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Clemson has chance to set itself apart with victory

Dennis Brunson
dennis@theitem.com
Posted 1/11/20

It can be argued that this is already the case, but if Clemson beats Louisiana State on Monday in the College Football Playoff national championship game there will be no doubt about it: Clemson has the best college football program in the …

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Clemson has chance to set itself apart with victory

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It can be argued that this is already the case, but if Clemson beats Louisiana State on Monday in the College Football Playoff national championship game there will be no doubt about it: Clemson has the best college football program in the country.

If the Death Valley Tigers - uh, no, we can't use that since LSU's nickname is the Tigers and it has a Death Valley of its own. Let's try this: if the Tigers take down the Bayou Bengals that will be three national titles in five years, and this is their fifth straight year in the CFP, with four of those ending up with appearances in the title game.

The only school that can match that is, of course, Alabama, which is on the outside looking in for the first time in the 6-year history of the CFP. The Crimson Tide has been to the title game four times with a win over Clemson and a win over Georgia and two losses to Clemson.

Clemson will be either 3-1 or 2-2 in its CFP title games after Monday, so at the very least it will be 1A - or 1B - along with Alabama during that time span. It all depends on the Tide's Southeastern Conference adversary LSU.

Even though both teams are 14-0, the Bayou Bengals have easily had the most impressive season. They have taken down several ranked teams this year and have gotten better as the season has progressed. That has been proven by the way they handled Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game and demolished Oklahoma in the CFP semifinal.

Clemson too has gotten better as the season has progressed, only it has proven it in a different way. While the Tigers came out of the gate a bit sluggish and eked out a 21-20 victory over North Carolina, they have destroyed all comers down the stretch.

I know. Clemson plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and they should be taking out the opposition with ease. There is certainly legitimacy to that line of thinking, but the fact of the matter is the Tigers do what they have to do.

This should be a fun game to watch. You've got a quarterback in LSU's Joe Burrow, who arguably had the best season a college signal caller has ever had, going up against likely the most natural QB since Peyton Manning in Clemson's Trevor Lawrence.

Both are able to make all of the throws and have ultra-talented receivers for targets and great backs lining up behind them. Clemson may have its best offensive line during this run, and LSU is more than solid up front.

So it will more than likely come down to which defense holds up the best. The Bayou Bengals struggled defensively early in the year, but has played really well down the stretch.

Clemson's defense has been outstanding all year even though defensive coordinator Brent Venables had to reinvent his unit after losing his entire defensive front to the National Football League. There will be those who will try to make the ACC argument as to why Clemson's D is so good, but the Tigers showed their worth in their semifinal game against Ohio State.

The Buckeyes came out and had Clemson on its heels the first four times it had the ball. Clemson gave up a touchdown, but then just three field goals to an offense that had been dominant in the red zone all season. So instead of being down by 20 or more points, the Tigers found themselves trailing just 16-0 late in the first half, which they made 16-14 with two touchdowns late in the first half on the way to the 29-23 victory.

While LSU's offense has been seemingly unstoppable all season, it hasn't gone up against Venables. The fact Clemson has had two weeks to prepare for this game should cause some pause for the LSU faithful. Venables finds a way to make the most out of his talent.

And don't discount the experience the Clemson coaching staff and some of the players have in being in this circumstance. When it comes to making decisions in the moment, that could prove important.

Final score: Clemson 35, LSU 32.