Strengths and Weaknesses of Each College Football Playoff Team

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2019

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 07: Joe Burrow #9 of the LSU Tigers looks to pass in the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs during the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 07, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The final College Football Playoff poll revealed the four teams officially vying for the 2019 national championship, but the excitement may soon turn overwhelming.

You'll see press conferences and watch analysts debate. You'll hear predictionsand debates about those predictions.

However, many of these conversations don't provide a baseline understanding of LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma. And with 130 teams in the FBS, a finite amount of time and limited number of screens, you might not be familiar with each program.

No matter the reason why, we have you covered.


No. 1 LSU Tigers

The better question for LSU's offense is what doesn't the unit do well.

Led by expected Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, the Tigers rank third nationally in points per game and yards per play. They boast a 50.6 third-down conversion percentage (sixth in FBS) and a 76.9 red-zone touchdown rate (ninth).

Burrow is ruthlessly accurate and efficient with a 77.9 completion rate and 10.7 yards per attempt. But he's also adept at extending plays as a runner; Burrow has picked up 32 first downs on the ground. No matter the situationsimply a broken play or a crucial third downthat mobility can be crushing.

Just ask Georgia.

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Burrow's favorite targets are Ja'Marr Chase (18 touchdowns) and Justin Jefferson (team-high 88 receptions), but wideout Terrace Marshall Jr., tight end Thaddeus Moss and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire are all regular contributors.

Plus, Edwards-Helaire progressed from a decent runner to a dynamic back, totaling 1,689 yards from scrimmage and 17 scores.

The one nitpick is LSU has failed to reach four yards per carry in six games. While the aerial attack has consistently atoned for any inefficient game, an elite run defensewhich the Tigers may see in Ohio State or Clemsonmay present a challenge.

As you'd expect from the No. 1 team, LSU doesn't have a glaring problem. The defense has performed much better lately, yet it's showed enough vulnerability to point out the issues.

It was early, but Texas' Sam Ehlinger threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns. Tua Tagovailoa and Alabama put up 41 points. Ole Miss quarterback John Rhys Plumleethe most mobile signal-caller LSU has facedscampered for 212 yards.

While the worst-case scenario of a defensive debacle is highly unlikely, it's disingenuous to suggest that it absolutely cannot happen against the top-tier dual-threat quarterbacks in the CFP.


No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes

When the Buckeyes last reached the CFP, an unreliable offense sputtered to a 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. That, uh, should not happen again.

Justin Fields and Ryan Day have turned this Ohio State scoring attack into a powerful, balanced threat.

EVANSTON, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 18: Justin Fields #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes discusses with head coach Ryan Day of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on October 18, 2019 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Ge
Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Fields currently has 2,953 yards, 40 touchdowns and one interception as a passer, adding 471 yards and 10 scores on the ground. His mobility is a terrific complement to running back J.K. Dobbins, who has 1,829 yards and 20 scores.

Chris Olave is a big-play receiver at 17.3 yards per catch with a team-high 11 touchdowns, and K.J. Hill has caught 10 scores. Binjimen Victor, Garrett Wilson and Austin Mack are each important members of the wideout rotation too.

Despite that all-around excellence, the unit is prone to coughing up the football. This season, the Buckeyes have lost 13 fumblesonly four teams have more.

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Good thing Ohio State's defense has ceded just 30 points off 14 total giveaways. Overall, the unit has surrendered a mere 12.5 points per game, leading the FBS in 3.9 yards allowed per snap.

The featured player, without question, is edge-rusher Chase Young. Mentioned as a potential runner-up to Burrow in the Heisman race, Young has gathered 21 tackles for loss with an FBS-high 16.5 sacks. He's also forced six fumbles.

Ohio State's coaching staff has also done a tremendous job with in-game adjustments, especially on defense. That strength must continue to show as the competition level rises.


No. 3 Clemson Tigers

Can't say we expected Trevor Lawrence to add a dual-threat label to his reputation, but the billing certainly fits. He's rushed for 40-plus yards seven times and has seven scores on the ground. The willingness to scramble has added an interesting element to his game, though he's still most effective as a passer.

Lawrence caught some negative attention for eight interceptions in the first seven games, butas we said in Septemberthat wouldn't matter if he shook the slow start.

Long story short, it's shaken.

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Since his ugly 1Q vs. Louisville on Oct. 19, here’s Trevor Lawrence’s stat line: 75.7% completions 2,114 total yards 11.01 yards/pass 25 total TD 0 turnovers 213.2 passer rating

Tee Higgins (52/1,082/13) and Justyn Ross (55/742/8) are both dynamic receivers, particularly in one-on-one opportunities. And they get plenty of those chances thanks to an All-American runner.

Travis Etienne leads the FBS with 8.2 yards per carry, racing his way to 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns so far. He's amassed this production despite logging a total of six rushing attempts in the fourth quarter this season. Yes, six.

Stopping this offense may take a heroic effort. And you could basically say the same for succeeding against Clemson's defense.

The unit has surrendered a meager 3.96 yards per snap and an FBS-low 10.6 points per game while collecting the third-most takeaways (28) and sixth-most tackles for loss (102).

Clemson's concern is with its special teams.

Sophomore kicker B.T. Potter is just 12-of-19 on field goals this season, and Will Spiers is an average punter. Leaving points on the board or giving up favorable field position because of a botched kick is an easy way to gift a boost to an opponent.


No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners

Unlike previous iterations, the strengths of this Oklahoma team don't begin and end with an explosive scoring attack. But, of course, the Sooners have that offense again.

Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts has put up Heisman-caliber numbers in a year Burrow simply lapped the field. Hurts boasts a 71.8 completion rate with 32 touchdowns to seven interceptions, also scampering for 1,255 yards and 18 scores.

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CeeDee Lamb, an All-American wideout, is averaging 20.8 yards per catch with 1,208 total yards and 14 touchdowns. He's the clear go-to target, while Kennedy Brooks is the lead runner and Rhamondre Stevenson is a quality rotational back.

Granted, it's not all wonderful right now.

The Sooners averaged a scorching 9.5 yards per snap through October, but they've managed 6.3 in the last five games. While still exemplary, it's nowhere near a stunning rate. Perhaps more poignantly, in November, Oklahoma tallied 5.3 gains of 20-plus yards per game; that ranked 46th nationally.

If the coaching staff doesn't find a few answers to the recent drop, the Sooners will be reliant on their defense to handle LSU. Nobody wants to face that outlook.

This is a significantly improved unit, true. Not since 2010 had Oklahoma held at least 10 opponents below 400 yards. New coordinator Alex Grinch has done a terrific job reshaping this defense.

Nevertheless, the Sooners' issues are both apparent and worrying. They're 80th in defensive red-zone touchdown rate and 121st in turnovers forced. The best offense and quarterback OU facedIowa State's Brock Purdypiled up 477 yards with 282 yards and five touchdowns through the air.

Can this defense truly handle an elite offense? The college football world is about to find out.


All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.