Co-authored by Wesley Shoemaker & Evan Vieth
Jan. 13 is finally upon us, and it still seems impossible to pick the better team. Both Clemson and LSU are undefeated and don’t seem to have any clear weaknesses. LSU is led by Heisman winner Joe Burrow, while Clemson is led by a stellar offense that includes Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and one of the nation’s best defenses. Here’s our attempted stab at predicting the winner of the College football’s most anticipated game of the past few years.
Evan Vieth: The Case for LSU
As hard as a prediction may be for this game, I can’t help but think LSU is the clear winner. The Tigers have Joe Burrow, the best player in all of college football, as well as a top 30 defense in the nation. LSU will be at full strength during the game with a roster including star linebacker Michael Divinity Jr. who has been out since October due to a positive marijuana test. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who saw limited playing time in the semi-final game against Oklahoma, will also make an appearance. Burrow will have a full arsenal of weapons with Helaire, Ja’Marr Chase, and Justin Jefferson backing him up. Chase and Jefferson are number two and three in receiving yards and are tied for the most touchdowns on the year at 18. This is the single best offense in the nation in every major category. And now the team has its’ best running back at full strength. LSU put up 63 points against the number four team in the country in their biggest game of the year at the time. We know the Tigers can step up to the plate when it matters most — unlike Clemson. LSU has wins over Texas, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, and Oklahoma, all of which were top 10 teams when they faced off. Clemson, on the other hand, didn’t have a top ten win before their game against Ohio State. Even though they did play well against Buckeyes, we can’t be totally confident they can beat the best teams. Though Clemson has a stellar defense this year, they have only played one team that has had good offensive production this year. I’m not confident that Clemson’s defense can stop LSU’s offense. The most important factor in the game may well be the crowd. In games like these, the crowd can single-handedly cause penalties and momentum shifts. The championship game is played in New Orleans, which gives LSU a clear advantage. It is likely that this game will feel like a home game at Death Valley.
Final Score: LSU 45-35 Clemson
Wesley Shoemaker: Why Clemson Wins
In a game like this, experience is crucial. Clemson has been here before — last year, in fact — and have been in this game three times already. In addition to coaching staff experience, the same Clemson offense that broke down the Alabama defense last year is all back this time around. If LSU has one weakness, it’s their defense. LSU allowed more than 35 points to Vanderbilt and Mississippi. If LSU wants to stop Clemson, then they will have to step it up on defense. Games like these are where the stars must perform. On Clemson’s offense, Trevor Lawrence has been nothing short of amazing for two straight years. In the College Football Playoff this year against Ohio State, whom many thought had the best defense in the country, Lawrence displayed his talents running the ball for 107 yards and throwing for 259 yards while accounting for three touchdowns. Also, Clemson’s defense will have to find a way to stop Joe Burrow. Clemson’s defensive coordinator Brent Venables has always come up with ways to stop opposing high-powered offenses, and I expect he will be able to slow this LSU offense down enough to get the win. LSU also will be basically playing a home game in New Orleans, and if things don’t go their way early, a lot of pressure could start to build up. I think this game will be high-scoring with Clemson hanging in long enough and pulling off the upset, and in the end creating a new dynasty in college football.
Final Score: 41-38 Clemson