Monday Night will bring one of the marquee events of the sports betting calendar as the LSU Tigers take on the Clemson Tigers for the College Football National Championship. We’ve already discussed the onslaught of public money backing favored LSU and there are few better ideas in sports betting than to be a contrarian and go against this type of lopsided action. In this preview, however, we’ll look at the matchup without considering the ‘meta’ of the sports betting marketplace and focus on the two teams themselves.
First of all, nothing but respect for LSU who have gone 14-0 SU/9-4-1 ATS to this point. For much of the regular season, they were in a similar situation as Clemson as the mainstream sports media did everything they could to ‘put over’ Ohio State. They might not have been buried to the same degree as Clemson but with the national sports media hating the SEC’s endless domination of college football they were definitely minimized. The Buckeye hype was insufficient to deny QB Joe Burrow the Heisman Trophy and LSU once again looked dominant in the CFP Semifinal as they brutalized Oklahoma en route to a 63-28 win.
The mainstream ‘take’ on Clemson this year is that they’re somehow ‘down’ from recent vintage Tiger teams. In particular, sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence has supposedly ‘regressed’ since last year. These axioms quickly became a mantra after a couple of substandard performances by Lawrence early in the year and particularly after Clemson’s narrow escape against North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The problem is that while the reality of the situation has changed completely since then, the mainstream media never really bothers to revise a convenient concept once they establish it. Throw in the relatively weak level of competition in the ACC and the media had all they needed to dismiss Clemson throughout the year.
Clemson was admittedly fortunate to escape with a win at North Carolina but otherwise this year has been as dominant as ever for the Tigers. Clemson went 14-0 SU this season but more impressively were 11-3 ATS. As National Champions, they’re not sneaking up on anybody. Even so, they took care of business on a weekly basis and made short work of bloated lines. They’ve been at their most impressive since the North Carolina game. Since then, they’ve gone 9-0 SU/8-1 ATS. Their only pointspread loss during that stretch was in a 59-14 win over FCS foe Wofford in which they failed to cover as -49 point chalk.
There’s been no effort to revise the narrative that Clemson was the beneficiary of favorable scheduling and a weak conference despite their win over Ohio State. That is very relevant since they didn’t play their best game–particularly at first–yet they took Ohio State’s best shot and got off the mat to emerge victorious. Even when the Buckeyes opened up a 16-0 lead in the second quarter Dabo Swinney’s Tigers never panicked and never lost their poise. Clemson might prefer a ‘tiger’ sobriquet but in that game they showed the heart of a lion. Their tenacity combined with undisciplined play by Ohio State allowed them to come back for the win.
Once again, nothing but respect for LSU. Ultimately, however, we love the mental and physical toughness the Tigers showed against LSU. This is a team that hasn’t lost since the CFP Semifinals in 2017 yet are getting nearly a full touchdown. Clemson has shown a knack for gutsy performances in high stakes situations throughout their recent run of success. LSU’s prolific offense can put up numbers but they’ll be tested by a nasty Clemson defense that hasn’t allowed an opponent to score 35 points since November 2016. The Tigers are a handful on defense and their offense has been humming along with QB Lawrence getting great support from RB Travis Etienne and receivers Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins–all with the exception of Lawrence (he’s not eligible for the draft yet) will be playing on Sundays next year.
Clemson wins their third national title in four years in a hard fought game. The points are a nice margin for error but probably won’t come into play as the Clemson Tigers win this game outright.