#1 LSU vs #3 Clemson
January 13 8PM ESPN
New Orleans, Louisiana
For the second consecutive year, we have a David vs Goliath matchup in the national title game, and in both instances it has been Clemson playing the role of David. Last season it was Alabama playing the role of Goliath after the national media had crowned them the greatest college football team of all time. All Clemson did was blow their doors off 44-16.
This season, it is LSU that gets to play the role of Goliath. Just like the national media did with Bama last year, LSU has already been crowned the best offense in the history of the sport, with the actual game being an afterthought.
Nevermind the fact that this Clemson program has won two of the last three national titles. Nevermind the fact that Dabo Swinney’s teams have proven time and again that when they are doubted, they tend to rise to the occasion and silence the skeptics. So if it feels like you have seen this movie before, you have.
Make no mistake, this LSU offense is every bit as good as it’s being made out to be. It might very well be the greatest offense in the history of the sport, but how about let’s wait until after the final game before making it official.
It seems that the national media has forgotten one major piece of the puzzle, and his name is Brent Venables. Not only does Clemson have the best defensive coordinator in the business on its sideline, he’s also had an extra week to prep, and that is something that’s gotten very little play over the last two weeks.
Only once since Venables arrived in Clemson have the Tigers lost a postseason game in which he’s had extra time to prepare. That was the Sugar Bowl in 2017, when Alabama beat Clemson 24-6. However, the defense played plenty well enough to win that game.
Forget about all the Trevor Lawrence vs Joe Burrow talk, it’s irrelevant. The two quarterbacks will never be on the field at the same time. The big story here is that this is a championship game featuring the nations number one offense squaring off against the nations number one defense.
That’s something that has happened just nine times in the NFL and FBS combined since the introduction of the BCS in 1998, and in eight of those games it was the defense that came out on top. The old adage that defense wins championships is true, and one of these teams has a decided advantage when it comes to defense.
There is no denying that this is a dynamic, high powered LSU offense, and they do most of their damage throwing the ball. On Monday night, they will have to do it against the best pass defense in the country, and that’s not the simple task that it’s being made out to be.
Clemson is not going to shut this offense down, it’s just to good. They are going to give up some yards, and are likely to give up a couple of explosive plays. The key will be the back end of the defense keeping everything in front of them, and not getting consistently beaten over the top.
They need to make LSU earn everything they get. Make them need long, extended drives in order to score points. Doing that brings the Clemson red zone defense into play, and nobody in the country has been better at defending the red zone than Venables’ group.
Clemson comes in looking to put a bow on a second consecutive perfect season and a third national title in four seasons. This team has been there, and done that. They know what to expect. LSU does not, and that plays a part here, as does the game being in New Orleans. Playing in their home state puts that much more pressure on them. If Clemson gets up early, that amps up the pressure even more.
This LSU defense has been playing much better of late, and have held their last four opponents under 100 rushing yards. Travis Etienne will likely find rushing yards tough to come by, especially early on, so look for him to make plays in the passing game once again.
As with Ohio State, Clemson will need Trevor Lawrence’s legs to be a factor in this one too. This game won’t be won on the ground though. It is going to be won through the air, and the gunslinger holding the trophy up high afterwards will be Trevor Lawrence, not Joe Burrow.
Look for Amari Rodgers to make his mark in this one, after having just one catch, albeit a big one, against the Buckeyes. The Tigers offense hasn’t used the middle of the field a whole lot in 2019, but that changes on Monday night. Along with Rodgers, look for Braden Galloway to be targeted once or twice.
Attacking the middle of the field can soften up the LSU defense. That will make it easier for Etienne to find running room as the game progresses, and helps open up the downfield passing attack.
Lawrence and the offense haven’t been turning the ball over and Clemson has routinely won the turnover battles down the stretch. They will here too.
It won’t be the high scoring affair that most think though. This Clemson defense hasn’t given up 30 all season, and they don’t here…..