LSU and Clemson had completely different experiences in their College Football Playoff Semi-Final game.
The Tigers LSU established their dominance early, and did so in about the most profound and embarrassing way possible. The No. 1 ranked team in the country didn’t only play like it, but made no other team seem like they were on the same level as them. LSU laid 49 on Oklahoma in the first half, taking a 35 point lead on the Sooners thanks to Joe Burrow’s seven touchdown passes.
LSU’s first game of the postseason was the type of beatdown where you couldn’t even comprehend what you were witnessing for the wrong reasons. It reached a point where you felt bad for Oklahoma.
Clemson’s semi-final was the opposite. Yet, their dominance and their almost underdog-like vibe prevailed. Clemson battled through injuries and came back from an early 16-0 deficit to eventually win 29-23. Trevor Lawrence, who powered through being shaken up himself, was magnificent – especially so he had to step up and deliver.
Clemson did the one thing we asked them to: prove themselves. They did so against what could have been a better team, too.
They’ll need to do it one more time.
The gap between LSU and Clemson, or even Ohio State, isn’t really that big. Clemson arguably has better weapons – same with the Buckeyes. Both defenses are substantially better than LSU’s. And the quarterbacks…
Lawrence has the chance to be a generational guy, at the college level and professional level. No one is saying that about Burrow. He’s really good, doesn’t make mistakes and yes, has some similarities to Tom Brady. Those comparisons are accurate. But Lawrence has a better arm and has been destined for this for years now.
Justin Fields might be more talented than Burrow as well. His combination of legitimate running ability and a strong arm has the potential to be seriously effective at the next level. The accuracy is likely the issue with him. But Fields brings such complexity to the table in the run-pass option with his legs that, in terms of overall talent, he could have the edge over this year’s No.1 pick.
But Burrow was the Heisman winner for a reason this year. The weekend-to-weekend consistency was there against arguably the hardest schedule in the country. Burrow didn’t have a better running back or better receivers than Lawrence but it didn’t matter – he made them better. He didn’t have as good of a defense but that didn’t matter either. Burrow made up for the difference. He was that valuable. That performance came against the some of the toughest opponents a team can have in a give season.
Defenses had no answer for him – defenses that were amongst the best in country and rivaled Clemson’s. The No.1 ranked group by Football Outsiders’ defensive FEI let Fields and JK Dobbins have their way with them for a half two weeks ago. Clyde Edwards-Helaire isn’t the back Dobbins is, but Burrow’s ability to absolutely dominate makes up for it. Clemson secondary’s could have a flawless game. Burrow will still drop any pass in.
This game is simple. Both of these teams are so good; they’re practically even. Clemson might be able to score, but there’s no one more trustworthy in a shootout right now than Burrow and LSU. He’s been so good that it feels as if there’s nothing that can get past him.
This has been LSU’s year thus far. There’s no reason to think that will change tonight, and if it does, Burrow still goes down having one of the best seasons ever by a college football quarterback.
Prediction: LSU-30 Clemson-24