I wanted to accumulate everything I’ve written on this National Championship game in one place.
Here I’ll give the three most plausible outcomes I see for this game:
Scenario 1: Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross are healthy after getting two weeks in between playoff games. Clemson can barely slow LSU but similarly the Tigers can’t stop Trevor Lawrence and the SC Tiger passing game. We get a shootout and Clemson edges them out due to more experienced players and their coaching staff.
Scenario 2: The SC Tigers arne’t fully healthy or weaponized on offense but they’re still able to manufacture a run game and some offense via Trevor Lawrence’s running ability and overall skill. However, their defense gives Burrow some fits and is able to force red zone conversions and a turnover or two. Clemson wins a close battle.
Scenario 3: Clemson isn’t healthy enough on offense to keep up with Joe Burrow and Brent Venables isn’t able to throw enough wrenches in the gears of the LA Tiger offensive machine. LSU wins by a decent margin and goes down as a historic team due to their insanely impressive list of fallen opponents.
I’m rolling with Clemson in this game. Dabo Swinney and his staff have repeatedly shown a real brilliance for creating strategies that move the focal point of these big games to an area where they’re at advantage. They have been ahead of the curve in relying on spreading opponents out and beating them on the perimeter while Venables has also been ahead of the curve in playing more “pass-first” on defense and forcing opponents to deal with the strength of his defensive roster. Last year he played bracket coverage and made teams beat them by consistently working their way down the field on his DL. This year he’s in inverted Tampa 2 and moving all of his safeties and linebackers around and forcing teams to work out where the ball needs to go and who they need to block.
LSU’s current team is more about the application of great systems and specifically the offensive system that allows Joe Burrow to control the game on the field. That might be the trump card, it wouldn’t shock me if it was, but Clemson has some of that dimension to their game as well and I think they’re a bit more wise to how to win a game like this on both sides of the ball.
Read about how pass-first offensive and defensive strategies became the name of the game in college in my book: