It has been a fun and exciting season of College Football. It feels like just yesterday we watched Florida and Miami battle during “Week 0” but on Monday night it will come to a close. Either Joe Burrow and LSU will cap off their improbable fairy tale like run with the most prestigious trophy in CFB or Trevor Lawerence and the Clemson Tigers will claim back-to-back Championships and continue their stranglehold as nation’s top program.
It has been nothing short of a remarkable year for the LSU Tigers. Coach Ed Orgeron has led his team to their first Conference Championship since 2011, the same year they fell in the National Championship to Alabama. LSU’s offense is the best in the country. No argument can be made otherwise. They rank first in total offense and points per game. What Heisman winner Joe Burrow and the rest of the Tiger offense has done this year will be nearly impossible to replicate again by another team, and that was on full display against Oklahoma in the CFB Semifinal. Burrow tossed SEVEN touchdowns in the first half of that game and WR Justin Jefferson continued his magnificent season reeling in four of Burrows TD’s. Jefferson finished the day with 14 catches and 227 yards. It was the most dominant, thorough, and impressive performance during a Semifinal that I can ever remember. LSU Tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 16 TDs this season and served as a great compliment to Burrow and the passing game. On the other side of the ball, this LSU defense had struggled at times during the season but over last 3 games or so they have settled in nicely holding Texas A&M to 7 points, Georgia to 10 and the Sooners to 28 (only 311 total yards). That group will have their work cut out for them in New Orleans.
As we flip to the other sideline this is all too familiar for Dabo Swinney and his squad. The Clemson Tigers are playing in their fourth National Title over the past five seasons. Last year they manhandled Alabama in this game, 44-16. Most of the prominent players on Clemson’s offense are back this year. Sophomore Quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for 347 and 3 touchdowns, Halfback Travis Etienne scored twice on the ground and Wideout Justyn Ross exploded for 153 yards. That 3-headed monster will have to duplicate those performances if they want to have a chance against LSU. Lawerence had a TD-INT ratio of 36-8 this season, Etienne rushed the ball at a clip of 8 yards per carry while crossing the goal line 18 times and Ross had 789 yards and 8 touchdowns. Another major part of that offense is star WR Tee Higgins who contributed to the tune of 1,115 yards and 13 touchdowns. This team was ranked first in the preseason in large part to how good these guys are. It’s an NFL caliber offense playing in College Football. On Defense, Clemson allowed the fewest points per game in the country. They’ve been anchored by standout Junior Isaiah Simmons, who will hear his name called early in April’s NFL draft if he decides to forego his Senior season. Clemson played in the ACC, a BAD Football conference. It’s not a weak conference, it’s a bad one, plain and simple. So as good as these Tigers are, the Ohio State game was their first test of the season. Week after week they kept beating the hell out of these teams. They Buckeyes are a good team, with a good offense but they’re not in the same stratosphere as Burrow and the boys. Nobody is.
I think it’s always hard to choose an “X-Factor” in Football games but I’m super intrigued by both receiver/secondary matchups. Can Justin Jefferson build on his success against OU? Can teammate Ja’Marr Chase continue his dominant season? Are these Clemson defensive backs ready for the best offense they’ve ever seen? And how about when Lawrence and the rest of the Clemson offense take the field? Can Justyn Ross repeat his dominant performance in last year’s Championship? Is Tee Higgins ready to do what Ross did last year? Can the talented LSU secondary led by Grant Delpit and Kristian Fulton stop them? There are so many guys on the field and when you have two teams with this much talent, anyone can make a big play and become a legend. That’s one of the great things about Football and sports in general. It takes one play to cement yourself in the minds of everyone watching. Most of you reading this know that all too well (David Tyree). LSU has proven all year that they deserve the title of best team in the country but I wouldn’t sleep on Clemson either. It sounds crazy but they haven’t gotten the spotlight they deserve playing in the lowly ACC. This team is really good. I said for months now these are the two best teams in all of college football. Come Monday, January 18th, we’ll know who the best really is.
Photo: Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports