One way or the other, the Tigers will win the national championship (we promise that’s the only time we’ll use that).
No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Clemson advanced to the College Football Playoff championship game with semifinal victories against Oklahoma and Ohio State, respectively, for a compelling title-game matchup.
LSU routed No. 4 Oklahoma 63-28 in a game where Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow totaled eight touchdowns (seven passing, one rushing), while Clemson beat No. 2 Ohio State 29-23 in a controversial game where Trevor Lawrence led a thrilling four-play drive in the final two minutes for the go-ahead touchdown.
Fiesta Bowl | Peach Bowl
Now, Clemson and LSU will meet in the College Football Playoff championship game on Jan. 13 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. It’s another ACC-vs.-SEC championship showdown, and there are twice as many Tigers as we’re used to seeing.
Here are five title-game storylines to get the party started:
Burrow vs. Lawrence
Last year’s quarterback matchup between Lawrence and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa was good. Could this one be better?
The answer is yes. You’re looking at the quarterbacks who should be the No. 1 pick in the next two NFL Drafts, and their converging storylines should only build the hype. Burrow has 5,208 passing yards and 55 passing touchdowns — part of a record-breaking season in the SEC that might have no equal, if he’s able to pile a national championship on top of all of it.
Then there’s Lawrence, who is 25-0 as a starter after leading the Tigers past the Buckeyes on Saturday. In three Playoff games, he has averaged 311 passing yards and eight touchdowns to zero interceptions.
Great quarterback matchups tend to produce unforgettable games. This one is no exception.
Coach O and Dabo pressers
Ed Orgeron has an unmistakable voice that will be the talk of New Orleans with LSU playing for a championship close to home. How tight will he play it this close to a championship game?
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, meanwhile, has shared the podium with Nick Saban on the championship stage twice. Does he get to defer the questions to Coach O now?
Chances are both coaches will be quotable, and it will be interesting to see how they riff together. That alone will be worth seeing ahead of the game.
Skill players in the Superdome
You’ll be able to win your fantasy football championship with a combination of these players in the near future.
LSU should have a healthy Clyde Edwards-Helaire to go with the receiver combination of Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall Jr. Clemson’s Travis Etienne took a while to get going against Ohio State, but he might find success sooner against LSU’s defense. The receiving trio of Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers will be faster on the Superdome turf, too.
This is going to be a high-scoring game.
MORE: LSU exposes Oklahoma’s longstanding Playoff issues
High-priced defensive coordinators
What will the defensive coordinators do to slow down? LSU’s Dave Aranda and Clemson’s Brent Venables are the two highest-paid assistant coaches in the FBS, and the $2 million question is, how will they slow these offenses down?
LSU rattled Jalen Hurts in the Peach Bowl, but Lawrence’s is the best arm they will have seen in the last two seasons, including Tagovailoa. The chess match between Aranda and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott will be intriguing. Defensive backs Derek Stingley Jr. and Grant Delpit will need to play tight.
Clemson bent — but didn’t break — against Ohio State, and Venables will have to pick his spots against an offensive designed by Steve Ensminger and passing game coordinator Joe Brady. Safety Tanner Muse and linebacker Isaiah Simmons will have a handful against those players.
Another 15-0 season
For all the talk about SEC and ACC fatigue and the rekindling of the eight-team Playoff talk that is sure to come before Jan. 13, remember this:
These are college football’s two best teams, and one of them will be 15-0. That won’t happen often in the four-team era, and it will be even rarer when the Playoff expands to eight teams.
LSU has a chance to win the national championship in its backyard, which it did in 2003 and 2007 (it lost its last appearance there to Alabama in 2011). The Superdome could host the last magical scene for Burrow, Orgeron and a team that piled up top-10 victories against Texas, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma.
Or, Clemson could forever silence all the criticisms of a weak schedule, win its 30th straight game and enter 2020 with a chance to win three in a row and four in five years under Swinney. Lawrence could lead the way, and that would be just as remarkable a story.
We’re looking forward to all of it. Aren’t you?