Here we go. LSU’s most recent game was played in Atlanta. The Tigers’ next game, their College Football Playoff semifinal in the Peach Bowl versus the Oklahoma Sooners, is in Atlanta. If LSU wins, it plays in the Superdome on January 13 for the national championship, which would continue one of the more remarkable streaks in American sports.
By Matt Zemek
Each time LSU has played in a national championship game in the 21st century, the Tigers have played that game in the Superdome in New Orleans. Amazingly, the stars are aligned for that to happen again. Oklahoma is the obstacle, but one has to wonder how formidable the Sooners are at the moment. This is not a time to be complacent or overconfident, but this is also a game in which LSU should not be especially worried about its ability to cope with the given opponent. Getting the No. 1 seed in the playoff and avoiding Clemson was huge for LSU. Don’t let anyone tell you the seedings did not matter.
Here’s what LSU needs to focus on versus Oklahoma:
1 – Hurt Hurts
If you have followed the Oklahoma football team in 2019, you know that Jalen Hurts played complete games – complete in the sense of being excellent as a runner and passer – in the first half of the regular season. In November and also the (December) Big 12 Championship Game against Baylor, Hurts deteriorated as a passer. He was still a very lethal runner, but his passing efficiency and accuracy decreased. Bottom line: Hurts has to throw well for Oklahoma to have a real chance in this game. If LSU’s defense can bother Hurts, and if the Tigers don’t suffer any busted coverages against the creative plays OU head coach Lincoln Riley will throw at them, LSU should be in excellent shape. LSU’s Derek Stingley is such an amazingly developed cornerback for a freshman. Assuming he plays a solid game – not even spectacular, just a competent game free of especially bad freshman mistakes – it is hard to see Oklahoma scoring enough to keep pace with Joe Burrow.
2 – Throw Burrow
Throw, Joe. That’s the very simple plan for LSU in this game. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is questionable, but that really shouldn’t matter here. LSU scored more points against Texas (45) than Oklahoma did (34), and LSU scored those 45 points on the Texas campus. Oklahoma scored 34 in a neutral-site game. LSU should entrust this game to the Heisman Trophy winner and the best player in college football this year beyond any doubt. Burrow’s arm is major-league, but people got to see in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia that Burrow has extraordinary pocket presence and can throw difficult passes – short or deep balls – on the run. If LSU is worried about the running game, remember that a quick hitch pass to a wide receiver is basically a prolonged running play. If Burrow has to throw 50 or 60 times, that’s not a concern – not if a bunch of those throws are very short and safe passes. If Edwards-Helaire is reasonably healthy and can go, that’s great… but Joe Borrow has this. He has this under control. It’s his show. Threaux Burreaux at Oklahoma and see if the Sooners can handle it. Chances are they won’t.
3 – The A Gap
If LSU contains Jalen Hurts, the only other thing which can possibly make this Peach Bowl uncomfortable is Oklahoma ramming the ball right up the middle of LSU’s defense. As long as the Tigers get off blocks and fill the central gaps to force Oklahoma to run wide, it will be hard for the Sooners to deal with LSU’s speed, and it will be hard for OU to keep the ball away from Burrow long enough to shape this game the way it wants to.