The LSU Tigers and Joe Burrow have had a storybook season in 2019. Now they'll see if they can keep things rolling against a familiar face to the College Football Playoff in the Oklahoma Sooners and Jalen Hurts.
After an undefeated season and winning the SEC championship, Ed Orgeron's Tigers are the No. 1 seed in this year's playoff and a prohibitive favorite to appear in the national championship game, according to the odds from Caesars.
The Sooners are no strangers to the playoffs. This will be the third consecutive year that Lincoln Riley's crew have earned a berth and the program's fourth overall appearance in the tournament. They still have yet to advance to the championship game.
That's going to be a tall order again this year, as they face a red-hot Tigers team and have several factors that are going to make this an uphill battle. Still, Lincoln Riley's offense always gives them a puncher's chance, and that's what they'll bring to Atlanta.
Peach Bowl Information
When: Saturday, Dec. 28 at 4 p.m. ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia
Odds: LSU (-13.5); over/under: 76
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
Oklahoma's offense has a reputation for being a high-flying scoring machine, but this year's rendition with Jalen Hurts at the helm is a much more prolific running attack. They're one of only five teams in the nation that averages more than six yards a carry.
Much of that is due to Hurts. Oklahoma's ability to be diverse in the run game and get extra blockers at the point of attack is helped by the fact that the signal-caller has the skills of a running back. He leads the team in rushing, with 1,255 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground this season.
Running back Kennedy Brooks is an underrated part of the run game as well, though. He's just 24 yards shy of hitting 1,000 yards for the season, but he's electric with the ball in his hands and efficient with the carries he gets:
The Sooners are going into this game short-handed. As Jason Kersey of The Athletic reports, backup running back Rhamondre Stevenson and Trejan Bridges will be suspended on the offensive side of the ball, while the defense will miss defensive end Ronnie Perkins due to failed drug tests.
That makes Brooks' job all the more important, as Stevenson won't be available to share the workload.
CeeDee Lamb is one of the best receivers in college football, but LSU's secondary is one of the most talented groups in the country. Teams are only completing 51.1 percent of their passes against LSU this season, and the ball-hawking group is seventh in the nation with 16 interceptions.
Riley's best chance to keep the Sooners in the game is to shorten it with a heavy dose of Hurts and Brooks getting what they can and hoping Lamb can make some plays happen in the passing game.
When LSU Has the Ball
Any way you look at it, the Oklahoma Sooners defense is just average.
Here's where it ranks nationally in some key stats:
- Opponent quarterback rating: 48
- Yards allowed per rush: 56
- Yards allowed per play: 42
- Points allowed per drive: 64
Now, take away the team's premier pass-rusher in Perkins, and that's the crew that is going to be charged with stopping college football's hottest offense. In November and December, the Tigers have averaged 49.4 points per game in five games.
Joe Burrow took home the Heisman and pretty much every other major college football award, with 4,715 yards and 48 touchdowns, but most impressive is the 77.9 percent completion percentage that he had with all of the volume he had in LSU's offense.
It isn't all Air Raid for the Tigers either. They put up over 2,000 rushing yards as a team to round out their prolific attack. However, that running game will be a question mark, as star running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire's status is uncertain heading into the game.
"Obviously, if Clyde's ready to play, we're going to let him play," coach Ed Orgeron said about Edwards-Helaire's groin injury, per David M. Hale of ESPN.com. "But he's a game-time decision. Do I think he plays? Yes, but how much he plays, I don't know. He's not 100 percent, obviously."
If Edwards-Helaire can't go, there will be some unfamiliar names who get work. Freshmen Tyrion Davis-Price and John Emery Jr. are the next highest rushers, and the two have a combined 96 carries on the season.
Defense has been the Achilles' heel of the Sooners program in the playoff era. Given LSU's strength on offense and what the Sooners have put on paper with their defense this year, it appears it will be their undoing once again.
There's just too much going LSU's way for an upset pick here. Hurts has been in the playoffs before, but that didn't go well his last time out.
He'll be key to this game, as Oklahoma's only chance might be to grind it out and try to control the time of possession under the strength of their quarterback and Brooks in the running game. But that's just not how Oklahoma is built.
They're built for the shootout, and they are outmanned in this one. LSU's team has been locked in for weeks and already has big wins over Alabama and Auburn to show what they can do in big spots. It's too hard to ignore all the factors that have led to LSU's perfect season thus far.
LSU 42, Oklahoma 21