Congrats to the new national champions
I expected the College Football Playoffs National Championship to be a lot closer than it was, but the end result was what I expected.
LSU is the National Champion, leaving no room for doubt. The past 15 games have been legendary for the Tigers. I would even say they are one of the best football teams of all time, if not the best, period.
Clemson’s defense certainly had LSU on its heels for a good bit of the first quarter. Brent Venables had some great coverages and schemes drawn up to confuse Joe Burrow and prevent those big, explosive plays he and his receiver corps have become known for. It could only last so long. LSU trailed 17-7 before rocketing their way back into the game, never once turning back to look as Clemson did everything it could to keep up. Pedal to the metal, as they say.
Trevor Lawrence was setting himself up for another legendary Natty performance, but the LSU defense was getting to him. He was flushed out of the pocket often, especially in the second half. The pressure was getting to his head, and he was overthrowing receivers, taking weird angles that were just shy of connecting. Then he threw the interception, and you could tell by the look on his face he knew it was over.
I haven’t checked my map, but New Orleans may or may not still be standing at the time of writing this column. The atmosphere at the Superdome was what college football is all about: noise, tradition and passion. The raucous, energetic LSU fan base had the entire city of New Orleans shaking. There are fans still partying, I’m sure. Man, imagine a home state National Championship. It doesn’t get much better than that.
So what’s next for both of these teams? You can go ahead and write in Clemson for next year’s playoff. With how easy its schedule is and the juggernaut it has become, I have no doubt Clemson will be competing. Trevor Lawrence will be a junior and eager to enter the NFL with a second National Championship under his belt.
LSU is a little more difficult to say. Joe Burrow is leaving, and a lot of that magic will be gone. Joe Brady, the passing game coordinator and a huge reason LSU became such a high-powered offense, is rumored to be taking an NFL job. It’s likely that D’Eriq King, a transfer from Houston, will land in Baton Rouge. Can he pick up the torch and reach the impossibly high bar that Burrow left behind? No, and he probably doesn’t need to. LSU will find a way to reload. It may not be another perfect season, but I’m willing to bet they’ll beat Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M again. Another trip to the SEC Championship is a likely possibility.
Teams all over the country now will look at the Ed Orgeron coaching template and attempt to replicate it. Orgeron swallowed his pride and took the hands-off approach, letting his talented assistants do what they do best. Look how well it worked! It can work at other programs, too, but it will take creative coaches and smart, coachable players like Joe Burrow.
Congratulations, LSU. Enjoy your moment. But the target is now on your back, and I wouldn’t stay too comfortable for too long.