NEW ORLEANS — No. 1 LSU will play a pseudo-home game on Monday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome when it squares off with No. 3 Clemson in the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship. With a game being played just over 70 miles from LSU’s campus, the Bayou Bengals were able to casually stroll into NOLA as the orange-and-white Tigers had to fly into town just a few weeks after taking a far trip to Glendale, Arizona, for the Fiesta Bowl semifinal.
The game will tie a bow on a wild season that has seen LSU rise up as a power in the SEC West thanks in large part to the play of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow. All this as Clemson — the reigning and now defending national champions — cruised through the ACC en route to another conference title and a 29-game winning streak. It’s a new twist to a four-team even that has been dominated by Alabama and Clemson over the past four seasons.
It will be a hell of a matchup between the two top quarterbacks in college football. Burrow, who has 55 touchdown passes and a passer rating of 204.60, has a chance to put together the most prolific season in college football history. Meanwhile, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence hasn’t lost a game through two seasons nor thrown an interception since Oct. 19, 2019. Those two stars will be up against two defensive coordinators — Clemson’s Brent Venables and LSU’s Dave Aranda, respectively — who have been gifted two weeks to draw up something special for the game’s biggest stage.
Clemson has won two of the last three national championships, while LSU is looking for its first national title since Les Miles led them to the crown — in the same building — after the 2007 season. The Bayou Bengals would be the first team to win a national title in their home state since Florida did so following the 2008 season.
Here’s what our CBS Sports panel of college football experts believes will go down on Monday night. Keep on scrolling for their individual national championship game predictions.
Who will win Clemson vs. LSU, and which side of the spread can you bank on in almost 60 percent of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread to jump on, all from the advanced model that is up almost $4,000 on its top-rated picks.
2020 CFP National Championship predictions
Dennis Dodd, senior college football insider: There is too much momentum, too much firepower, too much New Orleans, too much — gumbo — for LSU to lose now. For the fourth time in the BCS/CFP era, LSU will play a de facto home game for the national championship. You’ve got to like the LSU Tigers’ chances with the nation’s best player, the national coach of the year and the entire state of Louisiana behind them. (Saints fans suddenly have money to spend.) OK, so LSU is only 2-1 in those Superdome games, but it isn’t playing Jordan Jefferson at quarterback like in the 2012 BCS Championship Game. Clemson won’t go down easily. Venables will have something for Burrow & Co. Dabo Swinney crossed up Ohio State by making Lawrence a runner and running back Travis Etienne a receiver. The winner in this game will have 32-35 points. Both teams have the ability to reach it. It sounds cliche, but LSU playing at “home” pushes them over the top. In a classic of a natty, let’s call it … LSU 32, Clemson 29
Jerry Palm, playoff and bowls expert: LSU looks like it has everything going for it. A Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. A homeish game in New Orleans. All the mojo in the world is on the Tigers’ back. There is just one problem — Clemson. Those Tigers not only have their own mojo going, they have the one thing that LSU doesn’t have: championship pedigree. Clemson knows how to win this thing. It knows how to do it facing adversity, and it knows how to do it facing long odds. These Tigers revel in those situations, and they will do so again. Burrow may have the better statistical day, but Lawrence will make the big plays needed to pull out a tough win. Again. Clemson 34, LSU 31
Tom Fornelli, college football writer and SportsLine expert: When it comes to making picks, I try to be as logical and analytical as possible. I use numbers and matchups to help determine the smart play. Well, I’m done doing that with this LSU team. All the numbers say that LSU and Clemson are just about even heading into this game, but LSU has been throwing those numbers out the window all season long. The Tigers are a team of destiny. The entire 2019 college football season just won’t make any sense if Clemson ends up winning the national title. LSU has been the story all season long, and it will get its storybook finish at home in New Orleans. LSU 37, Clemson 30
Barrett Sallee, college football writer and SportsLine expert: It’s hard to imagine that a team with 29 straight wins and the national championship in hand can legitimately play the disrespect card, but Clemson has been for most of the season. Not only is it the underdog, but the pseudo-home game will play right into Clemson’s “Us Against the World” mentality. Furthermore, the unsung hero of the team this year has been an offensive line that has been stellar all season. That will be the key. Lawrence will stay in rhythm and Etienne will find room in the middle of the field with Clemson’s offense keeping Burrow and the Bayou Bengals the sideline more than expected. This won’t be the high-scoring shootout that many expect, and Clemson will repeat as national champions. Clemson 35, LSU 31
Chip Patterson, college football writer and Cover 3 Podcast host: Games of this magnitude rarely play out in a perfect manner, and it’s in a dogfight of a contest that I expect Clemson to win its third national championship in four years. Isaiah Simmons doesn’t need to fill the stat sheet to have an impact as the most important player on the field against LSU’s historic offense, and with him on the field and Venables on the sideline — more specifically, barely on the sideline being physically restrained from the field — I think Clemson can Joe Burrow to under 35 points. Lawrence and Etienne can get Clemson to 35, but they need the defense to take down the home field favorites. Clemson 35, LSU 31
Barton Simmons, 247Sports director of scouting and Cover 3 Podcast host: This LSU team has felt like a team of destiny all year long. The confidence that it’s playing with is unprecedented. Burrow is having the best quarterback season in college football history. The defense is clicking at the right time. I do think that Venables, with the help of Simmons, will pose the toughest test defensively that LSU has seen all season. There will be some back and forth and plenty of momentum swings but the collective offensive firepower that LSU brings to the game is going to put together one more big play or one more big drive than Clemson will be able to muster. LSU 37, Clemson 31
Ben Kercheval, college football writer: This is the hardest national championship pick since the playoff format began. Clemson is playing its best football right now — at a higher clip than a year ago — while LSU is at its healthiest defensively. The theme of the 2019 season has been blue-blood offenses, and I don’t see any reason for that to change now. Ultimately, LSU has been tested time and time again and come out on top. I’ll ride that theme one more time. LSU 37, Clemson 33