It’s finally here! Two weeks after LSU’s Peach Bowl victory in the College Football Playoff Semifinal over Oklahoma, the Tigers headed 80 miles down to New Orleans for the National Championship media day.
New Orleans has been flooded both literally and figuratively with LSU fans since Thursday and the Tigers are ready to compete for a national championship in their home state.
“Ever since we knew the National Championship was going to be in New Orleans it was a goal of ours to earn the right to be here,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron. “Now we’re here and we’ve got to do something about it.”
Both players and coaches agree that Clemson — the owner of the NCAA’s longest active win streak at 29 games — will be the toughest opponent LSU has faced this season.
With sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence heading the offense and a Brent Venables led defense, LSU is looking at tough competition come Monday night.
“He’s a young perfectionist,” LSU edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson said of Lawrence. “He’s a great quarterback. To play a national championship in both his years, I mean that’s something special. He’s young so every day he’s learning something new and he’s only going to get better.”
“He gets a one-on-one, he’s going to get the ball down the field, and then it shows you the type of championship quarterback he is that he started extending plays with his feet,” Orgeron agreed. “I thought he took the Ohio State game (in the Fiesta Bowl) in his own hands to win that football game, and you can see his determination and his grit and his courage, just like you see in our quarterback.”
Chaisson believes that LSU still has not played its best football yet this season. They have one more chance to do so on Monday. He said he was impressed most with Clemson’s level of talent at all positions — from quarterback, to running back Travis Etienne to receiver Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross.
Heisman winner Joe Burrow and the LSU offense will have another test against Brent Venables’ Clemson defense. Offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger said that Venables is the best defensive coordinator LSU has faced.
Linebacker Isiah Simmons is second on the team with 97 total tackles on the season, with 14 tackles for loss and three interceptions. Burrow said the key will be to find Simmons on every play and adjust to what he does.
“I think what he does best is when they just let him roam the field in the middle and read my eyes, just get all the different throws through the middle of the field,” Burrow said of Simmons. “I think he’s really, really good at that. He’s really fast, super explosive, good tackler. He’s super tough to defend when he’s running that middle of the field.”
Above all, Monday night will be the culmination of what has been a magical season for LSU.
Every award and win that came before this means nothing to Burrow or anybody else on this team is it doesn’t end in a victory on Monday.
“We want to be great,” Orgeron said. “To finish the season strong with a win is our goal, and that’s going to be a tough task. But we didn’t look at it as hey, man, we’ve got to go down there and win the National Championship, it’s going to be bigger than ever. We’ve got to play well enough to beat Clemson, and that’s been our focus. We’ve done that every week.
“So we weren’t going to change that, not make it bigger than it is.”