Scully’s CFP National Championship preview: #3 Clemson vs. #1 LSU

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January 8th, 2020

Two of the best offenses in college football history will square off in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday in New Orleans, and both teams enter 14-0.

#3 Clemson vs. #1 LSU, Monday, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Over 69.5
Under 69.5
LSU will seek an unprecedented sixth win against a team ranked in the top nine of the AP poll. Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow (78.6% completion rate) can become only the second NCAA quarterback to complete more than 75% of his passes (minimum 150 attempts) and needs only three touchdown passes to equal the single-season FBS record. LSU averages 48.9 points per game.

Clemson exits a thrilling, comeback victory over powerful Ohio State, which extended its win streak to 29. Trevor Lawrence is special (25-0 as a starter), and Dabo Swinney is now arguably the king of college football coaches. Clemson averages 44.2 points per game.
Burrow threw for 493 yards and eight touchdowns against Oklahoma in the CFP semifinals. He has taken 29 sacks, an area of concern against a well-coached Clemson defense that changes looks to confuse opposing quarterbacks. Along with four sacks and nine quarterback hurries, Clemson’s defense forced a pair of interceptions from Justin Fields, who came into the semifinal matchup with just one interception on the season.

Ohio State still put up 516 yards on Clemson, and LSU is more explosive. The SEC champion has NFL-caliber receivers in Ja’Marr Chase (1,559 receiving yards, 20 touchdowns), Justin Jefferson (1,434 receiving yards, 18 touchdowns) and Terrace Marshall Jr. (625 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns), and Burrow will throw them open with pinpoint accuracy. LSU’s offensive line excels at pass blocking, and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire should be a factor, after he was limited by a hamstring injury in the semifinal. The talented back had 103 rushing yards, 79 receiving yards, and three touchdowns against Alabama.

Lawrence has thrown for 3,431 yards and 36 touchdowns this year. He carried Clemson against Ohio State, and displayed versatility, with 107 rushing yards. I expect all-star receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross to rebound, after they recorded only 80 combined receiving yards last time out, and running back Travis Etienne is a formidable weapon. A two-time ACC Player of the Year, Etienne posted 107 rushing yards, 98 receiving yards and three touchdowns against Ohio State.

LSU has playmakers in its secondary, with safety Grant Delpit and cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. named first-team All-Americans, and the battle-tested defense relies on strong linebacker play. They can force some turnovers against Clemson.
I expect both teams to score more than 40 points in an offensive shootout. I would lean toward LSU’s unstoppable attack if forced to pick a side, but I don’t want to give more than a field goal to Clemson.

The Over is 5-1 in Clemson’s last six January games, and 6-1-1 in LSU’s last eight non-conference games.

Pick: Over 69.5

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