Back Championship Game Position Breakdowns

Back To ACC

Championship Game Position Breakdowns

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin.  Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page

Position by position advantages for Clemson vs LSU.

The wait is over. A national championship showdown for the ages is here, with two undefeated teams vying to make history. Defending national champion Clemson is riding a 29-game winning streak, one victory away from setting an ACC record. With six wins over top ten teams, LSU has one of the most impressive resumes the game has ever seen. All eyes are on New Orleans, as two modern powerhouses compete for college football's biggest prize. Clearly, the two best teams in the country have advanced to the final game; consider the stage officially set.

Position-by-position breakdowns;

Quarterback --  Beyond just the teams, the matchup under center is one for the ages. On one side, LSU's Joe Burrow has won just about every individual honor out there, the Heisman Trophy included. He is rewriting the SEC record books, with 5,208 passing yards and 55 passing touchdowns, and will likely soon own college football's single-season completion percentage mark, with him currently at 77.6%. Burrow, in his last game, had over 400 yards passing and seven touchdowns -- in the first half. On the other side, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, already with a national championship ring, has never lost. He is 24-0 as a starter, boasting rare production himself along the way. Lawrence has 36 passing touchdowns, eight rushing scores and is fresh off his first career 100-yard game on the ground, with 107 against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Quite notably, Lawrence has played in three College Football Playoff games; he earned MVP honors each time. Though it's incredibly difficult to find separation here, Lawrence's poise when the pressure is own may be his best trait. Down 16 to the Buckeyes, with momentum clearly in Ohio State's favor, Lawrence rallied the Tigers back. Given that he, still an underclassman, has been there and done that, Lawrence gets an ever-so-slight lean. Advantage -- Clemson

Running Back -- Travis Etienne, who has also yet to lose a game as a starter at Clemson, has earned a place amongst the all-time greats at the position. He, a relatively-unassuming superstar, has followed up 1,658 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns as a sophomore with 1,536 rushing yards and 18 scores as a junior; Etienne has averaged eight yards per carry both seasons. Beyond his rushing proficiency, Etienne has now added a receiving element to his game. Etienne's two touchdown catches, along with a career-high total of 98 yards, were critical in the Tigers' win over Ohio State. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been his own unsung hero for LSU, compiling 1,304 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, along with 50 total receptions. In the spotlight matchup of the season, with the purple-and-gold Tigers winning at Alabama, Edwards-Helaire starred with 103 rushing yards and three scores, adding a touchdown catch. His importance to LSU cannot be overstated. Both running backs, here, are versatile, vital playmakers. The historic work of Etienne, along with the depth added by Lyn-J Dixon, make the difference for the defending national champions. Advantage -- Clemson

Receivers -- The next-level talent on the perimeter is striking. Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, for LSU, and Clemson's Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers are prototypical number one targets. Chase, the Biletnikoff Award winner, leads the SEC with 1,559 yards and is the only Power Five receiver this millennium with 1,500 receiving yards, 20 yards per catch and at least 15 touchdowns. Correspondingly, Jefferson paces the league with 102 catches. Then there's slot option Terrance Marshall, who has 12 touchdown receptions. Higgins has been the most consistent star for Trevor Lawrence, a downfield threat with 1,115 yards and 13 scores. Athletic and fluid, he is a jump ball specialist. One of the game's difference-makers may prove to be LSU's tight end Thaddeus Moss. The son of Randy Moss, he has 42 receptions on the season and is fresh off the best game of his career in the Tigers' win over Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl. Advantage -- LSU

Offensive Line -- For all of the skill position talent, the historic production of both offenses is a testament to the work done at the line of scrimmage. Both Clemson and LSU are dominant in the trenches. The orange-clad front five has paved the way for the nation's most dynamic rushing attack as the Tigers average 6.41 yards per attempt as a team. Furthermore, Clemson ranks eighth nationally with just 1.14 sacks allowed per game. Tackle Tremayne Anchrum was effective against all-everything Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young. LSU's offensive line won the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation's most outstanding unit. Center Lloyd Cushenberry and guards Damien Lewis and Adrian Magee have formed a consistent interior anchor that has been one of the starting points for the Tigers offensive success. LSU's front five has played some of the nation's toughest defensive fronts, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Georgia. Advantage -- LSU

Defensive Front -- One of the staples of Clemson's dynasty run has been dominant defensive play along the line. Though Clemson doesn't have a standout individual pass-rusher, this remains a complete, controlling unit. The Tigers, with their front four setting a consistent tone, are tied for third nationally with 111 total tackles for loss. A big three up front of Justin Foster, Tyler Davis and Xavier Thomas have combined for 26.5 tackles for loss. Just a freshman, Davis has 5.5 sacks. As usual, LSU is athletic and physical along the defensive line. Veterans Breiden Fehoko and Rashard Lawrence are proven foundational pieces, while Neil Farrell has emerged as a consistent disruptive force. Counting K'Lavon Chaisson as an edge defender, his athleticism gives the Tigers bite at the point of attack. He leads the SEC West with 13.5 tackles for loss, adding 6.5 sacks, and appears to have rounded into form. Whether or not Chaisson can pressure Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence awaits as one of the keys to the game. Advantage -- LSU   

Linebackers -- There isn't a player in the country quite like Clemson's Isaiah Simmons, who is poised to be a top ten pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. A safety-turned-linebacker, he gives coordinator Brent Venables incredible flexibility with his athleticism and versatility. Simmons has 14 tackles for loss and three interceptions on the season and can, situation-dependent, line up at three or four different positions. With 85 total tackles, James Skalski has also been a consistent presence in the middle of the field for the Tigers. For LSU, Jacob Phillips is one of just three defenders in the SEC with at least 100 tackles. Patrick Queen, with 9.5 tackles for loss, brings a playmaking edge to the middle of the field. The return of standout Michael Divinity will be a storyline to watch. Last season, he had 10.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and eight quarterback hurries. His return from a six-game suspension will give the unit a boost. Advantage -- Clemson

Secondary -- No surprise here, but there is incredible talent at cornerback and safety at "DBU". Thorpe Award winner Grant Delpit is a unique star for LSU, a hybrid safety who is capable of making an impact close to the line of scrimmage. The man-to-man coverage abilities of Derek Stingley, Jr. allows players like Delpit to move around all over. Stingley is one of the nation's best cornerbacks, recording six interceptions and 15 pass breakups in his debut year. In he, Kristian Fulton and Kary Vincent, Jr., the Tigers have an impressive rotation at the position. JaCoby Stevens is an active safety opposite Delpit. Clemson is also exceptional in the defensive backfield. A veteran unit overall, leaders like Tanner Muse and K'Von Wallace at safety and A.J. Terrell at cornerback are tone-setters. The Tigers lead the nation in pass defense, allowing just 151.5 yards per game. In terms of opposing quarterback rating, Clemson, again, ranks number one in the country and LSU slots seventh. These two units are elite. Advantage -- LSU

Special Teams -- LSU has a strong kicker-punter combination in Cade York and Zach Von Rosenberg. York is converting over 80% of his field goals on the season and ranks third in the SEC with 21 kicks made. Clemson, conversely, has had some inconsistencies in the kicking game. In terms of returns, LSU is the lone team in college football's top conference with multiple punt returns for touchdown. In terms of kick coverage, the defending national champions lead the ACC in allowing just 17.56 yards per return. The pressure will be on both of these units as many have talked about this area of the game being the deciding factor on Monday night. Advantage -- LSU

Coaching -- While both staffs have done remarkable work, Clemson's success comes with historical context. The Tigers' 29 wins in a row are a modern standard. The culture Dabo Swinney has established is a lasting one. Though co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott is leaving for South Florida, staff consistency is an important part of that. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables, his latest unit leading the nation in multiple categories, is the best in all of college football. Ed Orgeron has laid a similarly engaging foundation. His addition of passing game coordinator Joe Brady has revolutionized LSU's offense. Watching Brady and offensive coordinator Steve Emsinger scheme against Venables may be the most fascinating matchup of the season. Advantage -- Clemson

Intangibles -- It's tough to get a definitive feel for this game as both teams enter undefeated with all-time credentials. Clemson, as mentioned, has won 29 consecutive games. LSU has six wins over top ten teams. The two College Football Playoff semifinal pairings were extra validators, in different ways. Trevor Lawrence rallied his Tigers back from 16 points, while Joe Brady helped his Tigers race past Oklahoma. Momentum, for both sides, is very much in place. Clemson, from the North Carolina win earlier in the season to its recent work in the desert, has consistently proved poised in clutch moments. Though the game is in New Orleans, a big boost for the purple and gold, there is something to be said for the confidence and conviction of the defending national champions. Advantage -- Clemson

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports