On Monday, Jan 13, Clemson and LSU played in the final game of the college football season, the national championship game. Let’s look at what they had to do to get to this point.
LSU, the #1 seed in the CFP, had dominated its schedule up to this point. The Tigers from the bayou have gone 14-0, notching impressive wins over elite teams such as Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. In the playoff semifinal, LSU ran Oklahoma out of the stadium 63-28. LSU also has the nation’s best quarterback and Heisman winner, Joe Burrow. Versus Oklahoma, he was 21-27 for 403 yards and seven touchdowns in the first half. LSU is led by the Louisiana legend Ed Orgeron.
Clemson, the #3 seed, was also 14-0. In the first half of their season, Clemson did not look like the defending national champions. They were struggling at times in the lowly ACC, with Trevor Lawrence throwing uncharacteristic interceptions and Clemson almost losing to UNC. However, the Tigers from South Carolina pulled it together in the second half of the season, looking like a championship-caliber team on their way to a playoff berth where they narrowly beat Ohio State in the semifinal.
The first quarter started with four punts before Clemson drove 67 yards for a touchdown in 5 plays. The teams then traded punts before LSU completed a touchdown drive, accentuated by a 52 yard TD pass from Burrow to Ja’marr Chase. At the end of the first quarter, the teams looked evenly matched, and the game was shaping up to be another classic. Clemson added a field goal to finish their last drive before the end of the first quarter. LSU could not answer, and Clemson drove all the way down the field for another touchdown to go up 17-7. Clemson was in control of the game and looked like they were going to pull off a stunner against a favored #1 seeded opponent, similar to the 2019 championship game. However, this is when Joe Burrow finally got the offense rolling. By the end of the half, the Heisman Trophy winner had cashed in three straight touchdown drives to put LSU up 28-17. He had passed for two and ran for one, and wideout Ja’marr Chase was playing lights out.
Clemson had momentum for most of the first half, but LSU started the second half riding the wave of three straight touchdown drives. However, they immediately went three and out and Clemson seized upon the opportunity to swing the game back in their favor. They capitalized on a fifty-yard drive, scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion, and got a field goal away from tying LSU, at 25-28. Clemson would not score again. Joe Burrow led two more touchdown drives, and the orange and white offense sputtered to seal LSU’s perfect season and their national championship.