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Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow national championship duel is one of best ever

Plus the matchup that could decide Clemson-LSU and a shout out to a Plant City product.
In this Dec. 28 file photo, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) works against Oklahoma during the first half of the Peach Bowl. [JOHN AMIS  |  AP]
In this Dec. 28 file photo, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) works against Oklahoma during the first half of the Peach Bowl. [JOHN AMIS | AP]
Published Jan. 10

When No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Clemson face off Monday in New Orleans, it won’t merely be a Tiger vs. Tiger showdown for the College Football Playoff national championship.

It will be one of the biggest quarterback battles in college football history.

Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow is the most decorated passer LSU has ever had and will likely go to the Bengals as this spring’s No. 1 overall NFL draft pick. Clemson sophomore Trevor Lawrence is 25-0 as a starter and might end up as the No. 1 overall pick next year.

Related: How Clemson’s 29-game win streak compares to 2012-14 Florida State

“You've got potentially the first two picks overall in the next two drafts going head-to-head,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. “I don't know if we've ever had two quarterbacks in a championship game that you could say that about.”

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an Oct. 12 game against Florida State. [RICHARD SHIRO | AP]

Not that I could find, but there are at least two other notable comparisons. When Oregon blew out Florida State 59-20 in the Rose Bowl semifinal, it was a meeting of the top two picks in the 2015 draft (the Bucs’ Jameis Winston and the Titans’ Marcus Mariota). Peyton Manning and Tim Couch both set school single-game passing records in their 1997 regular-season meeting (Tennessee’s 59-31 win over Kentucky); Manning was the top pick in 1998, and Couch went No. 1 in 1999.

Both of those games were blowouts. Here’s hoping the final game of the 2019 season isn’t.

Burrow and the best

However Monday goes, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has produced one of the best seasons by a quarterback in college football history:

Related: The Florida Gators didn’t pursue Joe Burrow. It’s working out for both sides.

Passing touchdowns: 55 (second all time)

Total touchdowns: 55 passing, 4 rushing (third)

Passing yards: 5,208 (seventh)

Passing efficiency: 204.6 (first)

Completion percentage: 77.6 (first)

Yards per pass: 10.9 (eighth)

Matchup to watch: Clemson’s receivers vs. LSU’s secondary

LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (24) intercepts a pass in the end zone intended for Florida wide receiver Freddie Swain (16) in the second half of an Oct. 12 game. [GERALD HERBERT | AP]

Clemson has one of the most talented receiving corps in the country. Tee Higgins’ 27 career touchdown catches are tied with Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins for the most in program history. Justyn Ross (17) is also in the program’s top 10, and Amari Rodgers is dangerous, too. But LSU might have the defensive backs to hang with them. In addition to Delpit at safety, cornerback Derek Stingley was No. 2 nationally in passes defended (21), and Kristian Fulton earned all-SEC and All-America consideration. Whoever wins this star-studded matchup will likely win it all.

Related: Comparing Clemson's Death Valley to LSU's Death Valley

X-Factor: LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Burrow and the passing attack deserves its attention, but don’t overlook Edwards-Helaire. The 1,300-yard rusher ran for 16 touchdowns and ripped off 14 carries of at least 20 yards —only two fewer than Clemson’s Travis Etienne. Edwards-Helaire was limited in the semifinal with a hamstring injury, but assuming he’s close to 100 percent, he adds an important wrinkle to LSU’s high-powered offense.

By the numbers

Clemson's T.J. Chase pulls in a reception during the first half of an Aug. 29 game against Georgia Tech. [RICHARD SHIRO | AP]

25 Career catches for Clemson receiver T.J. Chase (Plant City High)

25 Consecutive quarters in which LSU has not trailed

18 Touchdown catches for LSU receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson. They tied for the most in the country and the Tigers’ single-season record

Related: MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL: It’s time for the Florida Gators to start challenging for championships

3-8 Clemson’s record in the state of Louisiana

22-0 Clemson’s record against undefeated teams since 2015

5.5 Yards per rush by Trevor Lawrence, the highest by a Clemson quarterback in more than 60 years

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow holds the national championship trophy as safety Grant Delpit looks on after the Tigers beat Clemson 42-25 on Jan. 13 in New Orleans. [GERALD HERBERT  |  AP]
    The LSU Tigers faced five top-seven defenses, averaging 38 points against them.
  2. Coach Mike White has Florida come off a big home win over Auburn on Saturday and lose 84-82 at LSU three days later. [MATT STAMEY  |  AP]
    Video review shows time ran out just before Florida’s tying layup.
  3. Florida head coach Dan Mullen celebrates after the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game against Virginia, Monday, Dec. 30, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Florida won 36-28. [BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP]
    Defensive tackle signee Gervon Dexter has earned his fifth star.
  4. Florida forward Omar Payne (5) runs up court after making a shot against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla. Payne was a perfect 9 for 9 shooting during the game. [MATT STAMEY  |  AP]
    Previewing the Gators’ 7 p.m game at LSU on Tuesday.
  5. IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR ALLSTATE - Tim Tebow and fiancé Demi Nel-Peters volunteer together alongside Allstate volunteers at a community service project to benefit the Einstein Charter School ahead of the 2020 Allstate Sugar Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, in New Orleans. (Cheryl Gerber/AP Images for Allstate) [CHERYL GERBER  |  AP]
    The former quarterback and current Mets minor leaguer previously said he planned to remain a virgin until marriage.
  6. Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Josh Allen (41) takes aim for Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) during a 2018 game. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The grad transfer will be eligible immediately.
  7. Auburn center Austin Wiley guards Florida forward Omar Payne during the first half of their game on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Gainesville. Payne, a freshman out of Montverde Academy, finishes with a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds for his first double double in college. [MATT STAMEY  |  AP]
    Freshman Omar Payne has a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds as UF earns its most impressive victory of the season.
  8. Florida's Keyontae Johnson, shown here scoring against Arkansas in last season's SEC tournament, is averaging 13 points and 6.8 rebounds this season. [MARK HUMPHREY  |  AP]
    UF looks for an elite win Saturday at home, where it has won five in row, to help strengthen its NCAA Tournament resume.
  9. Florida guard Andrew Nembhard shoots over Mississippi guard Devontae Shuler during their game Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, in Gainesville. [BRAD MCCLENNY  |  AP]
    Coach Mike White says his point guard missed practice Thursday and Friday. If he’s out, freshmen Tre Mann or Ques Glover likely will start Saturday.
  10. Todd Monken spent two seasons in Tampa Bay, the last as offensive coordinator, before being dismissed along with the rest of head coach Dirk Koetter's staff after the 2018 season.
    Tampa Bay’s former play-caller will be designing game plans for the Bulldogs against the Florida Gators next season.
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