The college football season comes to a close Monday in New Orleans as Clemson meets LSU in what some are calling this the best national title game since Texas met USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl. That’s a big billing to live up to, but this battle of Tigers should be up to the task.
Clemson has won 29 consecutive football games, is playing in the national title game for the fourth time in five years and are looking to become the first repeat champion since Alabama did it in 2011-12. But thanks to a soft schedule, many are overlooking Clemson as 6-point underdogs, which is just the way Dabo Swinney likes it. The Carolina Cats got here after taking a shot in the mouth from Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl before coming back to win 29-23.
But Clemson will have its hands full with one of the most prolific offenses in college football history, led by Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. The Bayou Bengals had one of the most impressive runs to the national title game in recent memory, defeating Texas, Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Georgia before demolishing Oklahoma 63-28 in the Peach Bowl.
And of course, both teams were good bets this season with Clemson going 11-5 ATS while LSU went 9-5 ATS. So, who has the edge in this epic matchup? From the opening kickoff to when confetti showers the field, we break down the best ways to wager the odds for the 2020 CFP National Championship Game.
CLEMSON TIGERS VS LSU TIGERS (-6, 69.5)
This national championship is a matchup of the two best offenses and the two bets quarterbacks in the country.
Burrow’s numbers are stunning. The Heisman winner has thrown for a ridiculous 5,208 yards with 55 touchdowns compared to just six picks while completing 77.6 percent of his passes. He led an offense that ranked first in total yards and third in scoring at 47.8 points per game.
But Lawrence and Clemson weren’t too far behind, ranking third in total yards and fourth in points per contest at 46.5. And after a bit of an inconsistent start to the season Lawrence came on strong. In his last seven games he’s thrown for 1,897 yards on 72.9 percent passing with 22 touchdowns and no picks.
So, it should come as no surprise that these prolific offenses come flying out of the gates. LSU and Clemson rank second and fourth respectively when it comes to first quarter scoring. LSU averages 12.0 first quarter points per game, while Clemson is not top shabby at 11.5.
With two quick strike offenses, we like this game to start with a bang.
Pick: Over 14.5 First Quarter Total (-115)
FIRST HALF BET
These teams are so evenly matched at so many positions, it may come down to some intangibles that decides this game. And the one place Clemson has a big advantage over LSU is in championship pedigree. The bright lights certainly won’t be a problem for Trevor Lawrence and Co. but how will Burrow and the Bayou Bengals handle it?
LSU is receiving all the attention heading into what is essentially a home game. And deservedly so. LSU dominated the SEC on the way to a 14-0 record, which included wins over Florida, Auburn, at Alabama and at Georgia.
But LSU hasn’t been in too many situations where it hasn’t gotten off to a good start. So, what happens if Clemson comes out here and smacks them in the mouth, or at the very least shows they are capable of keeping up. And you know Clemson can do that. In last year’s national championship Clemson tallied two touchdowns less than five minutes into the game on their way to a 31-17 halftime lead, and an eventual route of Alabama.
Will all that noise of “LSU is a team of destiny” get into their heads and allow Clemson to show they mean businnes, potentially taking that home crowd out of it early. We like Clemson to keep this one close going into half.
Pick: Clemson +3.5 First Half Spread
CLEMSON TEAM/PLAYER PROP
Clemson had to deal with an elite Ohio State defense in the Fiesta Bowl, and the Buckeyes di a decent job of containing Lawrence early on. But the likely No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL draft showed how dangerous he can be by rushing for 107 yards which included an eye-popping 67-yard scamper for a score in the second quarter. But that creates an interesting betting opportunity.
Lawrence’s rushing total for this game is on the board as high as 59.5 at some shops thanks likely to that one big run. Running is certainly part of his game, but there was definitely an emphasis put on it to help neutralize Chase Young and the Ohio State defense. Otherwise, Lawrence has only gone Over that number twice all year.
Pick: Trevor Lawrence Under 59.5 Rushing Yards
LSU TEAM/PLAYER PROP
This might be my favorite prop for the national championship. Everything positive said about Burrow this season, he has earned. The guy has been absolutely phenomenal. But once again, that excellence has created some betting value. You can find Burrow’s passing yard total as high as 375.5. Let’s repeat that 375.5! That’s insane.
Burrow has been awesome, but there is definitely some recency bias baked into that number since we all just saw Burrow pick apart Oklahoma for 493 yards and seven touchdowns. But that’s what he did all season against bad defenses. Against better ones he looked a little more mortal. In games against Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Georgia, Burrow averaged 339 passing yards per game and Clemson is the best defense he will have faced all season. We’re not saying Clemson will shut Burrow down, but at 375.5, the Under is too good to pass up.
Pick: Joe Burrow Under 375.5 Passing Yards
FULL GAME TOTAL
The total for this game is hovering around 69.5 and why not? These teams can score with the best of ‘em, thanks to their elite quarterback play and skill position talent.
Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson gives LSU the edge in wide receivers over Tee Higgins and Co., with the pair combining for nearly 3,000 yards and 36 touchdowns. But while on the surface this game is all about passing, the two most important players might be the running backs. Clyde Edwards-Helaire for LSU and Travis Etienne for LSU.
Edwards-Helaire is reportedly healthy after injuring a hamstring before the Peach Bowl and that’s a big deal for LSU. J.K. Dobbins showed that Clemson can be run on and if Edwards-Helaire is near 100 percent healthy, like Dobbins has been at his best in LSU’s biggest games. Against Florida, Auburn and Alabama he racked up 373 yards running at a clip of 5.4 yards per carry. Clemson will have to contain him in hopes of making the LSU offense one dimensional.
On the other side, Etienne also shows up in the biggest games. He has 619 total yards and nine touchdowns in five conference championship/College Football Playoff games over the past two seasons. And LSU has struggled against some good runners. Clemson has also proved they can move Etienne around and use him in the passing game with him making three catches for 98 yards and two scores against Ohio State.
The team whose back finds the most success in this game will have an inside track to winning the title. Which means the running attack will be more integral to this game than most will realize and will help keep this game below a high number.
Pick: Under 69.5
FULL GAME SIDE
Picking a side in this national championship is all about key matchups and value. These teams are just two evenly matched for one team to be getting 6-points. So, we’re going with Clemson.
But it’s the little differences that will make this come to fruition. First, as mentioned, is Clemson has the championship pedigree. They know how to handle all of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the game. Not to mention the pressure.
Clemson has the more versatile back on its roster in Etienne. He is the one we are expecting to have the bigger game of the two.
Lastly, if there is any defensive coordinator in the country that can come up with a scheme to at the very least slow down the juggernaut that is Joe Burrow and LSU, it’s Clemson’s Brent Venables. He will use his athletic linebackers to try and confuse and pressure Burrow in the passing game, hopefully forcing a bad throw or two. If Clemson can take advantage of that, they can win.
Either way, it should be an epic national championship, but were taking the points with the defending champs.
Bonus: If you’re betting Clemson to win, look for Travis Etienne to win Offensive MVP. At least one book has him at +1,300.
Pick: Clemson +6
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