LSU, Clemson to meet for national title Monday
LSU enters Monday’s College Football Playoff final at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans against Clemson with college football’s best offense this year.
On the opposing sideline, the Tigers will meet a Clemson squad at 7:15 p.m. on ESPN that has not only one of the best defenses in college football but a top-five offense, too.
Clemson (14-0 overall, 8-0 ACC) is ranked No. 2 nationally in total defense, surrendering 264.1 yards per game. The Tigers have allowed a nation’s-best just 151.5 passing yards per game and are surrendering a nation’s best just 11.5 points a contest.
On the offensive side, things are nearly as impressive as the squad is ranked No. 3 in total offense, averaging 538.4 yards per game and are ranked No. 4 in scoring offense, averaging 45.3 points a game.
Clemson, the defending national champions who are riding a 29-game winning streak and have not lost a game since Jan. 1, 2018, to Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinal, enter Monday’s matchup after defeating Ohio State 29-23 in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, on Dec. 28.
The Tigers’ offense is led by sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence and junior running back Travis Etienne of Jennings. Lawrence has completed 250-of-370 passes for 3,431 yards with 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Lawrence also has rushed 93 times for 514 yards and eight touchdowns.
Lawrence, a Manning Award finalist, is ranked No. 5 nationally in passing touchdowns and No. 19 nationally in passing yards.
This season, Etienne has rushed 192 times for 1,536 yards and 18 touchdowns. The standout running back, who was named a second-team All-American by five different entities, also has 32 receptions for 396 yards and four touchdowns. He ranks No. 6 nationally in total touchdowns with 22, is No. 7 in rushing yards and is ranked No. 9 in rushing touchdowns.
Sophomore running back Lyn-J Dixon also has carried the football 103 times for 636 yards and six touchdowns.
Junior Tee Higgins and sophomore Justyn Ross lead Clemson’s receivers. Higgins has 56 catches for 1,115 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Ross has hauled in 61 passes for 789 yards and eight touchdowns.
Higgins, a first-team All-ACC selection as a wide receiver, is tied for No. 7 nationally in receiving touchdowns, he is ranked No. 25 in receiving yards and he is tied for No. 35 in total touchdowns with 13.
Ross is tied for No. 40 nationally in receiving touchdowns.
Up front, senior offensive guard John Simpson was named a first-team All-American selection by four different entities. He also earned a second-team All-America honor from a fifth outlet.
Clemson senior offensive tackle Tremayne Anchrum also was a first-team All-ACC selection this season.
Defensively, the Tigers are led by junior linebackers James Skalski and Isaiah Simmons. Skalski leads the team with 99 total tackles (69 solo and 30 assists), 6.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, three pass breakups and eight quarterback pressures. Simmons, who earned first-team All-America honors from five different entities, has contributed 97 tackles (76 solo and 21 assists), 14 tackles for loss, seven sacks, seven bass breakups and 14 quarterback pressures.
Simmons, this year’s Butkas Award winner, leads the team with 14 tackles for loss and seven sacks, while senior safety K’Von Wallace leads the team with 10 pass breakups.
In the secondary, graduate student safety Tanner Muse is tops on the team with four interceptions. The third-team Associated Press All-America selection is tied for No. 17 nationally in total picks. Thus far, he has recorded 69 tackles (47 solo and 22 assists), five tackles for loss, two sacks, five pass breakups and two quarterback pressures.
Junior cornerback A.J. Terrell was a first-team All-ACC selection, too. Terrell has recorded 32 tackles (28 solo and four assists), 0.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, five pass breakups and four quarterback pressures.
As for LSU, the Tigers (14-0, 8-0 SEC) enter Monday’s contest after routing Oklahoma 63-28 in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, the other College Football Playoff semifinal, on Dec. 28.
The Tigers are ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring offense (48.9 points per game), No. 1 in total offense (564.2 yards per game) and No. 2 in passing offense (397.2 yards per game).
Senior Joe Burrow, this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, leads LSU’s offense as he has completed 371-of-478 passes for 5,208 yards with 55 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also has rushed 101 times for 310 yards and four touchdowns.
Burrow is ranked No. 1 nationally in passing touchdowns, and he is ranked No. 2 in passing yards.
In addition to earning first-team All-America honors from five different entities, Burrow also won the Davey O’Brien Award, took home the Maxwell Award and was named both the AP National Player of the Year and the Walter Camp National Player of the Year. He also is a finalist for the Manning Award.
His top receivers are sophomore Ja’Marr Chase and junior Justin Jefferson. Chase, this year’s Biletnikoff Award winner who earned first-team All-America honors from five different entities, has caught 75 passes for 1,559 yards and 18 touchdowns, while Jefferson has hauled in 102 passes for 1,434 yards and 18 touchdowns. Sophomore Terrace Marshall Jr. has added 43 receptions for 625 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Chase and Jefferson are tied for No. 1 nationally in receiving touchdowns, while Chase is No. 2 nationally in receiving yards and Jefferson is No. 3. The duo is tied for No. 12 in total touchdowns with 18 apiece.
Marshall is tied for No. 11 nationally in receiving touchdowns and is tied for No. 46 nationally in total touchdowns with 12.
In the run game, LSU is led by junior Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who has rushed 199 times for 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns. Edwards-Helaire was a first-team All-SEC running back this season.
Edwards-Helaire is ranked No. 11 nationally in rushing touchdowns, is tied for No. 15 in total touchdowns with 17 and is ranked No. 17 in rushing yards.
LSU’s offense also features one more All-America selection as junior offensive lineman Lloyd Cushenberry III earned second-team honors from the Football Writers Association of America and the American Football Coaches Association.
Defensively, the Tigers are led by junior linebacker Jacob Phillips, junior safety Grant Delpit and freshman cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.
Phillips leads LSU with 105 tackles (51 solo and 54 assists). He has seven tackles for loss, one sack, one pass breakup, three quarterback hurries and one forced fumble.
Stingley leads the team with six interceptions and 15 pass breakups. Stingley, an All-America selection from five different entities, including first-team honors from three of those entities, is tied for No. 5 nationally in interceptions. He also has 36 total tackles (30 solo and six assists) and one tackle for loss this season.
Grant Delpit, this year’s Thorpe Award winner, has recorded 59 tackles (33 solo and 26 assists). He has 3.5 tackles for loss (including one sack), two interceptions, seven pass breakups, one quarterback hurry and one fumble recovery. Delpit was named an All-American by four entities, earning first-team honors from three of the entities.
Sophomore outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, a first-team All-SEC Coaches selection, leads the team with 13.5 tackles for loss and is tops with 6.5 sacks.
Locally, the LSU squad features two connections in freshman offensive lineman Austin Harden and offensive student assistant Cade Minton. Harden is a Patterson High graduate, while Minton is a graduate of Central Catholic.