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One big game, two big cats. Pronunciations vary, but you’ll hear plenty of “Go Tigers” (“Geaux Tigahs” for the bayou folks) on Monday night in New Orleans (N’awlins).

 

We know one thing for certain. The Joe Burrow era at LSU will come to an end, capping a record-breaking, Heisman-winning senior campaign that saw the Ohio native break both the single season SEC passing yardage and touchdowns records (4,275 yards by Tim Couch and 44 TDs by Drew Lock, respectively). He’s also on track to surpass Colt McCoy’s 76.7{e5a2c78333cd2b046c434d71e2429f0c16f5e72c19badef2b307d6f8033092f8} one-year completion percentage mark set back in 2008. The point to all of this? LSU’s offense is dynamic, and they are led by one of the best college quarterbacks to ever take the field.

 

Meanwhile, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence and his hair have gone under the radar throughout 2019. Many were expecting a Heisman-caliber effort from the sophomore. Instead, he disappointed by throwing for more yards (3,431), touchdowns (36), and a higher completion percentage (67.6{e5a2c78333cd2b046c434d71e2429f0c16f5e72c19badef2b307d6f8033092f8}) than he did in his stellar freshman year. What a shame.

 

Oddsmakers have set the spread for the CFP Final at six (-6) in favor of LSU, while the over/under sits at 69.5. Quarterback praise aside, here are three takeaways from the semi-final games that should translate to a fair amount of points on Monday evening.

1. LSU’s Tempo

The opening drive of the Fiesta Bowl should be scrutinized over and over again in the LSU offensive film room this week. Ohio State came out firing at the Clemson defense, resulting in a 10-play, 71-yard drive and three points in less than three minutes. Tempo will be critical in this game, and LSU has the personnel to be able to quickly diagnose matchup opportunities within the framework of their RPO-based attack. Think of receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson as the new Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. I don’t know a defense in America that would volunteer to face that duo. If LSU can push the pace and force Clemson to play catch-up, the total will go over.

2. Red Zone Touchdown Scoring

Finishing off drives in the red zone is another key to the game. LSU had their way with the Sooners defense and was never challenged in this area, but Clemson poses a unique threat. Look for the “Tigahs” to try to isolate a now-healthy Clyde Edwards-Helaire on linebacker/safety hybrid Isaiah Simmons out wide, but only for the purpose of taking Simmons out of the box and away from the middle of the field in condensed areas.

 

Ohio State’s red zone struggles against Clemson were glaring. Heck, J.K. Dobbins dropped 11 points worth of passes alone. Lucky for LSU, their offense leads the nation in red zone efficiency, converting on all but 2 of 70 attempts inside the 20 through their first 14 contests (55 of 68 were touchdowns). Lack of scoring in this key area of the field proved fatal for Ryan Day’s bunch. Don’t expect Steve Ensminger or Joe Brady to make those same mistakes. As for Dabo’s crew, pounding the rock with Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence near the goal line is a must.

3. The Deep Ball

Not too much talk about Clemson so far, but I’ll make up for it here. If there’s an area that LSU can be exploited, it’s in man coverage on double-moves or fade routes. I know, I know. Louisiana State’s secondary features 4 future NFL’ers, but they have a propensity to give up the big play. Texas’ Sam Ehlinger completed 12 passes of 15 yards or more back in early September, and Tua did the same against the Tigers in Tuscaloosa. Clemson has an electric receiving core, headlined by Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. The two week layoff should do wonders for their health, so both of these guys at full strength are quite the cover for any opposing secondary. Oh, and Higgins averages 19.9 yards per reception, good for 10th in the nation.

 

The Pick: Over 69.5… bet on it.

 

“Bet On It” record: 5-4

 

Title image by Mike Zarrilli / Getty Images