A JERSEY GUY: Clemson Chasing History, LSU Chasing A Title

Mark Blaudschun

NEW ORLEANS--The picture you see above this story is three years old. But it is still relevant.

Clemson arriving at the site of the national championship game.

Again.

Here's what's perplexing to some--exasperating to others--about that photo, which will again be taken at New Orleans' Louis Armstrong Airport later on Friday.

If that were Alabama and Coach Nick Saban, the overwhelming theme of the weekend would be the dynastic nature of Alabama's latest championship chase and Saban's flirtation with the G.O.A.T tag among college football coaches.

Neither Alabama, nor Saban is here. The Tide finished out of the Final Four money for the first time in the 5-year history of the new CFP bowl system, ending its season at the Camping World Bowl in Orlando last week with a solid win over Michigan.

But Clemson and Coach Dabo Swinney will be here on Monday night for their third consecutive national championship game appearance. This will be Clemson's fourth (out of 6) champioship game appearance.

They come into the game with a 29-game winning streak, seeking to become the first team in the history of college football to post back-to-back 15-0 seasons and the first team to post back-to-back unbeaten championship seasons since Nebraska did it in 1994 and 1995.

They come into the game with two players--quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne-who have Heisman Trophy quality talent and could easily be the MVP on Monday night, as well as a coach who could win his third national championship in four seasons.

And yet....they are UNDERDOGS-by almost a touchdown in some betting lines.

Hard to fathom,right?

It is, unless you understand the nature of the beast in the world we now live in, where the top stories can change in 15 second crawls on television screens showing real time drama.

Clemson is a GREAT story, but the Tigers and Swinney are not completely vested. Alabama and Saban are.

And...LSU is a BETTER story, with a sexier curves.

Ed Orgeron. Coach O, the one time journey man assistant who looks and sounds and feels like the Louisiana bayou. Which he is.

Quarterback Joe Burrow, a transfer from Ohio State, where he sat for a couple of years, before heading south to lead LSU to an unbeaten record and win the Heisman by a record margin.

LSU, playing in a city 90 miles from it's Baton Rouge campus, in a Stadium, where it has won its previous two national championships, which clearly takes Monday's game at the Superdome out of the neutral site category.

LSU, which has zipped through a Top 25 schedule--something Clemson has not--which includes wins over Texas, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Oklahoma, a 63-28 loser to the Tigers in the Final Four semifinals.

During the next few days, you will read and hear stories about how both teams are championship worthy.

Both teams are.

This is the Last Hurrah for the 2019 college football season.

It will either be the exclamation mark for Clemson, elevating the Tigers into a new level in which even Swinney won't be able to play the Rodney Dangerfield "No Respect.'' card (Google it) or a redemption story for the ages for both Coach O and his quarterback.

Much of the country has already moved on to the National Football League, college basketball or the NBA or NHL since this again a Southern Comfort championship game, with a small geographical sphere.

But here in a city, where Party Time can break out any time on Bourbon Street, it doesn't matter.

It's Showtime.

Enjoy.

***

Average price of a game ticket (Stubhub) is $1,972...Clemson senior class is 54-3...If Clemson scores first, watch out. The Tigers have won their last 50 games when scoring first....Lawrence is 28-0 and 24-0 as a starter...With 29 games, Clemson has the longest active FBS winning streak. LSU is second at 15...

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