What does every national championship have a common since 2013?
2013: FSU 34 - Auburn 31 (FSU -10.5)
2014: Ohio State 42 - Oregon 21 (Oregon -6.5)
2015: Alabama 45 - Clemson 40 (Bama -6.5)
2016: Clemson 35 - Alabama 31 (Bama -6)
2017: Alabama 26 - Georgia 23 (Bama -4)
2018: Clemson 44 - Alabama 16 (Bama -6)
No favor has covered. 3 of them have lost straight up.
Tonight, we all know who the underdog is:
Tonight's matchup reminds me of two previous games over the past year:
Ravens 2020: We are only two days removed from the unbeatable Ravens getting beat by 16, at home, by the Titans as 10-point underdogs. Lamar Jackson was all the hype after a breakout season. No way the Ravens could fall to the Titans, right?
Alabama 2018: Bring your mind back to this time last year. Remember how Alabama was the greatest team ever? They had just destroyed Oklahoma and had a QB that was going to throw for 5 TDs+ against Clemson. You all know what happened.
All I'm hearing is LSU this, LSU that. We could see the completion of the greatest college football season ever. The only team who is stopping them is little old Clemson, who has won 29 straight and have the best NFL prospect in decades.
When LSU has the ball:
Both of these offenses are electric, but what's under-reported is both of these defenses success.
Clemson's is phenomenal. They held a phenomenal Ohio State offense to a 34% success rate rushing and just 2.5 points per trip inside the 40-yard line. They are led by Brent Venables, who has had the luxury of 2 weeks to prepare for LSU's offense. I'm excited to see how he'll deploy Isaiah Simmons:
Joe Burrow is phenomenal. He has a 78% completion rate....5208 yards....55 TDs. He threw 7 in the 1st half against Oklahoma! However, Clemson's pass defense ranks 1st in completion rate and passing success rate. This is the ultimate strength vs. ultimate strength.
Will Joe Burrow be able to break down Clemson's pass defense enough to win? You would assume he won't be rendered inefficient, but Burrow has been best at throwing explosive passes. Ja'Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall, and Justin Jefferson all average over 14 yards per catch. Clemson's defense ranks #1 in pass explosiveness. Another way to make sure Joe Burrow can't expose you downfield: get to him with blitzes. LSU isn't phenomenal at stopping the pass rush either, ranking 65th in sack rate. Clemson's defense ranks 3rd in sack rate. This could completely change the game if Burrow is under more pressure than usual.
Another thing to consider: LSU isn't phenomenal inside the red zone. They rank 61st in success rate inside the 10-yard line. Clemson is off of a phenomenal performance in the red zone, holding OSU to 3 FGs and 1 INT.
When Clemson has the ball:
LSU's defense struggled a little bit earlier in the season, but have been phenomenal since they allowed Ole Miss to score 37 on November 16th. In their last three games, LSU has succeeded SP+ projections by 27.3 ppg on defense. This has a lot to do with Derek Stingley Jr. continuing to gain more experience, Grant Delpit getting healthy, and Michael Divinity returning to the field.
Clemson is going to have to attack LSU in multiple directions, but I fully expect they are going to be able to. If Travis Etienne can't get it going on the ground, Trevor Lawrence can pull it and keep it for himself. If Justyn Ross isn't open, Tee Higgins might be. If both of them aren't, Amari Rogers will be looking to expose LSU's pass defense that ranks 122nd in pass explosiveness. It's going to be difficult, but we saw Clemson show the ability to adapt in the Ohio State game if beaten in early game planning (e.g. 1st half vs. 2nd half).
Similar to Clemson, LSU's pass defense is phenomenal. Since Delpit has gotten healthy, LSU has held opponents to a 45% completion rate and a 90.7 passer rating. One TD. 6 INTs.
The biggest key for Clemson will be avoiding 3rd downs. They are just above average on third downs and LSU's defense ranks 9th in the nation.
I'm rolling with Clemson. Both against the spread and straight.
Everything has been going right for LSU. I have a weird feeling that's going to stop tonight. What happens when they get punched in the mouth? Clemson has shown they can come back from a big deficit in a big game.
Either way, it's going to be a battle. I'm excited and you should be too.
#StackCashWithJackMac: 142-121, +8.55 units (Bowls: 22-17, +4.3 units)
Clemson +5 (-108) 2 units
Clemson +175 1 unit