Tiger versus Tiger
The College Football National Championship Game is one of the premier sporting events on the American sporting calendar.
Super Bowl, The Masters, Indy 500, March Madness – there are plenty to choose from but the Collegiate championship decider is right near the top.
Since the inception of the College Football Playoff system in 2014, we’ve seen Alabama and Clemson dominate this format with both programs appearing five times. For the first time, the Crimson Tide are on the outside looking in whilst Clemson aims to go back-to-back against their namesakes, the Louisiana State University Tigers.
October 2014 was when my love for LSU began thanks to a trip to Baton Rouge to see the Tigers play live with former team mate Tommy Lynch. Australian Jamie Keehn was the LSU punter at the time and he managed to round up two tickets for us to see Alabama at LSU – one of the biggest games of each NCAA season.
From there I was hooked.
The passion inside Tiger Stadium was incredible. 103,000 fans screaming for their Tigers and another 20,000+ outside in the car parks having a good old southern party.
Two years later I went back, this time with Hannah, and again we snuck down to Louisiana for a Tiger game. Again, it was LSU v Alabama and despite a 10-0 beatdown from the mighty Tide – but I did not care, I was still a fan.
As my knowledge of LSU football grew and I started waking up early and accessing shady website to watch their games when they were not on ESPN, I wondered why such a powerful, and passionate program was treading water. Coach Les Miles had led the Tigers to their last National Championship back in 2007, so he never buys a drink in Louisiana again but that did not mean his coaching was going to be the answer moving forward.
College ball had moved into the run-pass-option phase with running quarterbacks, spread offences and scoreboard which looked more like basketball games than football games.
Miles was fired – which inlaced a hefty buyout of a few million – and a local boy was instilled as interim coach – Ed Orgeron.
Upon his selection as the full-time coach, I was far from sure. Not that I am anything resembling an expert on American football but he seemed like more of a fan than a coach. He’d end every interview with ‘Geaux Tigers’ – a popular catch-cry in Baton Rouge. It seemed cheap back then, nowadays I love it!
He’s inspired the whole state.
Orgeron hired elite coaches and things began to turn. Last season was solid but coming into this season, those who know saw something special building.
A podcast I listen to told a story about how they attended a spring practice where the back-up QB Myles Brennan was running the new offensive scheme. They said he was making play after play after play and receivers were making monster plays and the defence had no chance.
Add in Joe Burrow and you get to where we are now. 14-0 with some historically great seasons from Burrow, wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson and tight end Thad Moss – son of Hall of Famer Randy Moss.
The 2019/20 season for the LSU Tigers has been off the charts. Only once this season has LSU dipped below 30 points in a game and the National semi-finals against Oklahoma was a momentous performance. 63 points, seven passing TD’s from Burrown (8 in total), four receiving TD’s from Jefferson to go with 239 yards and a beatdown of the like you’ve never seen in such a big game.
But – there’s one more hurdle to jump.
And Clemson ain’t no regular sized hurdle.
Dabo Swinney knows how to prepare and build a champion. QB Trevor Lawrence is almost universally accepted as the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft and the Tigers of South Carolina produce NFL product after NFL product.
It’s a unique battle. Tigers v Tigers. Two teams who play their home games in stadiums known as Death Valley, both with charismatic head coaches.
Let’s go inside the 2020 National Championship game between #1 LSU and #3 Clemson and I promise I’ll try to be objective…
Two amazing characters. Two effective methods. Only one winner! Ed Orgeron has reinvigorated LSU with the help of Steve Ensminger and Joe Brady’s spread offence. But the credit for hiring them and inspiring the team goes to Coach O. IF his Tigers win next Monday afternoon you can bet he ends his championship speech with two words… ‘Geaux Tigers’
Swinney is a dominant force. Aside from Alabama, he could walk into any job in the country, perhaps even more than a few NFL gigs as well.
He’s built a powerhouse outside of the traditional power programs and whilst some criticise Clemson for playing softer schedules in the ACC, back-to-back NCAA titles would shut everyone up for good.
Well, well, well. Get excited.
LSU averages a shade below 50 points per game. Absolutely phenomenal. Burrow has throw 55 scores. Chase, Jefferson and Marshall – the team’s three big dog receivers – have caught 48 of those touchdowns. Add in RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s 1,700 yards and 17 TD’s and this offensive unit is like nothing college football has ever seen. They’ll score 30+ in the decider, it’s just whether Clemson can score more that is up for debate.
Lawrence leads a less dynamic offence but one which has been there and done that. They’ll score points, even against an improved LSU defence, but can they put up the 40 or so they’ll need to upend the juggernaut from the Bayou!?!
Clemson are better than everyone thinks on defence every season. They get pressure on quarterbacks and force turnovers in the secondary. This will be a whole new level, though, as Burrow has not been slowed down by any defence this season. 14 times he’s stepped onto he field, 14 times he’s scored freely.
LSU has had its issues on D at times. Giving up 37 to Ole Miss was a worry whilst Alabama scored 41 as well. In their past few games, the LSU defence has stepped up. The secondary is loaded – as always – but a lot falls on K’Lavon Chaisson’s shoulders to get at the QB and create havoc.
The L in LSU stands for Louisiana which is where the big game will be played. New Orleans, just 55 minutes by road from the LSU campus which means the Fighting Tigers should have a significant home arena advantage whenever Lawrence and the Clemson offence are on the ball.
StubHub says Louisiana natives have 34% of the tickets sold on their website. With many going to corporates and guests, it leaves few remaining for South Carolinians.
PLAYERS TO WATCH;
Joe Burrow (LSU) – 55 touchdown passes, just six picks. 5,208 pass yards along with a whirlwind of miraculous throws and magical moments. A dominant Heisman recipient.
Ja’Marr Chase (LSU) – The leading WR in college ball. 1,559 yards and 18 TD was enough for the sensational Sophomore to win the Biletnikoff award.
Grant Delpit (LSU) – Just another one of a long long line of superstar defensive backs from LSU. Injuries have bothered him this season but he’s ready to roll in the decider.
Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) – Won a Championship last season Freshman and despite some saying his game had slipped this season, a 67-yard rushing TD changed all that.
Travis Etienne (Clemson) – Scored three times in the semi versus Ohio State. Almost 2,000 combined yards and 22 TD. Lawrence is special but this guy makes his job much much easier.
LSU 48, Clemson 30
Okay, so 25% of that prediction is heart rather than head but hear me out. LSU has played 14 games and every single time they’ve looked like an NFL offence against inferior opponents. Burrow is an NFL QB running an NFL offence with five-star receivers across the field. They went into Tuscaloosa and dropped 46 on Alabama so why should scoring 48 at ‘home’ in New Orleans be a surprise.
Clemson will score freely and have that championship pedigree but this season has been the year of the Tiger, the Louisiana State University Fighting Tigers!
Finally, GEAUX TIGERS!