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CFP Championship Clemson LSU Football

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron, left, and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney pose with the trophy after a Sunday news conference for the College Football Playoff national championship game in New Orleans.

The Clemson Tigers will attempt to earn their second straight title and their third championship in four years on Monday night when they face the LSU Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship.

The game is scheduled for 8 p.m. (ESPN) at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Another Clemson championship would be its fourth football title in school history, with the others coming in 1981, 2016 and 2018.

BEHIND ENEMY LINES: LSU tries to finish record year with title

Clemson enters the contest coming off a thrilling semifinal performance in which the Tigers overcame a 16-0 first-half deficit to earn a 29-23 victory against No. 2 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. The victory was Clemson's fifth-largest comeback in school history, the second largest under head coach Dabo Swinney and its largest in postseason play.

Who to watch when Clemson has the ball

* Travis Etienne (RB): Etienne, a native of Jennings, La., enters the contest with 3,960 career rushing yards, seven shy of breaking the school record of 3,966 set by Raymond Priester from 1994-97.

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Etienne is only 40 rushing yards away from becoming the ninth 4,000-yard rusher in ACC history.

* Trevor Lawrence (QB): Quarterback Trevor Lawrence led the way in the Tigers' come-from-behind win in the Fiesta Bowl, accounting for 259 passing yards and two passing touchdowns in addition to posting team and career highs in rushing attempts (16) and rushing yards (107).

The victory improved Lawrence to 25-0 in his career as a starter. A victory in the College Football Playoff National Championship would be his 26th consecutive win to open his career, which would match Florida State's Jameis Winston (26 in 2013-14) for the most consecutive victories to start a career by a starting quarterback in ACC history.

* Grant Delpit (S; LSU): Junior safety Grant Delpit was named the winner of the Thorpe Award, which is presented to the top defensive back in college football.

Delpit joined Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne as the only other LSU players to win the award. The consensus All-American in 2019 was also selected first-team All-SEC by the league coaches.

Delpit is fourth on the team with 59 tackles to go along with 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack and two interceptions

Who to watch when LSU has the ball

* Isaiah Simmons (LB): A track star turned safety turned linebacker turned free-ranging weapon, Clemson's Isaiah Simmons rapidly emerged as one of college football's most versatile players in 2019.

In addition to being one of Clemson's most prolific tacklers, Simmons leads Clemson this season in sacks (7.0) and tackles for loss (14.0) while also contributing seven pass breakups, three interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Simmons was one of only three FBS players — and one of only two in the Power Five — credited with at least 90 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, five sacks and multiple interceptions this season.

He won the Butkus Award, becoming the first Clemson player in the award’s 35-year history to earn the honor presented annually to the nation’s top linebacker, became the sixth unanimous All-American in school history, joining Terry Kinard (1982), Gaines Adams (2006), C.J. Spiller (2009), Da’Quan Bowers (2010) and Christian Wilkins (2018).

Simmons was also a Nagurski Trophy finalist, Bednarik Award finalist, Lott IMPACT Trophy finalist, Walter Camp Player of the Year semifinalist. ACC Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-ACC selection

* Tanner Muse (S): The list of accolades for Muse, while not as impressive as Simmons, is still substantial. The Thorpe Award semifinalist, third-team AP All-American, first-team All-ACC selection entered bowl season credited with 65 tackles, (5.0 for loss), 2.0 sacks, five pass breakups and a team-leading four interceptions in 496 snaps over 13 games (all starts).

* Joe Burrow (QB; LSU): LSU quarterback Joe Burrow will go down as the most decorated LSU football player in the school’s 126-season history as the Ohio native earned recognition for every major award during the month of December.

In addition to the Heisman Trophy, Burrow also earned player-of-the-year recognition by the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Football Foundation and Associated Press. Burrow has been honored with first team All-America honors by every publication and is the first LSU quarterback and 10th player to be named a unanimous All-American.

Burrow was recognized as the top quarterback in the nation by the Davey O’Brien Foundation and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation.

In addition to his honors nationally, Burrow was named the SEC Offensive Player of the year by the AP and league coaches. His AP honor was unanimous. Burrow also earned unanimous first-team All-SEC honors by the media and coaches.

Preview

With Clemson and LSU each reaching the 14-win mark this season, there have now been 15 seasons of 14 or more wins since the NCAA split Division I in 1978. Clemson accounts for four of those 14-win seasons, matching Alabama for the most 14-win seasons in that span. Clemson remains the only program in that time frame to win 15 games in a season, a feat it can match (and stop LSU from reaching) with one more victory.

The 2019 Tigers are just the fifth ACC team in history to record at least 14 wins in a season. Clemson accounts for four of those five 14-win seasons. Clemson has posted the ACC's four most recent 14-win seasons, recording a 14-1 record during both the 2015 and 2016 campaigns and a 15-0 record in 2018. Clemson’s 1981 national vhampionship team was the first ACC team to win 12 games in a season. Florida State accomplished the feat five times between 1993 and 2014, including a streak of three seasons with at least 12 wins from 2012-14. They won a then-record 14 games (14-0) in 2013, a mark tied by Clemson in 2015 and 2016 before being broken in 2018.

With seemingly everyone in the nation placing money on the Bayou Bengals to end Clemson's dynastic run, this game plays right into the hands of Swinney's beloved underdog role.

While Burrow and his elite offense will be able to score points, it will be Clemson that hoists the golden trophy as back-to-back national champions.

Prediction: Clemson 31, LSU 24

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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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