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College Football Playoff National Championship Prediction 2020

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
A thrilling 2019-2020 season concludes this Monday with the biggest game of them all: the 2020 National Championship. The two best teams in the country will battle it out for 60 minutes in New Orleans, as LSU and Joe Burrow look to cap off their memorable 2019 with a final victory, while Clemson hopes to claim their third National Title in four seasons. The skill of these two offenses, the personalities on the sideline, and the storylines all colliding here should make for a picture-perfect National Championship. But, only one team can come out on top as the 2019-20 National Champion.

Any talk of LSU this season begins with Joe Burrow, who has put together the best single-season quarterback performance since Cam Newton in 2010. He has been purely dominant, without a single down game you can point to, all while collecting 5,208 yards and 55 touchdowns through the air. With the Heisman Trophy secure, you get the feeling there is one thing on Burrow's mind, and it isn't the NFL: a National Title. It just so happens that Burrow is also blessed with a fantastic receivers corps, headlined by veteran Justin Jefferson and sophomores Ja'Marr Chase & Terrace Marshall. And, you can't forget about tight end Thaddeus Moss, the son of Randy, and an excellent vertical passing threat. That collection of wide outs has obliterated opposing secondaries all season, including embarrassing Oklahoma in the semifinal. Then, you look at running back, where Clyde Edwards-Helaire remains vastly underrated, and Chris Curry looked like he could also fill in as the feature guy with Edwards-Helaire not 100 percent in the Peach Bowl. Edwards-Helaire should be as close to 100 percent as possible, and one only has to watch the Alabama win to recognize his importance in this offense. When you're finished gushing over the talent at the skill positions, LSU also hits with their offensive line, which was the nation's best in 2019. Not only did it keep Burrow upright all year, it opened up massive running lanes for this backfield. With all that on offense, it's no wonder the Tigers averaged nearly 49 points per game, and dropped 63 on Oklahoma. This is an offense with essentially no weaknesses to point to, and it's hard to imagine them not having another incredibly productive day, even going up against Brent Venables and this Clemson D.

Clemson might not have Joe Burrow, but they have a pretty special quarterback themselves in Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence became a household name with his dominant play in the Playoff last winter, but his struggles in 2019's first month seemed to really kill the buzz that was surrounding him. Less attention certainly seemed to benefit the true sophomore, as he has played as well as anybody not named Burrow over the season's final few months. He has thrown 22 touchdowns without an interception, his last one coming against Louisville in mid-October. Lawrence has also shown impressive toughness, which was on full display in that gutsy Ohio State win. He was nailed all night by the Buckeyes, which only seemed to make him stronger. He's going to be overshadowed by Burrow most of the night, but if Clemson does pull it out, Lawrence is certainly going to be a major reason why. Much like LSU, Clemson also has an abundance of weapons to further aid their star quarterback, including receivers Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers, as well as explosive running back Travis Etienne. That trio of wide outs is really impressive, and can match up with LSU's group really well. They're also an incredibly tough group of players; both Ross and Higgins took a beating in the Fiesta Bowl, while Rodgers is less than a year removed from a torn ACL suffered in the spring of 2019. Etienne is actually going to end up being a pretty important X-factor. Getting the ground game rolling is always of top priority for the Tigers, and he can break open a game every time he touches the ball. With all the eyes on the quarterbacks, don't overlook the importance of these running backs in this game.

With all that offensive talent on both teams, one would expect a lot of offensive fireworks and a lot of points here. Yet, I'm actually very excited to see what these two defenses look like, and the chess match between the two defensive coordinators, Venables for Clemson and Dave Aranda for LSU. On one hand, LSU's defensive numbers aren't overwhelming; their 21.2 points allowed per game are good not great, and they don't exactly live in opponent's backfields, as their 33 sacks this season are middle-of-the-pack. But, you have to consider that they went into 2019 without their unquestioned leader, linebacker Devin White who is now playing on Sundays, and the fact that with how much this offense scores, the defense is on the field a lot. When considering those two factors, Aranda has once again done a good job crafting a physical, well-rounded defensive unit. The secondary is the unit that gets the most attention on this LSU defense, and for good reason. Not only do they have Jim Thorpe Award winner Grant Delpit roaming the back-end, they have two of the best cover corners in collegiate football in Derek Stingley Jr. and Kristian Fulton. Stingley in particular is a guy to keep your eyes on; he's only a true freshman and yet he'll match up against opponent's top wide out all night and still shut him down. Up front, the Tigers don't have as many big names, but they can still cause offensive lines issues. Linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson missed nearly all of 2018, but has responded with a 6.5-sack campaign. This is a rock-solid Clemson offensive line, but LSU is still going to hit them in some unique ways, it will be intriguing to see how they handle it.

At this point, Clemson's reloading on defense has become commonplace, but that doesn't change how impressive it is. Once again, the Tigers suffered a mass exodus to the NFL ranks last off-season and how do they respond? Only by putting together the most efficient defense in the entire country and allowing just 10.6 points per game on the year. Losing their entire defensive line has made Venables' job tougher in terms of pressures and blitzes, but a number of Clemson defenders have emerged to fill the leadership and production voids. The Tigers are especially strong in the back-end, where they're loaded with experience and future NFL talent. A.J. Terrell and converted wide out Derion Kendrick are a potent 1-2 punch at corner, while veterans Tanner Muse and K'Von Wallace can really do it all. Then, there is Clemson's linebacker group, which technically includes the ultra-versatile Isaiah Simmons, and was massive in their upset of Ohio State. The ultimate question: is this the group that can finally slow down Joe Burrow? I will say, this is going to be the toughest secondary Burrow has seen this season, and outside of maybe Auburn, by far and away the toughest defense. It's also a group that captures the "bend not break" mentality. Against Ohio State, their ability to force three field goals and only one score in the 16-0 lead was a major reason why the Tigers were eventually able to come back and secure the win.

So, after looking at both of these offenses and defenses, where does that leave us? Well, one thing is definitely certain: it's going to be a competitive game. Neither team has a distinct advantage on either side of the ball, and while each do have some weaknesses, they aren't significant enough to base an entire prediction off of. In matchups like these, that are truly "coin flip" games, I have a general philosophy: go with the team with more experience, and the team that has been there before. Simply put, Clemson has been on this type of stage every season since 2015, and proven they can beat the biggest and best. This team and staff have earned my respect, and while I don't think they're going to be able to completely slow down Burrow, I think they can do just enough to bring a fourth National Title to Clemson, South Carolina.

The Pick: Clemson, 41 LSU, 35

The National Championship... By the Numbers

0 - Number of career losses for Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He is a perfect 25-0 as starter for the Tigers, and Clemson has won 29 straight games.

202 - It's been a long time since Trevor Lawrence has thrown an interception. Not only does he have 22 touchdowns in that span, he has thrown it 202 times without throwing it to the opponent.

25 - LSU has not trailed an opponent in 25 quarters. The last time they trailed was against Auburn in late October, when they were down 13-10 in the third quarter.

8-2 - In their last ten games as an underdog, Clemson is 8-2 overall. They're also 12-2 against the spread in their last 14 neutral site games.

94.2 - The combined points per game totals of these two offenses. LSU averages 48.9 per game, while Clemson is just behind at 45.3.

228 - This game could well be decided by who wins the second quarter. Both play their best in the closing seconds of the first half, as LSU put up 228 points in the second period this season.

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