The Clemson and LSU Tigers have been the embodiment of dominance all season, and now the two undefeated squads will square off in the 2020 CFP National Championship to determine a true national champion.
This is the kind of matchup the College Football Playoff was invented to create.
LSU's revival as a national title contender has been the story of the season. Heisman winner Joe Burrow has created something special down in the Bayou after taking the LSU offense to new heights.
Clemson, on the other hand, has done everything a defending champion should do. Its season has been marked by the annihilation of the ACC and a special win over a very game Ohio State team in the CFP semifinal.
It's a dream scenario for football fans. The two best teams in college football doing battle to crown a champion in what has the potential to be one of the all-time classic matchups.
Date: Jan. 13, 2020
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans
Watch: ESPN or online with WatchESPN
Odds: No. 3 Clemson Tigers vs. No. 1 LSU Tigers (-5.5); O/U: 69.5
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
The Game Hits the Under...Barely
The over/under for this game is set fairly high at nearly 70 points for good reason: These are two of the most explosive offenses in the country.
The Burrow-led Tigers lead the nation with 48.9 points per game. The Clemson version isn't far behind at 45.3, so if both teams hit their average, the final score would easily exceed the total.
But those numbers have been racked up against defenses that aren't as good as the ones they will see in this game. Head coach Ed Orgeron's men won't be running through the Oklahoma Sooners team that was 64th in the nation in points allowed per game; they'll see the one that led the nation at 11.5.
No one has stopped LSU's offense, but it has been limited at times this season.
Georgia "held" the Tigers to 37 points and Auburn was able to keep them to 23. What the Bulldogs' defense was able to do is impressive once you factor in the fact the offense wasn't able to win the time of possession battle and only put up 286 total yards.
Auburn was nearly identical on offense with 287 yards and roughly 26 minutes of possession.
Clemson's defense is on-par with both Georgia and Auburn on paper. It hasn't seen the offenses that those SEC teams have played throughout the season but holding Ohio State to 23 shows it can play at an elite level.
Holding LSU to 23 might not be possible with how in sync it has been, but keeping the total under 69.5 is very much in play.
Travis Etienne Breaks 100 Yards Rushing
Travis Etienne is one of the nation's premier running backs, but that was hard to tell for much of Clemson's semifinal win over Ohio State.
The Buckeyes bottled up the Tigers runner to the tune of 36 yards on 10 carries. While he was a huge factor in the passing game, hauling in three passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns to lead the team in receiving, his longest run on the day was an eight-yard touchdown.
LSU's run defense isn't a weakness, but it also isn't the elite front Clemson saw in Ohio State. The Buckeyes were ranked sixth overall in yards allowed per rush. LSU's front has them ranked 28th and has given up some pretty big games to talented backs this season.
Here's what some of the top backs on LSU's schedule have done:
- D.J. Williams, Auburn, 13 carries, 130 yards
- Najee Harris, Alabama, 19 carries, 146 yards, one touchdown
- John Rhys Plumlee, Ole Miss, 21 carries, 212 yards, four touchdowns (at quarterback)
- Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss, 13 carries, 141 yards
The Ole Miss stat lines stand out the most. The Rebels had success with a mobile quarterback and a freshman running back. Etienne and Trevor Lawrence are more accomplished than both of those players and could use them as a blueprint to find some success on offense.
Etienne came into the Ohio State game with more than 100 yards rushing in seven of his last eight games. Expect him to get back over the century mark.
Clemson Takes the Trophy Again
Orgeron's side comes in as the favorite and that's not altogether surprising. The SEC champion has been dominant over the final stretch of the season and beat Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Oklahoma en route to this spot, while Clemson basically destroyed the ACC and beat Ohio State.
Comparing resumes, LSU has clearly accomplished more on the field. But this isn't about who each team has played.
If anything, Clemson's lack of competition is a benefit. While LSU has had to battle it out for a conference championship in the strongest conference in the country, the Tigers have been able to get to this spot without the rigors of a tough schedule.
This should be an instant classic and Clemson knows a thing or two about winning those games. Whether it's the razor-thin win over Ohio State in the semifinal, edging out Alabama for the championship last season or Deshaun Watson's late-game heroics in its first national title, Dabo Swinney's program has just found a way to win these games.
LSU's dynamic offense provides new challenges, but Clemson has stepped up when challenged in the recent era.
Clemson 33, LSU 30