By Chris Carlson: This Monday night the NCAA championship will be decided between LSU and Clemson. It was a long wait to crown a champion given the fact the national semifinals were literally last year on December 28. But were here and there’s plenty to be excited about this matchup in a variety of categories. For at least the last say month of the season most folks assumed Clemson would qualify for the Playoff semis. The writing was clearly on the wall that this was LSU’s year to make a run, however it wasn’t until the Tigers defeated their arch-rival Alabama for it to become a reality. Sure, LSU still had to get by Georgia to complete the unbeaten regular season but their daunting schedule would’ve been enough to qualify regardless of what happen in the SEC title game.
The returning champs from last year’s drubbing of Alabama saw Clemson lose a bunch of first and second day draft picks on both sides of the especially across the defensive line. All-world QB Trevor Lawrence was due back being only a freshman as was a stud a RB in Travis Etienne. Enough pieces were in place combined with a light schedule so it’s not surprise to see Clemson back in the Championship picture. For LSU it is a huge shocker from an offensive standpoint. In the 2018-19 season now Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow looked as if he was just a game manager, completing under 58% of his passes and throwing a measly 16 TD’s on just 5 interceptions. In 2019-20 Burrow put of some crazy numbers to the tune of 55 TD’s and just one more interception, also completing 77% of his passes. Another example of the offensive improvements is WR Ja’Marr Chase who put up silly numbers as well this season. Chase went from having 23 catches to 75 and 313 receiving yards all the way up to astounding 1,559 yards and 18 TD’s.
The first part of the season Clemson QB Lawrence struggled by forcing the ball in tight windows trying to make the big play instead of the correct one. Lawrence tightened up his game and the rest is history, or at least it could be it the Tigers can beat LSU. Clemson’s defensive stats on paper are considerably better, but one scratch below the surface allows a fairer angle. LSU had some holes needed to be plugged in the passing yards and big plays department. The Tigers were in their fair of shootouts with Texas, Alabama, Florida, but it was LSU’s secondary that would generally make a play later in games. And as the season closed, the LSU defensive unit got better and better, looking legit in its last two outings versus Georgia and Oklahoma. LSU is not as defensively gifted as past years but stats can be very deceiving when playing that many difficult opponents.
One could make the point that Clemson has more players and the head coach that has been through these primetime wars under the bright lights when it really counts. That may be but this LSU squad has gotten better and better and now healthier heading into Monday night’s scrap. This will be a back and forth affair that will be still on the table for both teams in the fourth quarter. Clemson has some past experience advantages but with the schedule LSU played this year they will be more than ready to throw haymakers back when Clemson hits them flush on the chin.
The Pick: LSU 38 Clemson 34
Written by Chris Carlson Host of The College Ball Show Podcast available at blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio & Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio