Tigers square off in national title game in New Orleans

Kyle Riviere
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

As the great Ric Flair always says: To be the man, you have to beat the man.

On Monday night, LSU can do just that. The 14-0 Tigers have a chance to win their fourth national title and their first since 2007, but to do so, they'll have to knock off defending champion Clemson, a team that has won two of the last three national titles and is currently riding a 29-game winning streak.

It will be a national championship game that will have Ascension Parish represented well. There are four players from the area that are on LSU's roster.

Most notably, Dutchtown alum Lloyd Cushenberry is the Tigers' starter at center, and Donaldsonville alum Stephen Sullivan is a receiver/tight end.

Also on the roster for LSU are a pair of East Ascension alums in Cameron Wire and Keenen Dunn. Wire is a redshirt freshman offensive tackle, and Dunn is a sophomore running back that transferred from Indiana Wesleyan.

There are many intriguing matchups across the board.

Offensively, each team features elite quarterbacks with 1,000-yard rushers and deep, talented receiving corps.

Overall, LSU leads the nation in points per game with 49, while Clemson ranks fourth with 45. The Tigers are also ranked first in total offense with 564 yards per contest, while Clemson ranks third with 541.

The orange-clad Tiger attack is led by sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who is undefeated as a starter, and he is believed by many to be the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Lawrence has been red-hot during the second half of the season. Through Clemson's first seven games, Lawrence threw 14 touchdown passes, but he was picked off eight times. In the seven games since, he has thrown 22 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Lawrence has also become a threat on the ground. He's averaging 37 yards rushing per game and has scored eight touchdowns. In Clemson's semifinal victory over Ohio State, Lawrence rushed for a career-high 107 yards.

But the Tigers' main threat on the ground is Louisiana native Travis Etienne, who has rushed for 1,536 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. He is averaging a ridiculous eight yards per carry.

Although LSU's defense has struggled against the pass in 2019, they rank 20th against the run, yielding just 118 rushing yards per game.

LSU has four receivers that have at least 500 yards this season--including the dynamic duo of Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, who each have more than 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Clemson has the lethal combo of Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. Higgins has 1,115 yards and 13 touchdowns. He averaged a whopping 20 yards per catch.

Ross has 789 yards and eight scores.

Statistically, Clemson will have the best defense LSU has faced all year. The Tigers rank first in scoring defense, giving up just 12 points per game. They're second in total defense as they yield just 264 yards per contest.

Also, they're No. 1 against the pass, and they rank 16th agains the run.

The run game will get a big boost for LSU. Head coach Ed Orgeron said that Clyde Edwards-Helaire will be 100 percent for the game. Edwards-Helaire was limited in the Peach Bowl, after suffering a hamstring injury at practice leading up to the game.

Not only did Edwards-Helaire rush for more than 1,300 yards this season, but he caught 50 passes for 399 yards and a score. He is also the Tigers' best running back when it comes to pass protection.

Another player that will return for LSU is outside linebacker Michael Divinity. Divinity missed the last six games as he served a suspension. But though he was ineligible to play, Divinity never stopped practicing with the team.

Divinity led the team in sacks last season, and before his suspension, he led the team in sacks in 2019 as well.

The last time Clemson and LSU played, it was in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl. Clemson won on a last-second field goal, 25-24.