Fiesta Bowl Football

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) runs the ball during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game against Ohio State, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz.

ESPN has everything it could possibly want in a national championship game.

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They have one team, Clemson, that has not lost a game in the last two seasons, with a dynamic quarterback and the best defense in college football facing off against a team, LSU, of destiny, only 45 minutes from the site of the game, boasting one of the best offenses in the history of college football and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

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As many storylines as there are for this game, and there are even more than anyone could imagine, the one that has dominated the last 13 days of buildup has involved Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence vs. LSU's record-breaking quarterback Joe Burrow.

Surprising to some is the fact that many analysts are hedging their bets toward the quarterback of the team that has never been in the College Football Playoff National Championship to outduel the team that has been in this game four of the last five seasons.

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"I expect to see potentially a game where it's a which-quarterback-has-the-ball-last type of game. I don't want to make it look like one has a clear advantage ... I would give probably a slight edge to Joe Burrow just because of how consistent their offense has been this year," ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. "Auburn is about the only team that came up with a wrinkle with Kevin Steele where he played a 3-1-7 for most of the game, three D-linemen, a linebacker and seven defensive backs, to create some doubt and to create a lot of different looks and disguising. And he really feels that if you give him the same look or he knows what you're in, you have no shot of slowing him down.

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"And I don't know if in my years of playing the game and covering the game, probably over 30 years, I have ever seen a quarterback executing at the level of Joe Burrow in a system like this. I love both these guys."

Even though Burrow has thrown 50 touchdown passes this season, only three shy of the all-time record, and leads almost every major quarterback-related category, Herbstreit's counterpart believes Lawrence's experience has to account for something.

Burrow in every category you think about, how is he when he's pressured? He's the best. How is he against ranked teams? He's the best," ESPN play-by-play announcer Chris Fowler said. "In the red zone, in the fourth quarter, against the blitz. I mean, Lawrence is brilliant in all those categories, too. Burrow, it's hard to imagine a guy having a season like this."

The difference in the next two No. 1 picks in the NFL Draft for Fowler comes down to the fact that Lawrence has already proven, and continues to prove, that he only gets better when the going gets tough.

"I said last week in Arizona, I don't know if there's anybody you'd trust or not want to bet against than Lawrence, never having lost a game since high school, just the toughness that he showed against Ohio State when he got pissed off after getting hit in the head and really played much better after that, the 94-yard drive, the 67-yard run," Fowler said. "He made plays in that game that are going to live in the history of the sport. It showed me a lot.

"It's really, really splitting hairs when you try to say, OK, who's performed better vs. who's going to shine when the light comes on. Trevor has a lot of championship experience, and I think that counts for something, not that Joe won't deliver, but others — there's tremendous pressure on both of them to key their offense. I can't wait to see it unfold, though. It's really — it's tough to choose, though."

Even after the case that was made for Lawrence to give the Tigers the advantage in Monday's national championship game, Herbstreit believes Burrow could potentially give LSU the edge.

"They're both outstanding, but just because of the way Joe has executed with his teammates and this new offense, I think you've got to give him a slight edge going in," Herbstreit said.

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Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia. He is editor of www.ClemsonMaven.io


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