By Max Druckman
It is America’s most popular sport, filling up stadiums around the nation with more than 100,000 dedicated fans each Saturday. The excitement and rivalry all culminate in three games between the top four teams in the nation. The much anticipated College Football Playoff (CFP) takes place in December and January at the end of the col- lege football season pairing teams ranked #1-4 in Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision. There are two semifinal games and one final match, which this year took place on January 13, 2020. The top four teams in the country this season were the #1 Southeastern Conference’s Louisiana State University Tigers, the #2 Big Ten Conference’s Ohio State University Buckeyes, the #3 Atlantic Coast Conference’s Clemson University Tigers, and the #4 Big Twelve Conference’s University of Oklahoma Sooners. The four squads engaged in thrilling, competitive, and high scoring matchups for the right to go down as the champion in college football’s 150th season.
The first semi-final game took place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia between Oklahoma and LSU. LSU had gone undefeated during the regular season and took down the Georgia Bulldogs 37-10 in the Southeast-
ern Conference title game. They were lead by senior quarterback Joe Burrow, who had dominated opposing defenses all season long and won the prestigious Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football. LSU’s potent offense was strengthened by star running back Clyde Edwards-Hellaire and award-winning wide receiver duo Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase. Their shutdown defense featured lockdown defensive backs Grant Delphit and Derek Stingley Jr. and hard-hitting linebacker Jacob Phillips. The glue holding the team together was charismatic coach Ed Orgeron. Oklahoma, making their third consecutive appearance in college football’s big dance, was spearheaded by senior transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts, an experienced playoff player from his time at the University of Alabama. The Sooners featured five all Big Twelve team members, chief among them were wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, center Creed Humphrey, and linebacker Kenneth Murray. The Sooners had lost just one game all season, to the Kansas State Wildcats, and had barely squeaked by the Baylor Bears in the Big Twelve title game to enter the playoff. It was set to be a prime matchup between the up and coming big team and a team that had been good for many consecutive years. However, it quickly turned into a blowout. Atlanta had turned silent. LSU dominated, and by halftime, led 49-14. Burrow fired seven touchdown passes in the first half, tying the NCAA record for most touchdowns in a half and total touchdown passes in a bowl game. Jefferson caught four touchdown passes, whizzing his way into the College Football Playoff record books. The matchup was anything but competitive, and the Tigers roared their way into their first CFP title game!
The second semi-final game was held at Glendale Arizona’s State Farm Stadium. Clemson had won all 12 of their regular-season games and then blew out the Virginia Cavaliers in the ACC title contest. The Tigers were making their fifth consecutive playoff appearance, having beaten Alabama in the final the previous season. They were led by talisman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back and ACC player of the year Travis Etienne, and ACC defensive player of the year linebacker Isaiah Simmons. Them and their coach, Dabo Swinney, were the reigning powerhouse of college football, the major hurdle for any team that wanted to win the title. The Ohio State Buckeyes were undefeated themselves during the regular season but faced a much tougher test in their conference championship match, squeaking by the Wisconsin Badgers 34-21. It was the Buckeyes’ third appearance in the CFP, making them the elder postseason statesmen of the Big Ten Conference. The “O” had a powerful offense co-managed by star quarterback Justin Fields and running back J.K. Dobbins. They had one of the meanest defenses in the nation, headlined by consensus top 5 NFL draft pick end Chase Young and lockdown cornerback Jeff Okudah. The game was as thrilling as the setup. Ohio State led 10-0 going into the second quarter before Clemson made it 16-14 going into half-time. Clemson took over in the second half, coming out 29-23 victors en route to their fourth national title game in five years.
The stage was set; Monday, January 13, 2020. The College Football Playoff National Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The number 1 Tigers versus the number 3 Tigers. Burrow vs Lawrence, Delphit vs Simmons. LSU was favored in the betting odds, and if they won, it would have become just the second team since 1897 to finish a season 15-0. The other team to have done that since 1897 was none other than the Clemson Tigers. 71,330 zealous fans packed the Superdome and millions more tuned in at home prepared to witness history. Surprisingly, Clemson opened the scoring, with a touchdown run by Trevor Lawrence making it 7-0. The lead did not last long, however, as the ever-brilliant Burrow threw a touchdown pass to Ja’Marr Chase to equalize before the start of the second quarter. Clemson struck first in the second, drilling a field goal for a 10-7 lead. Later on, an amazing touchdown run by Tee Higgins grew Clemson’s lead to 17-7. LSU buckled down and, astoundingly, scored 3 unanswered touchdowns to take a 28-17 lead before the half- time performances began. Travis Etienne and Amari Rodgers helped Clemson gain 8 more at the start of the third quarter, to come within 3 of LSU. From then on though, LSU raged on! Burrow completed TD passes to Thadeus Moss and Terrace Marshall Jr. to lock the game up at 42-25. With less than 4 minutes to go, LSU forced and recovered a fumble, all but sealing their victory.
LSU had a remarkable season and many consider this Tigers team to be among the best ever at the collegiate level. The names of these young stars will live on in college football lore. In one of America’s favorite pastimes and most rooted traditions, the 2019 LSU Tigers will be considered among the best to ever take the field. America truly heard the Tigers roar.