If you’ve watched college football this season, you have to be nothing short of happy and elated to have LSU and Clemson squaring off in the national championship game on Monday night. With all due respect to Ohio State, which was a worthy candidate contender, this battle of the Tigers is the game we all want to see.
With LSU favored by 5.5 points in a de facto home game at the Superdome in New Orleans, let’s take a closer look at Monday’s title game.
How They Got Here
Clemson enters the national championship game on a 29-game winning streak. Dabo Swinney’s team hasn’t lost since falling to Alabama in the national semifinals two seasons ago.
The Tigers were a perfect 15-0 on their way to being crowned national champ last year and have gone 14-0 in 2019. Other than a close call against North Carolina in September and a hard-fought win over Ohio State, the Tigers have crushed every team on their schedule this season, winning 12 of 14 games by at least two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, LSU was equally impressive this season. Ed Orgeron’s team has won all 14 games this season and 15 in a row dating back to last year’s Fiesta Bowl win over UCF.
While some doubt the quality of Clemson’s schedule, the Bayou Bengals haven’t blinked against a challenging schedule. Including its blowout of Oklahoma in the semifinals, LSU has six wins this season against teams that were ranked in the top 10 at the time, including five teams ranked in the top 15 in the final College Football Playoff rankings.
Health matters in a game like this, and both teams have good news on that front. Clemson wide receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross were both hindered by injuries during the Ohio State game and didn’t make the kind of impact most expected. But Swinney says both have recovered from their knocks, declaring them 100 percent.
Higgins and Ross and both big receivers who can create matchup problems with their height, so they will be a challenge for LSU’s talented secondary.
As for LSU, it didn’t get much out of Clyde Edwards-Helaire against Oklahoma because of injury. Obviously, the Tigers didn’t need him to get past the Sooners, but that’s unlikely to be the case against the Clemson defense.
Fortunately, Edwards-Helaire seems to be fully recovered and should resume his normal role in the LSU offense.
The Matchup to Watch
The matchup that could determine this game is LSU quarterback Joe Burrow against Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. In a unique twist, Venables played the role of Burrow on the scout team leading up to the game. More importantly, Venables is arguably the best defensive coordinator in the country.
He will look to play head games with Burrow, especially with more than two weeks to prepare for the game. As talented as Clemson is defensively, Burrow has looked close to unstoppable late in the season.
Venables will try to throw different looks at Burrow, showing him schemes he hasn’t seen before. Keeping Burrow confused might be the only way to slow him and the LSU offense down.
On paper, this game is too close to call. While Burrow and LSU have looked unstoppable, Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson offense are just as dangerous.
The Clemson defense found a way to slow down and create a couple of turnovers against a previously unbeaten Ohio State offense. LSU might be the favorite, but it’s hard to see it having its way against a team that’s won 29 in a row.
Bet on Clemson to at least beat the 5.5-point spread in a game that’s a virtual coin flip.