Oklahoma Sooners vs Louisiana State Tigers
When: 4:00 PM ET, Saturday, December 28, 2019
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
PEACH BOWL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF SEMIFINAL STORYLINES
- LSU not only survived but thrived through a brutal schedule and earned the No. 1 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, setting up a matchup with No. 4 Oklahoma in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 28. The Tigers knocked off five teams that were in the top 10 at the time of the matchup, including a 37-10 domination of CFP hopeful Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. That win allowed the Sooners to sneak into the Playoff as the lone one-loss team among the four participants after it survived a showdown with Baylor for the Big 12 title.
- The Peach Bowl features two of the best offenses in the nation led by quarterbacks who were invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York. LSU’s Joe Burrow beat out Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Chase Young for the award after a record-setting campaign that saw him finish second in FBS in passing yards (4,715) and lead the way in touchdown passes (48). “Thirteen-and-0,” Burrow told ESPN about what’s been most meaningful in a season in which he also took home the Walter Camp Award, Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and SEC Offensive Player of the Year. “All the records are great, but I have great people and great coaches around me, and a lot of great players. I’m sure you see it on Saturdays. It’s not just me out there. And, the cohesion between the coaches and the players is great. We have a great program going on right now.”
- The Sooners are making their fourth appearance in five seasons in the playoffs but are still looking for their first win after falling in the semifinals to Clemson (2015), Georgia (2017) and Alabama (2018). The Tigers appeared in three BCS National Championship Games, including a win over Oklahoma in 2003, but are making their first appearance since the CFP began after rebuilding their offense into a juggernaut behind Burrow, offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and passing game coordinator Joe Brady, who won the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in FBS. “This award should say Joe Brady/Steve Ensminger,” Brady told reporters after receiving the award. “I’m only at LSU because of Steve Ensminger. I’ll never forget that. … There is not a greater person to work for than Steve Ensminger and there is not a greater person that cares more about LSU and the success of this program.”
TV: 4 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: LSU -13
ABOUT OKLAHOMA (12-1): The Sooners have been an offensive powerhouse under coach Lincoln Riley but added defense to the package this season and led the Big 12 with an average of 330.6 yards allowed after letting opponents rack up 453.8 in 2018. “It was just great to see what happens when we decide to just do our job to the best of our abilities and trust the coaching,” senior defensive lineman Neville Gallimore told reporters after the defense carried the team in the Big 12 title game. “Having (first-year defensive coordinator Alex) Grinch instill that in us, I’m not going to say it makes that easy, but we’re fighting and we know the expectations that we have for our defensive group is so high that it’s nothing for us to not listen to all sides. Our focus is trying to play our best ball in crunch-time situations or whatever the situation may be.” The offense can still hang with any team in the country and Hurts, who was part of three CFP teams with Alabama and served as the starting quarterback on the 2016 squad before transferring, is the school’s third straight Heisman Trophy finalist after Baker Mayfield (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018) took home the last two awards.
ABOUT LSU (13-0): Burrow and Brady weren’t the only individuals recognized for the Tigers’ brilliant season as wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase took home the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver, safety Grant Delpit won the Thorpe Award as the top defensive back and Ed Oregeron was named the National Coach of the Year. That individual talent led the team to its best regular season since it also went 13-0 before falling to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game following the 2011 season, but Burrow said he believes the group’s success lies in its team-first approach. “We have a bond that can’t be broken,” Burrow said. “You’re going to have to kill us to beat us, I think. That’s just the kind of people we are. We built that bond the last two years in the offseason, coming in on Saturdays, working hard, doing it in the weight room.”
PREDICTION: LSU 42, Oklahoma 24