It’s a battle of Tigers on Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship game. In addition to the nickname, both LSU and Clemson share many commonalities: talented quarterbacks, high-powered offenses, and unbeaten records to name just a few.
Throw all that out the window. For one Monday night in January, it’s just Clemson-LSU for the national title…and, of course, we bettors who want to make some bank. Coach Rick sees it like this…
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Current Line: CLEM +5.5 Total: 67.5
TV Coverage: ESPN
We have two of the most prolific offenses in the country. LSU leads the nation averaging 48.9 points a game. Clemson checks in at 45.3.
With numbers like that, you might get all warm and fuzzy for the Total, which currently sits at 67.5. LSU smoked Oklahoma in the semifinal 63-28 and while Clemson’s semifinal victory over Ohio State (29-23) netted just 52 points, the Tigers did beat Virginia 62-17 in the ACC championship game.
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Before you start getting all lathered up dreaming of a Joe Burrow-Trevor Lawrence pass-happy touchdown fest, don’t forget to consider the defenses.
Clemson, for all its offensive exploits, is the nation’s top-ranked scoring defense. During the regular season, the Tigers held opponents to 10.6 points per game. The 23 scored by Ohio State in the semifinal was the Buckeyes lowest output of the season.
LSU did have some defensive difficulties during the season – Ole Miss rushed for 402 yards against the Tigers – but since playing the Rebels, LSU has allowed opponents just 86 rushing yards, 184 passing yards, and 16.3 points per game. And, of course, the Tigers have another All-American defensive back in safety Grant Delpit.
One has to consider the Heisman Trophy winner Burrow and his battle against Clemson’s Lawrence.
Burrow was 21-of-27 for 403 yards and seven touchdowns against Oklahoma in the semifinal. Yeah, that was in the FIRST HALF! Burrow is the guy that runs the show, but LSU has NFL-caliber players at all of their skill positions.
All Lawrence has done in his two years at Clemson is win a national championship as a true freshman and go 25-0 as a starter. He has yet to lose a game and was the difference maker in the win over Ohio State. He ran for 107 yards and led Clemson to a game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Then, there is the whole home-field advantage. Technically, it’s a neutral site game, but LSU gets the benefit of playing in New Orleans in its home state.
To bring it all a conclusion, let’s examine Clemson’s record against the spread. They are 5-0 ATS in their last five games. They are 8-1 ATS in their last nine games as an underdog. Speaking of underdogs, how many No. 1 seeds in the College Football Playoff have won the national championship?
If you guessed anything greater than zero, you’re wrong. Not one top seed has ever won the CFP title. Now, this could be the year that a No. 1 seed wins, which is why we’re taking Clemson +5.5. This should be an epic battle and should be close…close enough for us to pad the bankroll.
CFP National Championship Free Pick Against the Spread: Clemson +5.5
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.