Burning Questions Ahead of the 2020 CFB National Championship Game

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2019

Burning Questions Ahead of the 2020 CFB National Championship Game

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    In a clash between 14-0 teams, the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship will showcase annual powerhouse Clemson against a revamped LSU program.

    But what exactly are we waiting to see during the title matchup?

    Whether it's a general look at someone's performance, a specific game-plan detail or a complementary factor, the national championship has a variety of important questions to address.

    While no single answer will determine the result, a combination of these topics will decide the winner.

Will Kicking Woes Affect Clemson?

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    The most likely result seems to be either a comfortable LSU victory or a tight Clemson win.

    Either way, Clemson's kicking issues can contribute to the margin.

    B.T. Potter has connected on just 12 of 20 field-goal attempts; his 60 percent rate is worse than 100th nationally. While the sophomore has converted all 77 extra points, he is an ugly 6-of-13 on field goals between 30 and 49 yards.

    Clemson can hardly afford to leave any points on the board. Touchdowns are preferred, of course, but falling short of the end zone and not grabbing three points only harms win probability.

What Impact Will Injuries Have?

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    At this point of the season, nearly every contributor is injured, hurt or physically uncomfortable in some way. Football is a violent, demanding game. Neither team will use health issues as an excuse for a loss.

    Nevertheless, injuries are a factor.

    LSU could be without starting right guard Damien Lewis, who exited the Peach Bowl on a cart. Receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. was banged up after the game. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire says he'll be close to 100 percent, but hamstring injuries are tricky.

    As for Clemson, receiver Tee Higgins missed a majority of the first half during the Fiesta Bowl. Fellow receiver Justyn Ross also limped off the field twice, and both quarterback Trevor Lawrence and left guard John Simpson exited the field with discomfort at some point.

    Whether the issues are lingering or are a product of something that happens in the national championship, an injury can significantly alter the outlook of the game.

Is Trevor Lawrence Going to Run as Often?

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    According to Grace Raynor of The Athletic, Lawrence and backup quarterback Chase Brice said they continually noticed in film study how Ohio State could be attacked on the ground.

    The result? Lawrence scampered for 132 rushing yards on 13 non-sack rushing attempts, including a 67-yard touchdown run. The 67-yarder alone would've set his personal-high rushing total. Just as importantly, Lawrence's mobility helped set up his game-winning touchdown pass to Travis Etienne.

    But man, did Clemson's star take a physical beating.

    Scrambling is one thing. LSU has a terrific secondary, so Lawrence might need to extend plays anyway. However, the number of designed runs in the Fiesta Bowl was abnormal. Will Clemson subject the sophomore to another hard-hitting defense and risk a game-changing injury?

    If that's something the team believes is essential to pulling the upset, the answer will absolutely be yes.

How Meaningful Is LSU's Home-Field Advantage?

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    What better way for LSU to close the season than in New Orleans? Only 80 miles separates the school from Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

    "Obviously, we feel it's going to be an advantage playing at home, and we love that it is at home," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said after the Peach Bowl. "But that's not going to win the game for you."

    Still, crowd energy can be infectious. Every first down, every big play, every defensive stop will be vigorously pro-LSU. Even though hand signals are overwhelmingly the communication method of choice, Clemson will be at a clear disadvantage in this department.

    Good thing Dabo Swinney loves the underdog card because the environment will make his Clemson squad feel like one.

Can Clemson Force Field Goals?

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    Of all LSU's remarkable stats, perhaps the most impressive one is a 97.1 percent red-zone scoring rate. The Tigers have ended 55 of their 70 red-zone trips with a touchdown too.

    However, Clemson ranks third nationally with a 35.7 touchdown rate allowed. That stinginess proved vital in the Fiesta Bowl.

    Ohio Statewhich had scored 59 touchdowns in 72 red-zone drivessettled for three kicks in three drives. Yes, the Tigers benefited from a little luck with dropped passes, but the Buckeyes only managed a 16-0 lead instead of a far more daunting 20-0 or 24-0 advantage. Who knows if the result would've been different?

    LSU is a threat to score no matter its field position; the Tigers don't need to reach the opposing 20.

    If they do, though, and Clemson prevents LSU from celebrating a touchdown, that may help swing the result.

Will Joe Burrow Continue His Ridiculous Pace?

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    Joe Burrow broke several College Football Playoff records in the Peach Bowl, a game he ended with 515 total yards and eight touchdowns. The senior heads into the national championship boasting season totals of 5,208 passing yards and 55 scores.

    "Sickening to watch," Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said with a grin, per Gene Sapakoff of the Post and Courier.

    Based on yards allowed per attempt, LSU has faced five top-25 pass defenses in Georgia (third), Alabama (T-fifth), Auburn (T-fifth), Texas A&M (T-20th) and Florida (T-25th). Burrow averaged 341.6 yards9.8 per attemptand 2.8 touchdowns in those contests.

    Clemson ranks No. 1 nationally in that category, ceding just 5.5 yards per pass with 19 interceptions to nine touchdowns allowed.

    Will it even matter?