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ATVS Roundtable: WE GOIN’ TO THE SHIP!

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The krewe tackles LSU’s shot at the national championship against the defending champ.

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - LSU v Oklahoma

LSU. Clemson. The national championship. In New Orleans. What do we think?

Corey

Winning it by at least two touchdowns. I really don’t think they can stop this offense. Justin Fields went 30-of-46 for 320 yards with a bum knee. Edwards-Helaire will be back 100 percent, and Dobbins had lanes to run as evidenced by his two long touchdowns. Our defense did a great job of keeping Jalen Hurts in the pocket while getting pressure, and I think if they make Lawrence just a passer, then we should be fine. Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins are big receivers, but that plays into the style of Stingley and Fulton, who held Lamb in check outside of one perfect deep ball. I can’t remember the exact verbiage, but I think if they squeeze that space like they did to the Oklahoma offense to stop Lawrence and Etienne breaking free, it will be a long day for Clemson.

Not to mention, there will be a serious home game feel with that crowd, and we know damn well that New Orleans won’t be running out of beer for these LSU Tiger faithful.

Jake

I like the match up better than I would have Ohio State. Clemson does not really do anything super complex or impressive schematically on offense. They basically just ask Lawrence, their NFL QB, to throw one on one balls to their NFL receivers. And they have an NFL back. It works because they have NFL dudes but they don’t beat you by out-thinking you or running difficult concepts. They beat you because they have way better players. But as we saw against Ohio State, if you have NFL DBs you can make things much more difficult for them and LSU has NFL DBs. I like the match up of Stingley and Fulton on Higgins and Ross. It’s gonna be way harder for Clemson to win one-on-ones with those dudes on the other side.

Also, they don’t have an elite pass rush the way Ohio State does and the way you beat Burrow is by sacking him. Getting pressure on him does not do anything, you have to put him on the ground. And I don’t think they do that as well as OSU. They had some big sacks but OSU is more prone to sacks than LSU’s OL.

It’s still obviously a difficult match up because this is either the first- or second-most talented team LSU has played and it’s hard to beat a team with so many NFL guys all over the field. And they have a championship mojo and moxie that seems unique to them, they always seem to make the big play. But so has LSU all year and I think they will again.

Dan

Clemson’s won 30 straight games for a reason. As easy as it is to be cheeky about Dabo’s “little ole Clemson” schtick, the responses above illustrate the continued perspective that they are somehow a tier below their competition. He’s wrong that it’s the prevailing opinion but he’s not wrong that it’s an opinion discussed by some.

There’s plenty of reasons to worry about Clemson. Namely, this is the first truly competent passer LSU’s faced since Tua, who absolutely torched their secondary. This is probably the second best tandem of receivers LSU’s faced all season, and they are of a different mold than Bama’s guys, who mostly win on speed, quickness and route running. Higgins/Ross are big-bodied types that make you make plays on the ball in the air. What Clemson has going for them is that Lawrence is near Burrow-level in his accuracy and decision making. He lacks the absurd consistency (Lawrence threw under 60 percent three times in 2019, including in the Fiesta Bowl, whereas Burrow didn’t once dip below 70). Lawrence is the type of guy that can heat up and put together some simply jaw-dropping plays.

Defensively, Clemson’s not the FINAL BOSS the team fielded last year or even in their previous title season. That said, they’ve got arguably the best defensive coordinator in football scheming them up. Venables is not afraid to get exotic and mix things up and Clemson rises to those challenges routinely. With two weeks to prepare, I suspect they will have a good plan with some wrinkles they haven’t put on tape in 2019. This is the most complete opponent LSU’s faced all season. They are strong on both sides of the football and don’t have a weakness you can isolate (i.e. Jalen Hurts’ lack of passing prowess made OU one-dimensional and easier to scheme up). They suck at special teams, and maybe the staff can isolate a weakness there, though LSU’s not really opted to use that as a weapon this season, instead playing it safe in putting the ball back in Burrow’s hands.

This game will be competitive. LSU’s not played a down game on offense yet. People point to the Auburn game, but when your off night on the season is 23 points and 508 yards, things are going pretty well. I like LSU because, ultimately, their offense is one that allows them to pummel opponents however they choose. Try to swallow the run game, Burrow will pepper you with passes to any of his talented targets. Try to bottle-up Chase, Burrow will find Jefferson/Marshall/Moss. Try to bring pressure, Burrow’s the best QB in college history against it. Try to drop bodies into coverage, LSU can eat chunk yards on the ground with Clyde and Burrow. It’s a choose your own adventure book in which every last page of the path you chose winds up in your demise.

I suspect Clemson keeps it close in ways other offenses have wilted at LSU’s constant assault, but in the end Burrow and this offense are just too much while the defense makes just enough stops to give them cushion to finish the job.

Billy

You know, it’s funny; watching the Fiesta Bowl live, I found myself thinking that I’d rather see Clemson than Ohio State based on how the Buckeye defense was looking.

But this feels right. Clemson’s been on that list of “why them and not us?” teams that LSU fans have been looking up at in recent years. Why can they beat Alabama? Why can they bring in all these top-shelf QBs? And now, to win a championship LSU has to end a 30-game winning streak and beat the team that made *Alabama*, the team that’s been LSU’s FINAL BOSS this decade, look like a bunch of chumps a year ago. It’s like we killed the big bad monster and found out now we gotta go through its daddy.

Then you get the contrast of teetotaler, Megachurch Pastor Dabo against Ed Orgeron and the whole damn state of Louisiana behind him. The comparisons of a quarterback prospect that’s looked downright unnatural at times in Trevor Lawrence, against one that’s had a video game-type of season in Joe Burrow. Plus there’s also two of the highest-paid, call-their-own-shot-level defensive coordinators in Dave Aranda and Brent Venables.

Two big, freakish receiver prospects for Clemson against two big, freakish corners for LSU. One of the best big-play runners — and one of our greatest recruiting failures — against a defense that’s given up a few big runs at times. The Clemson defense that’s still been able to shut down almost everyone they’ve seen, versus an offense that’s been able to beat every defense’s it seen in every way available.

It’s going to be a wild atmosphere, one of the most hyped up match-ups in college football history and maybe the hardest ticket in LSU history. I just hope reality meets it.

Zach

What’s that X-Files saying? “I want to believe”? That’s where I am. I want to believe that there is no possible scenario where this LSU team doesn’t get the storybook ending for the most magical, exciting, fun season in program history. And yet I’m terrified that something somehow will go wrong.

I was a freshman in LSU’s band for the 2011 season; I was in the Dome that ill fated night in January when that LSU team was supposed to be crowned as the best team ever. Twelve months later, I was in the Georgia Dome kicking my seat repeatedly as these very same Clemson Tigers beat LSU and started its trend upwards. That’s no way to live I know, I guess being there in person leaves scars.

But all that being said, I can’t imagine a scenario where LSU doesn’t finish the job. The 1/9/12 disaster has nothing to do with this 2019 team; the 2012 team losing to Clemson 25-24 on December 31, 2012 is irrelevant to the here and now. This 2019 LSU team is an entirely different animal, it’s been too good all season long. The offense hasn’t had a single misstep all season long; the defense has been playing its best ball of the year the last few games. It’s a de facto home game and the team will be led by Louisiana’s favorite son, Ed Orgeron and it’s adopted son Joe Burrow. Sure I’m nervous, but I’m going to enjoy every second of January 13.

Saltzman

I’m trying not to read too much into Saturday’s game, because it was painfully obvious that neither team had played an opponent of that quality all season. What concerns me about Clemson is that this is the deepest group of skill position guys LSU has played against since Bama. Plus Clemson figures to have a healthy Trevor Lawrence, which can’t really be said about Tua in November and Travis Eitenne is the best running back LSU has faced all season. All that said, the LSU defense is much improved, healthier, and getting Michael Divinity back. Kind of like the Oklahoma game, I think the expectations is that the defense is going to allow some points but the unit should not be overwhelmed by the Clemson offense.

On offense, I’m sort of of two minds. The Auburn blueprint of show a new look gives at least some kind of loose plan to stopping the offense, which I’m sure Brent Venables will look to do. At the same time Auburn had two crazy dominant defensive linemen that played at least some role in allowing for that flexibility, as evidenced by how many times Auburn stopped LSU on the goal line. Clemson’s d-line doesn't seem to have those level of players. As long as the offense doesn't get fixed on feeding the ball to one specific player, which hasn’t happened this year, Burrow and company should be pretty set.

Poseur

One of the difficulties of assessing Clemson is how poor their schedule is. They are the defending national champion, they beat Ohio St, and they recruit on an elite level, but... I mean, it is so hard to get a read on a team that essentially has played one top 25 team all season. They could be awesome or that could have been a fluke based on some fortunate bounces and favorable calls. No one really knows.

What we do know is that Travis Etienne is the best back we will see all year, and Trevor Lawrence is either the best or second best quarterback we’ll see, based on how you rate an injured Tua. It would be foolish to take this team lightly. Clemson has proven over the past few years it can score, and Brent Venables is one of the elite defensive minds in football. While this Clemson team lacks the skins this season, it’s better to cast on the side of caution. This is an elite team that hasn’t lost a football game in two years.

Bring it on. We are past the point of worrying about the other guys. If LSU can play its best game, it will win. And that’s all we should concern ourselves with. Stop worrying about them, have them worry about us.