Clemson Tigers vs LSU Tigers
When: 8:00 PM ET, Monday, January 13, 2020
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF NATL CHAMPIONSHIP STORYLINES
- Clemson has the experience on the big stage, playing in the national championship game for the fourth time in five years, but the No. 3 seed and defending national champion will play the underdog role to top-ranked LSU in the College Football Playoff National Championship game Monday In New Orleans. LSU has undeniably been college football’s best team – a claim punctuated by the Tigers’ 63-28 rout of No. 4 Oklahoma in the semifinals – but the No. 1 seed has not won the national title in the first five years of the College Football Playoff. Top seeds have twice bowed out in the semifinals and are 0-3 in the title game, and Clemson’s two titles in the past three years came as the No. 2 seed.
- The adage that defense wins championships hasn’t held up well in the College Football Playoff era, and it isn’t likely to make a comeback this year. LSU boasts the most explosive offense in the nation with Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow (5,208 passing yards, 55 touchdowns, six interceptions) leading the way, but Clemson ranks third in the nation in total offense and had outgained 28 consecutive opponents before being outgained by 99 yards in a 29-23 semifinal victory over Ohio State. The winning score in the national championship game has been 35 points or higher in four of the past five years, and that trend should hold as LSU averages 48.9 points, and Clemson puts up 45.3 per game.
- With the potential for a shootout, it might not take many defensive stops to make all the difference, but which Tigers have the defense that is up to the task? Clemson appears to have a slight edge on that side of the ball, ranking second in total defense and leading the nation in scoring defense, allowing 11.5 points per game. Clemson’s secondary was the best in the nation, but the Tigers haven’t faced an offense quite like LSU’s pass-happy attack that averages 397.2 passing yards and faces the No. 1 pass defense that allowed 151.5 yards.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: LSU -5.5
ABOUT CLEMSON (14-0): For all the talk of LSU’s offensive prowess, Clemson’s offense is nearly as dangerous with quarterback Trevor Lawrence (3,431 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, eight interceptions) and running back Travis Etienne (1,932 scrimmage yards, 22 combined rushing and receiving TDs) leading the way. Etienne has 3,960 career rushing yards – six shy of Raymond Priester’s school record – but he was a bigger factor in the passing game against Ohio State, catching three passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Clemson’s best shot at slowing down LSU might be its strong pass rush, which has collected 42 sacks and another 94 quarterback pressures.
ABOUT LSU (14-0): The Tigers won back-to-back close games against Auburn on Oct. 26 and at Alabama (46-41) on Nov. 9, and they’ve steamrolled everyone in their path since, going 25 consecutive quarters without trailing. LSU’s offense has put up video-game numbers and is the first team in history with a 5,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher (Clyde Edwards-Helaire 1,304), and two 1,000-yard receivers (Ja’Marr Chase 1,559; Justin Jefferson 1,434). If the Tigers have a weakness it’s on defense, though the secondary’s mediocre statistics (221.9 passing yards allowed per game) are somewhat skewed by the fact that LSU played with a big lead for much of the season.