CFP National Championship Preview

Jan 13, 2020

Brady King


Photo Cred: AP Image
The FCS playoffs just finished up, and lo and behold, the Bison dynasty continues. Crazy right? The best of the best in the Football Championship Subdivision were given a chance to dethrone the king of the hill but once again they came in second.

Tonight, we have a chance to witness the most dominant FBS dynasty in the College Football Playoff’s short existence. Even if they “fail,” they will still be tied with the other monolith, Alabama. The semi-finals didn’t do anything to reinforce the argument for expanding the playoffs with LSU’s blowout of the Sooners, but that’s another conversation for another day.

Gumbo Joe and the rest of the LSU Tigers are set to clash with the Clemson Tigers in the CFP National Championship tonight at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

We’ve all heard the dad joke by now, “I’m picking the Tigers to win it all,” but let’s get past that and take a closer look at some numbers for each of the Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship.

While my dad, a former football coach, has eye-rolling humor, he’s serious about the three categories that can make the biggest difference in a big game: penalties, special teams and turnovers. I am going to touch on this trifecta. 

Clemson’s strength of schedule is not worrisome coming into this showdown because they have discredited this argument with their two prior championships. They belong. Since each team is starting a future #1 pick at QB1, I’m expecting the offenses to put on a show. I’m taking the over. 

It really does seem like it will come down to the big plays on defense and special teams and the disposition and imposition of the zebras. Let’s take some basic stats out of context to see how much insight we think it gives us. 

These numbers are based off the entire regular season for each team.

Blocked punts/field goals margin
LSU +1; Clemson 0

Kickoff Return Defense
Clemson 17.5 y/a; LSU 21 y/a

Kickoff Return Offense
Clemson 22.2; LSU 20.8

Net Punting
Clemson 40; LSU 38.2

Punt Return Defense
Clemson 9.6; LSU 16.7

Punt Return Offense
LSU 12.3 (2 TDs); Clemson 6.4 (0 TDs)

Field Goals
LSU 21-26; Clemson 13-22

Clemson 77-77; LSU 83-87 

While Clemson beats LSU in more overall categories, the edge still goes to LSU. Clemson did not record a block or return touchdown while LSU recorded two of each. Big time players make big time plays in big time games, and despite Clemson’s stout roster on paper, LSU has more of those. 

LSU's Cade York has been an impressive freshman, coming in 3rd in the NCAA in total points scored. He is 4-for-5 on 50-plus yard field goals. If I’m wrong about the offensive fireworks, maybe he’ll end up being game MVP. He will at least be a candidate for the Lou Groza at some point in his career.

Turnovers are an easy stat to compare, so let’s just take this number at face value.

Turnover Margin
Clemson 5th at +14, (28 takeaways-14 giveaways); 
LSU 16th at +8, (20 takeaways-12 giveaways)

Those numbers get skewed when a back-up quarterback throws a pick in garbage time. Still, Lawrence set the bar so high in 2018 that when he doubled up his interception total from last year, critics had what they needed. It’s amazing how we are trained to see flaws first and beauty second.
Lawrence threw a modest eight interceptions on 370 attempts, while Burrow threw six picks on 478 attempts. I am predicting if either quarterback throws an interception in the championship, it will be off a tip or deflection. 

The turnover edge goes to Clemson because of their defense. Eight more takeaways than LSU is substantial. 

Penalties depend on the officiating crew, but let’s hope this game has a good rhythm. 

Penalties per game
Clemson 5.54; LSU 6

Penalty Yards per game
Clemson 44; LSU 59.1

The edge objectively goes to Clemson, though it is slight. 


Overall, while my head screams Louisiana State after looking at other offensive and defensive team stats, along with Burrow’s Heisman, my heart stands with Clemson. After doubting them last year, I will not repeat the same mistake.

I will not be disappointed as long as it’s competitive game. Or if I can avoid my dad telling me he told me so. Yes dad, the Tigers won it all.


BRADY KING - Clemson 36, LSU 34 (Like I said, the over.)
ROHAN DANG - LSU 38, Clemson 31 (Like the Price Is Right, just an inch under.)
BOBBY THAKKAR - LSU 9, Clemson 8 (Defense wins championships.)
AARON KING - LSU 43, Clemson 34 (Clemson has heart, but LSU is just too good.)


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