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Clemson Football

Keys to Victory: 2020 National Championship

January 13, 2020

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Each week we give you a look at the history of the game, three keys to success, plus our staff predictions.

The Match-Up:

#3 Clemson (14-0, 8-0 ACC) vs #1 LSU (14-0, 8-0 SEC)

Clemson vs. LSU 2012

All-Time Series:

Clemson trails: 1-2
at Clemson: N/A
at LSU: N/A
Neutral: 1-2
Last Meeting: Clemson won 25-24 (2012 Chick Fil A Bowl)
Last LSU win: 10-7 (1996 Peach Bowl)
Streak: Clemson has won 1 straight in the series

Listen Live: Fox Sports Radio 1400 on iHeart Radio

Stat of the Week:

Clemson has a 111-15 record since starting its current stretch of 10-win seasons in 2011. Only Alabama (114-12) has more wins since 2011. The Tigers also have the second-highest winning percentage (.880) in that time frame.



114 12



111 15


Ohio State

105 17



97 23 0.808

Boise State

95 25 0.792

The recent success has been particularly pronounced during Clemson's streak of College Football Playoff appearances since 2015. Clemson leads Alabama for the most wins in the country in that span, while the teams have split two national championships in that time frame.



69 4



65 6


Ohio State

61 6



58 9 0.866


53 15 0.779

Clemson's 69 wins during the 2015-19 seasons also represent the most in a five-year period in the AP Poll era (since 1936).

Tracking History:

Travis Etienne heads into what could be his final game as a Tiger needing just 7 yards to become Clemson’s all-time leading rusher. Etienne already holds ACC career records for rushing touchdowns (55) and total touchdowns (61), entering the game as the Football Bowl Subdivision's active career leader in each category.

Etienne, playing in his home state, also needs just five more rushing touchdowns to become only the 12th player in FBS history to record 60 career rushing touchdowns in a career. If he returns to Clemson for his senior year, that’s a record he should break early next year.

Clemson’s All-Time Leading Rushers Years Yards Rushing TDs
Raymond Priester 1994-1997 3,966 21
Travis Etienne 2017-2019 3,960 55
James Davis 2005-2008 3,881 47
C.J. Spiller 2006-2009 3,547 32
Andre Ellington 2009-2012 3,436 33


Key 1: Control the Clock

LSU’s prolific offense will undoubtedly test Clemson’s defense. One way to minimize the effectiveness of Joe Burrow and that high-flying offense is to keep the ball out of his hands.

Clemson’s ability to run the football with Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence could limit the time that Burrow has the football in his hand. A mix of speed sweeps to Amari Rodgers could also test the Bayou Bengals on the perimeter and keep the chains moving.

Both of these teams have offenses that can put points on the board in chunks, but if Clemson can control the clock, it will be hard for LSU to get in the rhythm that they’ve enjoyed most of the season.

Key 2: Confuse Joe Burrow

Brent Venables had the Clemson defense ready to go last season against a prolific Alabama offense in the national championship. The Tigers held the Crimson Tide to just 16 points and forced Tua Tagovailoa to throw two interceptions, the first being a pick-six for A.J. Terrell. 

The Tigers will need to have a similar performance to slow down Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Joe Burrow, in tonight’s title game. 

Burrow tossed 55 touchdowns this season and has the all-time mark in site after his performance in the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl against Oklahoma. Burrow completed 29 of 39 passes for 493 yards in the 63-28 win. For the season, he has thrown for 5,208 yards, connecting on 77.6 percent of his throws.

Venables’ unit enters the game ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 11.5 ppg. The Tigers are also No. 1 in the country in pass efficiency defense.

Add in the fact that Clemson limited Ohio State to 23 points, the most scored against the Tigers this season, by a team that entered the game averaging 48.7 ppg, which was at the time No. 1 in the nation. Who is at the top now? You guessed it, LSU, who averages 48.9 ppg entering the championship.

Burrow has only been picked off six times this year, but last season Tagovailoa entered the title game having thrown only four-- Clemson managed to pick him off twice. The Tigers also picked Justin Fields twice, and he had only thrown one interception before the Fiesta Bowl. 

It’s not going to be easy, but if Clemson can make Burrow hesitant, they significantly improve the odds against the Bayou Bengals.

Key 3: Just be Clemson

Clemson has been criticized from all angles about the ACC and the lack of a challenger to the Tigers in conference play. Swinney’s stance has been firm; it’s not about “who” the Tigers play, but “how” they play, and yet every time out, the ACC is considered a weakness for Clemson.

The Tigers' goal is to play their best football at the end of the season, and they’ve taken steps towards that goal every single week. There is no reason to believe that Clemson won’t play their A+ game tonight in the Superdome.


First, let it be stated that no matter what happens, these are clearly the two best teams in college football.

LSU won 11 of their 14 games by double digits and hammered Oklahoma, 63-28, in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Clemson, on the other hand, are the defending national champions, riding a 29-game winning streak and throttled the majority of their schedule this season. 

There is no question that the Bayou Bengals, along with Joe Brady’s offensive philosophy, have changed the culture in Baton Rouge in a blink. Gone is the lumbering offense that ran power football for four quarters. 

As good as Brady has been calling plays, it’s been Burrow’s play at quarterback that has elevated LSU to the title game. As for Clemson, they’ve been through matchups like this before and are well aware of what it will take to defend their crown.

It should never feel commonplace to play in games of this magnitude, but Dabo Swinney’s squad has been in the same spot one year ago, placed as 5.5 point underdogs against Alabama in Santa Clara last season.

Urban Meyer was on hand for Clemson’s matchup against Ohio State, and the former head coach noted that there is one intangible that you can’t quantify.

“Show me the analytics that measures a man’s heart,” Urban Meyer said about Lawrence’s performance after being rocked by a massive hit in the Fiesta Bowl.

That moment turned the momentum in the game, and Lawrence started playing on a different level. It’s got to burn Lawrence’s bottom that everyone seems to be gushing over Burrow’s play, while Clemson’s quarterback has been playing spectacular football. 

I’ll take Venables to disrupt Brady’s offense just enough for Lawrence, Etienne, and the rest of Clemson’s offense to show what they can do against LSU’s defense.  

Clemson wins a close one and moves to 30-0 the past two seasons.

Swanny’s Prediction: 38-30 Clemson


Final Score Predictions: 

  vs. LSU Winner of the Week Season Score
Lawton  38-30 Clemson Georgia Tech, Wofford, Wake Forest 20
Sanders 45-35 LSU Charlotte, Ohio State 18
Lowell 35-32 Clemson Syracuse, NCST, UVA 22
Brandon 48-45 Clemson   14
Cade 41-33 Clemson FSU, Boston College, South Carolina 20
Rob 27-23 Clemson Texas A&M, North Carolina, Louisville 20
Simulation 👑 34-20 Clemson   14

Perfect Prediction = 5 points              Best Prediction = 3 Points         Correct Prediction = 1 Point 

👑= 2018 Prediction Champion

**Pick of the Week: Indicates the best prediction.

Keys to Victory: 2020 National Championship

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