The College Football Playoff National Championship game is set with the No. 1 LSU Tigers facing off against the No. 3 Clemson Tigers in a battle for big cat supremacy. While both teams have earned their place in the New Orleans matchup with impressive, undefeated season, it is the LSU Tigers who are favored to take home the crown.
By Steve Wright
Here are the main reasons that the Bayou Bengals will be the kings of the college football jungle.
Joe Burrow is having an all-time season
The 2019 Heisman Trophy winner is having one of those seasons that looks like it came from a video game. Burrow exploded onto the national scene this year in a season where he threw for over 5,200 yards and 55 touchdowns to just six interceptions is the CFP semi-final is taken into account. He was untouchable against Oklahoma last time out, throwing for seven touchdowns and 493 yards as the Tigers made a statement and Burrow had perhaps the best first half of any quarterback in any major game – college or pro – in history.
The Clemson D has 17 interceptions on the season with 10 of those going to their safeties. Burrow will know this is a unit that likes to go after the ball so expect to see him mix up his passing range and his targets. As good as the defense is, Burrow will be better.
The secondary can control Trevor Lawrence
The LSU secondary has been fantastic this season. The group of Derek Stingley Jr., Grant Delpit, and Kristian Fulton – doing their best DBU things – have locked down the back third of the LSU defense all year long. The worry is that the unit gave up over 400 yards and four touchdowns to Tua Tagovailoa and Alabama earlier in the season, but Tua and Lawrence are very different in the way that they play the position.
What the defense will have to be aware of is Lawrence’s ability to pull down the ball and run. He is a long strider, so if he does get out in the open field the secondary players need to take good angles to stop his scrambles for medium gains instead of the game breaking running he showed against Oklahoma in the semi-final game.
The offensive line will protect Burrow
The other half of the passing picture is that LSU offensive line will hold the Clemson sack masters at bay. Isaiah Simmons is the player that will be keyed on – he has six sacks and 97 tackles on the season as he is used in so many ways on the defense – but this isn’t the Clemson defensive front of last year that could have been starting for an NFL team. The way that the LSU offensive line handled the havoc level defense thrown at them by Florida in a 42-28 win earlier this season says everything about how hard Clemson will have to work to get to Burrow. They won’t be able to pressure, hit, or sack him enough to make him antsy in the pocket, which will result in an LSU victory.
LSU is basically playing at home
While there will likely be plenty of Clemson fans in attendance on Monday night this is going to feel like an LSU home game. Clemson is just under 600 miles from New Orleans – making this a much better trip for the South Carolina school that out to the West Coast for example – but the trip from Baton Rouge to the Big Easy is just 80 miles.
There is going to be a wall of noise whenever Clemson has the ball with the pro LSU crowd doing everything possible to will and cheer their team on to victory. LSU will have an easier time communicating on offense and a backing on defense that will make the Superdome feel like Tiger Stadium if the game is close in the fourth quarter.