’ or ‘Go Tigers’

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.

2019-20 NCAA College Football Playoff Semifinals Predictions

The New Year’s Eve fireworks will be arriving a little earlier this year, as the College Football Playoff Semifinals get set to kick off this Saturday. Clemson and Oklahoma return to the stage with Clemson being the defending champion, and Oklahoma returning for the 3rdconsecutive year. This year, however, LSU enters the playoff for the first time and dethrones their SEC counterpart in Alabama, and Ohio State returns to the place they thought they should have been last year. This year also features a new feat, where 3 transfer quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, who transferred from Ohio State to LSU; Jalen Hurts, who transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma; and Justin Fields, who transferred from Georgia to Ohio State), are leading their teams into the College Football Playoff. So, will it be a transfer quarterback leading their team to a championship, or will Trevor Lawrence lead Clemson to a repeat?

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: #4 Oklahoma vs. #1 LSU, 4PM EST, ESPN

The first game to kick off the playoff will be the battle of the Heisman winner and runner-up, Burrow and Hurts. This will be Hurts’ fourth time in the College Football Playoff (technically his third since he was backup and did not play last year, but it is his 4thsince he was with Alabama the past 3 years), with his 7thOffensive Coordinator (he had 5 different coordinators at Alabama and two Co-Offensive Coordinators at Oklahoma), coming off his third Conference Championship win. In terms of winning, overcoming adversity, and constantly playing the underdog role, Jalen Hurts might be the most decorated college football player ever. He is the true definition of a winner. While many scouts believe he is not the most NFL-ready QB, he certainly deserves the shot to be a starter on an NFL team come next season after he is drafted.

On the other side is Joe Burrow, Heisman-winning QB who has broken every SEC passing record in the book by a healthy margin, will be the #1 pick in the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals come April, and will lead the heavily-favored LSU into the Peach Bowl as the #1 team in the country. But things didn’t come that easy for Burrow. Burrow in 2017 was part of the Ohio State College Football Playoff team, where he played backup behind JT Barrett and Dwayne Haskins. At the time, not many people knew who he was, as he was a 3rd-string QB who had been redshirted. In 2018, Ohio State looked to life after Barrett, and then-Head Coach Urban Meyer, chose Dwayne Haskins well before the season began, leading Burrow to go into the transfer process, where LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron, served him to a lobster dinner and got him. Burrow last season led a struggling LSU offense that could barely put up 27 points in a game. This year, under new Offensive Coordinator Joe Barry, he leads the nation’s #1 offense, and has two 1,000+ yard receivers to throw to in JaMarr Chase and Justin Jefferson, and a 1,000+ rusher in Clyde-Edwards Helaire (whom he may not have on Saturday due to injury). The transcendence of Burrow has been one of the most unexpected, but the story is incredible.

Now, to the game. Oklahoma’s wide receiving core, led by CeeDee Lamb, who is regarded by many including me as the best receiver in college football and the upcoming NFL Draft, will cause problems for Derek Stingley and Grant Delpit, the best cornerback and safety in the country, respectively. His speed and quickness is almost Tyreek Hill-like, as he has the ability to take any pass to the house. The problem here for Oklahoma’s offense come with the running backs, who will be led by redshirt sophomore Kennedy Brooks. Brooks is getting the starting nod after Trey Sermon had a season-ending injury midseason against Iowa State, and after Rhamandore Stevenson was one of 3 Sooners players suspended for failed drug tests. Brooks is a great back, but not good enough to lead an already-fringe running game. Hurts will be required to put his head down and run with the ball himself quite a bit, which, as great of a runner as he is, is exactly what LSU wants, is for their linebackers to stop the run and not have to worry about helping out too much in the passing game.

For LSU, the running game will most likely feature Edwards-Helaire (according to Coach O), but even if they don’t have him available, the three backup running backs have had healthy doses of experience in the offense this season and have been very effective in scoring touchdowns, with 9 TDs between the 3 of them. As far as defenses, don’t expect too much of it, this will be a high-scoring game. But as I said earlier, the lack of ability to keep pace could haunt them, much it did for Oklahoma the past few years. Oklahoma is too thin in the run game, and does not have enough talent in the secondary to stop the core of Chase, Jefferson, Thaddeus Moss, and Terrace Marshall. Prediction: 49-41, LSU

Playstation Fiesta Bowl: #3 Clemson vs. #2 Ohio State, 8PM ET, ESPN

The defending champion Clemson Tigers find themselves playing in a playoff game rematch once again, but not against Alabama this time. Clemson instead is squaring off against Ohio State this year, the team with the nation’s best defense and best defensive player in Chase Young. Clemson has been decimated by the media the entire year for having an incredibly weak schedule for an elite Power 5 conference team, yet that criticism hasn’t slowed them down one bit. Coach Dabo Swinney has kept his mouth out of the media trap and instead focused on the field and players and looks to go for back-to-back 15-0 seasons. Trevor Lawrence has had a down year but really picked up last year’s form towards the end of the season, Travis Etienne keeps showing why he could be the best running back in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the Brett Venables-led defense keeps feasting on opposing offenses.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has been Top 2 in the rankings ever since they went into Madison, Wisconsin and won 48-0 on Saturday Night Football back in October. Their electric defense has helped them sport a ball-control oriented offense that is run-first behind JK Dobbins and then uses a lot of 5-wide Spread to pass the ball out of with Justin Fields, a transfer QB from Georgia (Georgia is probably regretting benching him for Jake Fromm, which prompted Fields’ transfer request). Speaking of Fields, another Heisman finalist who has defied odds, he is coming into this game nursing a knee injury he suffered against Michigan back at the end of November, and it hasn’t shown too much improvement since. Fields had a great one-legged performance in the B1G Championship Game against Wisconsin in their 14-point comeback win, however, and despite the knee, looked good for most of the game. Much like in that game, Ohio State will use Dobbins on early downs, and then look towards their Fields and their receivers, such as KJ Hill Jr. and Chris Olave to make plays downfield.

This game comes down to running back play, Dobbins vs. Etienne. Whichever team can control the line of scrimmage better in this one will win the game, as ball control and clock management will be vital. Clemson often goes for this approach in semifinal games, and. Ohio State will need to use this in order to keep Fields healthy, because unlike in 2017, they do not have a Jalen Hurts or Joe Burrow-type guy on their bench that can come in and perform on the big stage. While on paper this matchup would favor Clemson, the Chase Young-led pass rush might be too much for Lawrence and could force him into throwing interceptions, something he has done often this season compared to last. Predcition: 34-31, Ohio State