NCAA College Football National Championship

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NCAA College Football National Championship

All times Eastern

Click here for NFL Divisional games.

NCAA Bowl Picks Week 1: Rick: 7-3; Coin: 7-3
NCAA Bowl Picks Week 2: Rick: 4-5; Coin: 5-4
NCAA Bowl Picks Week 3: Rick: 4-4-1; Coin: 4-4-1
NCAA Bowl Picks Week 4: Rick: 4-5; Coin: 6-3
CFP SemiFinals: Rick: 0-2; Coin: 0-2
Cumulative: Rick: 126-118-3; Coin: 132-113-3

Monday, January 13

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T
8:00 pm (ESPN) #3 Clemson Tigers vs. #1 LSU Tigers (-5 1/2, 69 1/2) - Judging by the high number in the over/under total, there are sources who believe this is going to be a high-scoring affair, a total of 70 points needed for the over.

What that means is that at least one team is going to have to score 36 points. 35-35 would be a tie and force overtime. Both teams, each 14-0, are capable of huge numbers offensively, but also very solid on defense.

Bear in mind that in the semifinals, these two held two of the most potent offenses in the country, Ohio State and Oklahoma, to 23 and 28 points, respectively.

Getting one or both of these squads to score five touchdowns is, while not out of the question, somewhat of a backhand slap to both defenses. There are considerable assets and quality athletes on both defenses, especially in the case of Clemson, the nation's leader in points allowed. Through the regular season, the Clemson Tigers allowed just 10.6 points per game. That number includes their 62-17 win over Virginia in the ACC championship, but not the 29-23 victory over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl CFP Semifinal.

The LSU Tigers allowed 21.2 points per game over 13 games, including their 37-10 SEC championship win over Georgia, but not the 62-28 slaughter of Oklahoma in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl CFP Semifinal.

Offensively, LSU led the nation in scoring, averaging 48.9 points per game, all 14 games included, while Clemson, under the same accounting, averaged 45.3, fourth, behind LSU, Alabama, and Ohio State.

Thus, it's entirely possible that the game could devolve into a defensive struggle, an angle that would no doubt benefit Clemson the most because their defense is better.

On the other hand, LSU was held to under 36 points exactly once all season, that occurring in a 23-20 home victory over Auburn. Is Clemson's defense as good as Auburn's? Quite possibly. The Auburn Tigers held opponents to 18.6 points per game, but they played arguably the toughest schedule in the nation, including an early-season game against Oregon, plus battles with LSU, Auburn and six other SEC foes.

While Clemson waltzed through their ACC schedule unscathed, they were held to under 38 points just twice during the regular season, and again in their 29-23 win over Ohio State two weeks ago.

Two high-powered offenses, one overwhelming defense (Clemson) and one pretty good defense (LSU). The O/U is a pretty touch call to make, but this contest appears to have the makings of a coaching and talent rivalry. Clemson relies primarily on running the ball. Along with their two backs, QB Trevor Lawrence was the third leading rusher on the team, piling up 514 yards on 103 carries with eight TDs. He's as legitimate a threat to run with the ball as he is throwing it.

LSU's run defense is good enough to slow down Clemson's run option game, but probably not good enough to stop it cold. Clemson will not stray far from their run offense, which leads to clock consumption and ball control. And, while LSU enjoys airing it out, Clemson's secondary is top-notch and will play enough cover-2 to keep LSU away from making big plays. There will be some, but nothing like the first half display against Oklahoma, when the Tigers scored seven touchdowns.

Clemson's defense produced 41 sacks and 19 interceptions. LSU's numbers were 35 and 17. Obviously, there are capable players on both sides.

The 63-28 tour de force by LSU over Oklahoma in the semifinal and Joe Burrow's Heisman-winning season is why they're favored here, but there's plenty of argument on the Clemson side. Most teams can barely stay on the field with them and their defense, at the top of its game, may be one of the best ever in college football history.

Clemson's offense gets overlooked, but it shouldn't be. They're very efficient, though not flashy, and the offensive line is big, powerful and possibly an under-appreciated force in this match-up.

Kicking favors LSU. Cade York, though he missed four of 87 extra points, he was 21 of 26 on field goals including 4-for-5 from 50 or more yards out. Clemson's B.T. Potter made all 77 of his point-after tries, but was only 12 of 20 on field goals, seven of those eight misses coming from 30-49 yards out. Over 50, he's 2-for-2.

Special teams appear about even. Both teams have returners capable of breaking off big ones, but both kick teams will be on best behavior and will likely not allow a score on any return, though a blocked field goal attempt or punt is very likely for either squad.

Key Players:

LSU Tigers

QB Joe Burrow 371-478 (77.6%), 5,208 yards, 55 TD, 6 INT, 29 Sacks
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire 199 rushes, 1,304 yards, 6.6 avg., 16 TD
WR Ja'Marr Chase 75 receptions, 1,559 yards, 20.8 avg., 18 TD
WR Justin Jefferson 102 receptions, 1,434 yards, 14.1 avg., 18 TD

Clemson Tigers

QB Trevor Lawrence 250-370 (67.6%), 3,431 yards, 36 TD, 8 INT, 15 Sacks
RB Travis Etienne 192 rushes, 1,536 yards, 8.0 avg., 18 TD
RB Lyn-J Dixon 103 rushes, 636 yards, 6.2 avg., 6 TD
WR Tee Higgins 56 receptions, 1,115 yards, 19.9 avg., 13 TD
WR Justyn Ross 61 receptions, 789 yards, 12.9 avg., 8 TD

The last two times these teams met the games were close. In 1996, LSU won, 10-7, but Clemson covered, being a 6 1/2-point underdog. In 2012, Clemson won, 25-24, again covering as a 6 1/2-point dog.

Here are some trends worth noting:

Clemson is 5-0 straight up its last five games against SEC opponents.
The total has gone OVER in five of Clemson's last six games played in January.
Clemson is an efficient 8-1 ATS in its last nine games as an underdog (dating back to at least 2014).
LSU is 10-1 straight up in its last 11 games against ACC teams.
The total has been UNDER in four of LSU's last six games played in January.
LSU is 1-4 ATS in its last five games played on a Monday (bowl games).

Coin Flip: Clemson

Prediction: Clemson 34 LSU 30

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