NEW ORLEANS — Will LSU cap a perfect 15-0 season and claim its fourth national championship in program history? Or will Clemson, who is a 5 1/2 point underdog, defend its national title and extend its winning streak to 30-0?
That will be decided Monday night inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. RP3 & Company host Raymond Partsch III provided his four keys to victory earlier on Monday’s RP3 & Company on 103.7 The Game. Here is a brief recap.
Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence had a great season by most standards as the sophomore signal caller threw for 3,431 yards with 36 touchdowns while completing 67.6 percent of his passes. Lawrence though started off the season struggling with mistakes as he threw 8 interceptions.
Lawrence turned a corner and enters the title game having made 202 consecutive passes without an interception (seven games) and 22 touchdowns passes during that stretch. LSU’s defense will need to pressure Lawrence with K’Lavon Chaisson and Michael Divinity Jr. and force him to revert back to the early-season form of coughing up the football. If LSU can force a pair of turnovers in the game against Clemson, who has a turnover margin of 16-plus, — a victory is likely.
Bottle Up Etienne
Travis Etienne is a dynamic playmaker as he has 3,960 career rushing yards, ACC record of 55 touchdowns and became the first Clemson player since Steve Fuller in 1977 to be named ACC Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons. In the semifinal win over Ohio State, the former Jennings High star was bottled up rushing for only 36 yards on 10 carries but was phenomenal in the passing game as he had 3 receptions for 98 yards and a 53-yard touchdown on a screen pass. LSU can not let Etienne to get to open space or reach the second level especially with Clemson’s very effective screen game. If Etienne has a big game (125-plus of all-purpose yards) that could spell trouble for the Tigers from Baton Rouge.
Burrow Long TDs
LSU’s Joe Burrow has rewritten the record books of both LSU and the Southeastern Conference as he threw for 4,208 yards, 55 touchdowns and completing 77.6 percent of his passes. Clemson’s strength is its Brent Venables-coached defense which is allowing a nation best 11.2 points per game, and is anchored by its secondary led by linebacker-nickel back Isaiah Simmons. Does that mean that LSU should avoid attacking the Clemson secondary? Absolutely not. Burrow has thrown 23 touchdowns of 20 yards or more which is best in the FBS. This will be a matchup of strength vs. strength and LSU will need their Heisman Memorial Trophy to attack Clemson over and over again.
Stay True to Yourself
It is very simple. LSU has to approach this game the same way they have the previous 14 games — with confidence in what they can and will do to the opposition — regardless of who that might be. It worked against Texas, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma so need to change it now. The purple and gold Tigers are aggressive on offense and should come out the same way. Even if Clemson frustrates them for a quarter, LSU can’t lose their confidence and panic by desperately altering the game plan. This team has believed all season that they are the best team in college football. That confidence is what got them here and it will be that same attitude that will help claim the national championship.
Matchup To Watch
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow versus Clemson defender Isaiah Simmons
The two best players on the field will determine the outcome of this game. Burrow has put up insane numbers and will look to attack Clemson’s secondary with deep bombs to Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall Jr. The man who could disrupt his time to throw on one down and then break up his pass on the next is Clemson’s Swiss Army Knife — Simmons. How sensational is Simmons? Clemson lines up at safety, cornerback, nickel back, slot cornerback, outside linebacker and defensive end. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year and Butkus Award winner has 97 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, 7 sacks, 3 interceptions and 6 pass breakups. If Simmons has a monster game that could spell doom for LSU.
The Tigers from South Carolina are looking to win their third national title in four years and have won 29 straight games for a reason. Yes, the ACC was weak this year but Dabo Swinney is a great coach and Clemson has some legit playmakers on both sides of the football. The team’s big-game experience was on full display in the come-from-behind win over Ohio State in the semifinals and that will help keep Clemson in this game. Don’t be surprised if Clemson even holds a slim lead in the second quarter but LSU is just too talented and explosive on offense to be denied. Burrow will make a big play, probably a 20-plus yard touchdown throw in the second half, to help seal the victory for the Bayou Bengals. LSU will be national champions for the first time since 2007.
LSU 38, Clemson 31