Word on the street is that money keeps piling up on LSU to win the National Championship game against Clemson on Monday night so in this preview we’ll look at whether that’s the right side for the betting public?
NCAAF National Championship Preview
(1) LSU Tigers vs (3) Clemson Tigers
Monday, at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans | 8:00 PM ET
Despite the stacks being very heavy on LSU heading into the weekend, the sportsbooks haven’t really reacted much recently to the uneven action. LSU opened as -3.5 favorites on the 28th, the odds had moved to six by the beginning of the week and that is still where we stand, almost a week and a half later.
Despite the money continuing to pour in for LSU, the bookies are hanging on to this spread for now. Some books have reported numbers as high as 80% to 90% of the action on LSU in fact and also suggesting this could be one of the most bet NCAAF games in history.
So, in our National Championship preview, is LSU the right side for this possibly historic game?
The LSU Tigers (14-0) look to knock off the incumbent champions and keep Clemson (14-0) from going back to back in the CPF finals. LSU made it to the big show by blowing the doors off of Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl in a very convincing win heading into a championship game. Joe Burrow, in particular, had a first-half that could be studied by any quarterback from Pop Warner to the NFL. In his first game as a Heisman Trophy winner, Burrow made the Sooners look more like a bunch of drunken Crooners.
He threw seven touchdowns and 493 yards en route to a 63-28 no-doubt-about-it win over the supposed 4th best team in the nation. LSU set CFP records for most points in a game, most points in a half, passing touchdowns by a single player, receiving touchdowns by a single player and receiving yards by a player. Saying LSU had a good game doesn’t even scratch the surface of this complete dismantling of a defense.
Now, Clemson did not have such an easy time in their Fiesta Bowl game against the Ohio State Buckeyes, but still managed to emerge victories. To be fair, I still think that OSU, on paper, had the best team in the nation so this win is still very impressive in my opinion. Facing their first real challenge in months, Clemson saw QB Trevor Lawrence step up his game yet again in a big spot and led his team to their fourth CFP title game in five years.
Lawrence threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns but also ran for 107 and a huge 67-yard touchdown against one of the best OSU defenses the program has ever fielded. Lawrence capped off his day with a 34-yard go-ahead pass to Travis Etienne with under two minutes to play after a 94-yard drive. That would prove to be all the Tigers needed to beat the Buckeyes and Clemson is back in the championship game.
We really have to focus on the quarterbacks in this game before we get too deep into anything else because they are two of the best in the nation and will be the lynchpins of their respective teams.
We’ve already brought up Burrow, the best player in the league for the 2019 season. He leads the country in touchdowns thrown (55), completion percentage (77.6%, wow) and total points (356). He also ranks second in passing yards (5,208), passing YPG (370.2) and total offensive YPG (394.1). Not only that but his confidence and momentum have to be at peak levels after his record-setting game last week. He has also enjoyed the recent emergence of Junior WR, Justin Jefferson.
While Ja’Marr Chase still leads the nation with 18 touchdowns (tied with Jefferson) and ranks second with 1,559 yards, he has just five total receptions and 102 combined receiving yards between the SEC Championship game and the Peach Bowl win. It was Justin Jefferson who shined brightest when the chips were down. To compare, in those same two games, Jefferson caught 21 passes for a total of 342 yards and five touchdowns.
Moving to the Clemson side of the sidelines, we have to applaud how Lawrence played in the 2nd half of the season. Over his previous seven games, Lawrence enjoyed a 71.7 completion percentage and piled up 1,897 yards, 22 touchdowns and most impressively, zero picks. While he hasn’t quite repeated his freshman season numbers and ranks within the Top-10 in only on major category, TD passes (36, 5th), we must ignore his early struggles and focus solely on his resurgence after throwing two picks and just 233 yards versus the Louisville Cardinals. Did I mention he has never lost a game? Which is hard to ignore.
Despite those early struggles, the Tigers remained undefeated for two key reasons. One was their defense, which currently leads the nation in a number of metrics which we will break down later.
The second — and sorry Clemson fans but it’s true — was their soft schedule. Now, their win over Ohio State has convinced me they could have probably reeled off 15 wins against better teams, but the fact of the matter is that they didn’t have to. They played Texas A&M in week two, and aside from their win last week and the ACC championship game, have had no real challenge. Though to be fair, UVA was far from a challenge in that ACC title game and lost 62-17.
Essentially, they played one game against a team who was in the National Championship conversation at all this year and that game was last week. Meanwhile, the LSU Tigers have played and beaten the likes of Texas, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, and Georgia this season. Just something to keep in the back of your mind.
Now while Clemson has a very good offense, their real pièce de résistance is their defense. The Team leads the nation in points allowed at a staggering number of just 11.5. Their pass defense also tops the league, giving up a scant 151.5 yards per game along with ranking second in takeaways and third in total defense (264 YPG allowed). Their defense has been consistently amazing over the last decade so it’s no wonder they have covered the spread in 10 of their last 11 bowl games. But will it be enough to stop the freight train that is the LSU offense?
Well in a word, no.
Ed Orgeron will have his team ready to secure their 15th win and first national championship since Les Miles was calling the shots in 2007. LSU would also become the first team to secure a national title win in their home state since the Florida Gators in 2008. And at first glance, it looks like a near-lock for LSU, a team that really has the total package. A Heisman Trophy winner, a defense which has played very well lately, all the momentum in the world and a game in their home state. At second glance, things look even better.
LSU has played and beaten teams better than Clemson this year and has looked like the squad to beat since week one. Burrow is having one of the best seasons in the history of college quarterbacks and is just 3 touchdowns shy of setting the new single-season record. They also have two wideouts who are legit Heisman talents and are fighting amongst themselves for best in the nation.
They have lived up to and exceeded expectations thus far and I have no reason to doubt that Burrow and Orgeron will find a way to LSU’s first 16 win season another National Championship. I like for them to cover as well, I think it will be close, but the LSU offense is just too good for anybody to stop. I think LSU puts up just that one extra drive and earns the cover in this historic game.
Best Bet: LSU Tigers -5.5 (-104)
That’s it for our National Championship preview, good luck!