The talent in this game is top notch. Each team has 7-9 players that will get serious consideration in the April draft.
Overall, Clemson has better talent on the offensive side of the ball; however, statistically, LSU has slightly out performed Clemson in 2019. A key to this game is that, between the two Tigers, Clemson has better run-pass balance. Getting the run game going for either team will be crucial for success.
On the other side of the ball, LSU has better overall talent, but statistically, Clemson has easily out performed LSU. Clemson’s defense is ranked second in the nation, only behind Ohio State. LSU’s defense is ranked 29 overall.
Amazingly, teamrankings.com, ranks Clemson seventh in terms of strength of schedule as of Jan. 9, 2020. Clemson has beaten three ranked teams: No. 12 Texas A&M in week two; No. 22 Virginia in the ACC Championship game; and No. 2 Ohio State in the CFP Playoff game.
LSU is ranked second, behind Ohio State, in strength of schedule. LSU has taken down six ranked teams: No. 9 Texas in week two; No. 7 Florida in week seven; No. 9 Auburn in week nine; No. 3 Alabama in week 11; No. 4 Georgia in the SEC Championship game; and No. 4 Oklahoma in the CFP Playoff game.
This is a game that should come down to basics. The team that doesn’t turn the ball over; the team than can run the ball; and the coaching staff that makes the best adjustments at halftime will win this game.
Burrow has had a magical season and nothing would be nicer than to see this young man win a championship, however, I’m going with Clemson 34-28.
Coach: Dabo Swinney
Clemson Players to watch:
**Sophomore QB Trevor Lawrence (6-5/205)
Five-star QB Trevor Lawrence is 25-0 since taking the reigns at Clemson. He won a National Championship at a true freshman.
There’s been a lot written about Lawrence’s “sophomore slump.” But, I have to tell you, it’s been hard to see. His completion percentage is up (from 65.2 to 67.5); his yardage is up (from 3,280 to 3.431); his yards per attempt are up (from 9.3 to 10.2); his touchdown passes are up (from 30 to 36); and his QB rating has also improved from last year (from 157.6 to 173.2).
*Junior RB Travis Etienne (5-10/210)
In his three years at Clemson, Etienne has averaged 7.9 yards per carry on 503 carries. He’s just 40 yards shy of 4,000 for his career. He’s also punched the ball into the endzone 61 times (six of those being on receptions).
Look for Etienne to declare for the draft sometime after the Championship game. While some have called him a scatback (in the mold of, say, Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings) with one cut shiftiness. Etienne has good vision, hits the hold extremely hard, has good acceleration thought the hole, and has shown plenty of speed in the open field.
**Sophomore CB Derion Kendrick (6-1/195)
Kendrick will be key factor in trying to slow down LSU’s red hot passing attack. He moved from wide receiver to cornerback this season and performed very well. He’s got two picks and five passes defended and has helped Clemson lead the nation in pass defense. Still, looks for LSU to try to take advantage of Kendrick’s lack of experience.
Senior MLB Isaiah Simmons (6-2/230)
How Clemson decides to use Simmons will be another key to victory. If they can keep Burrow guessing, they might be able to force a turnover or two. From his middle linebacker position, Simmons can pressure Burrow up the middle or he can drop back into zone coverage and try to disrupt the passing lanes. The consensus All-American leads Clemson in tackles, tackles-for-loss, and sacks. He also has three interceptions, six passes defended, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
*Junior WR Tee Higgins (6-4/210)
Higgins, Clemson’s big play receiver, is listed as Questionable heading into the weekend prior to the game. Media outlets report that Higgins is dealing with a head injury, and it is unknown if he will be available for the CFP National Championship against Louisiana State.
Higgins has 56 catches for 1,115 yards. He has an outstanding 19.9 yards per reception with 13 touchdowns.
Coach: Ed Orgeron
LSU Players to watch:
Senior QB Joe Burrow (6-1/216)
Just a year ago, Tua Tagovailoa was the talk of the college football world. It was a season where Tua seemed to do everything right, except win the Heisman or a National Championship.
This year, Joe Burrow is the darling of the football world. He’s won every major post-season award, including the Heisman Trophy. He’s obliterated Tua’s 2018 numbers by passing for 1,242 more yards; thrown for 12 more touchdowns; and has a passer efficiency rating of 204.60. If you recall, Tua ended the 2018 season with an outstanding efficiency rating of 199.4.
Now, all that Joe needs to do to make his season truly historic is to beat Clemson and bring a National Championship back to Baton Rouge.
Senior LB Michael Divinity (6-2/238)
Divinity has missed nine games this season with injuries and suspensions, including the last six straight on suspension for team drug policy violations. He returns to the lineup for one last game.
No one is happier about Divinity’s return than fellow linebacker K’lavon Chaisson. “So, you’ve got two great pass rushers now,” Chaisson told the media. “And even if we’re not rushing, people have got to account for us, and probably send some other players. Then watch us drop.”
“I don’t really have to worry about too much pressure on me, or worry about chip blocks,” Chaisson said. “If they chip me, then Divinity’s going to win his one-on-one regardless. I feel like he’s going to win nine times out of 10. Even though he hasn’t been in games, he’s been working and practicing.”
**Sophomore WR Ja’Marr Chase (6-1/205)
Chase won the 2019 Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver. Chase has 1,559 yards, which is second in the FBS, and 18 touchdowns. His counterpart, Justin Jefferson ranks third in the FBS with 1,434 yards. Jefferson also has 18 touchdown receptions. Chase is the only WR with over 100 targets to average 20 yards per reception this season.
Senior DE Rashad Lawrence (6-3/317)
LSU is tied for ninth in the nation in third down defense. That stout defense is led by senior defensive end Rashad Lawrence. LSU plays a 3-4 and likes to stack the line with 300 pounders. A key to victory for LSU will be getting off the field on third down. If they can limit Etienne and the Clemson running game they could win this game.
Senior OG Damien Lewis (6-3/322)
Lewis sustained a leg injury in the CFP games against Oklahoma, and it is unknown if he will play against Clemson in the CFP National Championship. Adrian Magee, who moved from left guard to right guard after Lewis’ injury, continued to work with the first-team at right guard during Wednesday’s drills.
2020 National Championship Game
#3 Clemson vs. #1 Louisiana State University
8 p.m. ET, ESPN
New Orleans, Louisiana
College Football Playoff National Championship results:
- 2018 January 7, 2019 #2 Clemson 44, #1 Alabama 16
- 2017 January 8, 2018 #4 Alabama 26, #4 Georgia 23
- 2016 January 9, 2017 #2 Clemson 35, #1 Alabama 31
- 2015 January 11, 2016 #2 Alabama 45, #1 Clemson 40
- 2014 January 12, 2015 #4 Ohio State 42, #4 Oregon 20