Geaux Tigers!

LSU Completes the 15-0 Season with Win over Clemson

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the LSU Tigers celebrate their National Championship (photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

It was the sixth iteration of the rapidly-growing College Football Playoff. ESPN provided a whopping fifteen viewing and listening options for the game. Over seventy-five thousand people packed into the the storied Mercedes-Benz Superdome in East New Orleans. But at the center of it all was a team. Led by Louisiana native Ed Orgeron and transfer QB Joe Burrow, the Louisiana State University Tigers clawed to get to NOLA, where a home-field advantage was virtually guaranteed. It was only fitting their foe that night, January 13th, was the Clemson TIGERS. LSU had vanquished Tigers all season long, defeating the Auburn Tigers while going 8-0 in the SEC as compared to a 3-5 record for the Missouri Tigers. As for the fifth of the five Tiger teams in the FBS, LSU finished the season as the top-ranked college team, sixteen spots ahead of the top-ranked team from a non-Power Five conference. This team, of course, was none other than the Memphis TIGERS. So LSU had beaten one tiger team, one the conference of another, trumped a third in the rankings, and now it was time for the ultimate test. They had to face the defending champs, the Clemson Tigers.

Clemson came in strong. Riding a win streak through the 2018 and 2019 seasons that began after a semifinal loss to Alabama on New Years 2018 in New Orleans, Clemson returned a ton of pieces. Starting QB Trevor Lawrence (career 25-0 as a starter) as well as receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross, running back Travis Etienne, linebackers James Skalski and Isaiah Simmons, defensive backs AJ Terell and Tanner Muse, and punter Will Spiers all followed up the championship with another strong season in the orange and purple. Like LSU, Clemson entered the game 14-0 but with close games against UNC and Ohio State (the semifinal).

On the flip side, LSU cruised to a 63-28 victory over Oklahoma in the semifinals, their sixth top ten win of the season. The team was led by Joe Burrow, a former Ohio State backup who transferred in 2018, as well as the aforementioned Coach O. Burrow won the highest individual prize in college football, the Heisman Trophy, by a record margin as well as set the NCAA record for passing TDs in a season and the SEC record for season passing yards. Over the weekend, he was able to meet hero Saints signal-caller Drew Brees, another midwestern quarterback who emerged as a legend in Louisiana, even serving as the inspiration for Burrow wearing #9. For Orgeron, it was a match made in heaven. He hails from Larose, Louisiana, and had coaching stints at Northwestern State, McNeese State, and Nicholls State before making it to the mecca of colleges in Louisiana. Despite less successful runs with Southern Cal and Ole Miss, he has soared as leader of the Bayou Bengals (LSU Tigers), especially after bringing in Saints assistant Joe Brady to open up their offense.

I grew up wanting to be the head coach of LSU. I’m so proud of the state of Louisiana. We’ve had support from the governor, . . . from everybody that loves LSU. I’m just so happy for the people from Louisiana.”

— Ed Orgeron

The game itself went from defensive showdown to track meet real quick. After four consecutive punts on drives that combined for less than seven minutes, Clemson scored a touchdown on a short Lawrence run. After another fruitless possession for each team, Burrow dropped a 52-yard dime to Ja’Marr Chase to tie up the game. A Higgins running score and an unlikely 52-yard field goal for BT Potter sandwiched an LSU punt to put Clemson up 17-7, LSU’s largest deficit of the season. Then LSU took charge. Two more strikes through the air and one on foot for Burrow with Clemson punts in between gave LSU a quick 28-17 advantage heading into halftime. Halftime itself had some intrigue as the organizers named the top eleven college football players of all-time, but notably omitted linemen, defenders, and anyone who played in the 90s, 2000s, or 2010s. In the third quarter, Clemson cut the deficit to three with a touchdown and two-point conversion before LSU scored to bring it back to ten. Another insurance touchdown in the 4th quarter gave Burrow six total for the game to go with five hundred twenty-one yards and a 42-25 W.

When it was all said and done at 12:30 EST, LSU celebrated in their home state and Coach O gave us a quick “Go Tigahs” before accepting the trophy and yours truly finally went to sleep. As for next season, Clemson has already opened at 2-1 favorites to win the championship in 2021.

Note: Last month I published my own expanded playoffs (https://amhsnewspaper.com/33949/sports/december-madness/) that still had Clemson meet LSU in the title fight with a score of 28-24 in LSU’s favor. While I had LSU winning, I came up 14 points shy on the winning score though I was only a single point off for Clemson.