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Old 01-13-2020, 10:40 AM
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College Playoff Betting Preview
Brian Edwards

Clemson vs. LSU (-6, Total 69)

Louisiana State’s dream season will fittingly end in New Orleans, where it’ll take on Clemson in Monday’s finals of the College Football Playoff. Clemson brings a 29-game winning streak to The Big Easy, attempting to become the first program to repeat as national champions since Alabama did in 2011 and 2012.

Dabo Swinney’s team hasn’t tasted defeat since its last trip to the Mercedes Benz Superdome, losing 24-6 to Alabama in the 2017 CFP semifinals. LSU is seeking its first national title since 2007, when it trounced Ohio State at the Superdome in the Crescent City. In 2003 when Nick Saban was its head coach, LSU won its second national title – its first came back in 1958 -- by beating Oklahoma at this same venue in New Orleans.

As of Sunday night, most betting shops had LSU (14-0 straight up, 9-5 against the spread) installed as a 5.5-point favorite with the total anywhere from 67.5 (Circa Sports) to 69 (Stations). Clemson was +185 on the money line.

For first-half wagers, most spots had LSU listed as a 3.5-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 34. Clemson has +160 odds to take a lead into halftime and it’s +145 on the money line in the first quarter. LSU is favored by one-half point at a -130 price for first-quarter bets, while the total is 14.5 points.

LSU’s team total for the game is 37.5 points (-115 odds either way), while Clemson’s is 31.5 points (‘under’ -125, ‘over’ -105). LSU’s team total for the first half is 19.5 points (‘over’ -145, ‘under’ +115), and Clemson’s is 14.5 (‘over’ -135, ‘under’ +105).

Ed Orgeron’s squad absolutely blasted fourth-seeded Oklahoma in the semifinals, darting out to a 49-14 halftime lead before coasting to a 63-28 victory as a 12.5-point favorite. The 91 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 75-point total.

Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow was sensational, completing 29-of-39 passes for 493 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception. All seven TD passes came in the first half alone, as Burrow broke every CFP passing record in the game’s first 30 minutes. He added a three-yard TD run early in the third quarter.

Junior wide receiver Justin Jefferson had 14 receptions for 227 yards and four TDs. Junior TE Thaddeus Moss, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Randy Moss, hauled in four catches for 99 yards and one TD, while sophomore WR Terrace Marshall Jr. had six grabs for 80 yards and two TDs.

Redshirt freshman running back Chris Curry ran for a team-best 89 yards on 16 attempts. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the junior RB who was a first-team All-SEC selection, was able to play despite suffering a hamstring injury less than two weeks before the game. He had only two carries for 14 rushing yards, but he’ll be a much bigger factor Monday night vs. Clemson. Edwards-Helaire has had more time to recover and would’ve got more touches against the Sooners if the game hadn’t become a blowout so quickly.

Dave Aranda’s defense had a helluva performance, too, holding the Sooners to 322 yards of total offense. OU came into the game ranking second in the nation in total offense, averaging 554.4 yards per game.

Burrow, WR Ja’Marr Chase and center Lloyd Cushenberry joined Edwards-Helaire as first-team All-SEC choices by the coaches. LSU’s offensive guards Damien Lewis and Adrian Magee garnered second-team All-SEC honors from the coaches, along with Edwards-Helaire as a return specialist. However, Lewis is listed as ‘questionable’ after vs. Clemson after leaving the win over OU with a knee injury.

LSU’s offense is ranked No. 1 in the country in total offense (564.1 YPG) and scoring with its 48.9 points-per-game average. The Bayou Bengals are No. 2 in passing yards (397.2 YPG), trailing only Washington State.

Burrow has produced video-game stats all year. The grad transfer from Ohio State, who arrived in Baton Rouge just one month before the 2018 season, has completed 77.6 percent of his passes through 14 games. He has thrown for 5,208 yards with a 55/6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Burrow has 311 rushing yards and four TDs.

Chase and Jefferson are the nation’s co-leaders in TD catches with 18 apiece. Jefferson is third in the country in both receptions (102) and receiving yards (1,434), while Chase has 75 catches for 1,559 yards. Chase trails only Arkansas State WR Omar Bayless in receiving yards (1,653).

Edwards-Helaire has run for 1,304 yards and 16 TDs, averaging 6.6 yards per carry. He’s a factor catching the ball out of the backfield, too, with 50 receptions for 399 yards and one TD.

Tyrion Davis-Pride and John Emery are true freshman RBs that’ll see playing time. Davis-Price has 295 rushing yards and six TDs with a 4.6 YPC average. Emery, a five-star recruit, has 188 rushing yards and four TDs on 39 carries (4.8 YPC), while Curry has 185 rushing yards on 37 attempts.

LSU is ranked No. 28 in the country in scoring defense, allowing opponents to score an average of 21.6 PPG. The Bayou Bengals are ranked No. 29 in total defense, No. 56 in pass defense and No. 20 at defending the run.

This unit placed junior safety Grant Delpit and sophomore LB K’Lavon Chaisson on the coaches All-SEC first team. Freshman CB Derek Stingley Jr., senior DE Rashard Lawrence and junior safety JaCoby Stevens were second-team All-SEC selections.

LSU’s defense will get back senior LB Michael Divinity, who was reportedly suspended for six games after testing positive for marijuana for a fourth time. He hasn’t played since a 23-20 win over Auburn on Oct. 26. Divinity missed two other games due to suspensions in September. In five games this year, Divinity produced 23 tackles, three sacks, three QB hurries, one forced fumble and one tackle for loss. He has nine career sacks.

LSU junior LB Jacob Phillips has a team-best 105 tackles to go with six TFL’s, three QB hurries, one sack, one PBU and one forced fumble. Stevens has 85 tackles, six PBU, five sacks, 3.5 TFL’s, three interceptions and a pair of QB hurries, while Delpit has 59 tackles, seven passes broken up, 2.5 TFL’s, two interceptions, one sack and one QB hurry.

LSU collected 10 of its 14 wins over bowl-bound foes, including victories at Texas (45-38), vs. Utah State (42-6), vs. Florida (42-28), at Alabama (46-41), vs. Texas A&M (50-7) and vs. Georgia (37-10) at the SEC Championship Game. Eleven of LSU’s 14 wins have come by 14 points or more.

Clemson (14-0 SU, 11-3 ATS) is appearing in the finals of the CFP for the fourth time in five seasons. Dabo Swinney’s team has been an underdog 10 times since 2014, compiling an 8-2 spread record with six outright victories.

Clemson saw its streak of outgaining opponents in 28 consecutive games snapped during its comeback win over Ohio State in the CFP semifinals at the Fiesta Bowl. Trailing 16-0 late in the second quarter, Swinney’s squad was about to punt after a failed third-down attempt, only to get bailed out by a personal-foul call against the Buckeyes.

It proved to the game’s turning point and a crucial error for Ohio State as Clemson went on to score its first TD of the drive on an eight-yard run by Travis Etienne, who found paydirt with 2:45 left in the second quarter. After forcing a quick three and out, sophomore signal caller Trevor Lawrence took off on a scramble, found some running room and turned on the jets to beat the safety to the corner for an electrifying 67-yard TD run.

Then with 7:54 remaining in the third, Etienne caught a 53-yard TD pass from Lawrence to put give Clemson its first lead at 21-16. However, the Buckeyes went back in front 23-21 on a 23-yard TD pass from Justin Fields to Chris Olave. But with 1:49 left, Etienne caught a short pass from Lawrence and split a pair of defenders for a 34-yard TD reception. Tee Higgins caught a two-point conversion pass from Lawrence to give Clemson a 29-23 advantage.

Brent Venables’ defense took care of its business to seal the deal on a 29-23 win as a 2.5-point favorite. The 52 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 62-point total.

Lawrence completed 18-of-33 passes for 259 yards and two TDs without an interception against the Buckeyes. He had a team-best 107 rushing yards and one TD on 16 attempts. Etienne was limited to 36 rushing yards and one TD on 10 carries, but he had three receptions for 98 yards and two TDs. Justyn Ross had six catches for 47 yards.

Clemson sophomore LB Baylon Spector had five tackles two sacks vs. Ohio State, while Isaiah Simmons had four tackles and one interception.

Clemson has already faced a pair of SEC opponents, beating Texas A&M 24-10 at home on Sept. 7 and trouncing South Carolina 38-3 as a 27-point road ‘chalk’ on Nov. 30. Swinney’s bunch owns wins over bowl-bound foes at North Carolina (21-20), vs. FSU (45-14), at Louisville (45-10), vs. Boston College (59-7), vs. Wake Forest (52-3) and vs. Virginia (62-17 at the ACC Championship Game).

After the close call in Chapel Hill, Clemson ripped off eight wins a row by 31 points or more prior to rallying past the Buckeyes. Since the win at UNC. Clemson is on a 9-1 ATS roll.

For the season, Lawrence has connected on 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,431 yards with a 36/8 TD-INT ratio. He has 22 TD passes without an interception in Clemson’s last seven games, and he has a 31/3 TD-INT ratio in his club’s last 11 contests. Lawrence has 514 rushing yards and eight TDs, averaging 5.5 YPC.

Higgins has 56 receptions for 1,115 yards and 13 TDs, while Ross has 61 catches for 789 yards and eight TDs. Amari Rodger has 28 grabs for 418 yards and four TDs.

Etienne has 1,536 rushing yards and 18 TDs with an 8.0 YPC average. He also has 32 receptions for 396 yards and four TDs. Backup sophomore RB Lyn-J Dixon has 636 rushing yards, six TDs and a 6.2 YPC average.

Clemson is ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense (244.7 YPG), pass defense (138.5 YPG) and scoring ‘D’ (10.6 PPG). Venables’ unit is ranked ninth against the run (106.2 YPG).

The ‘under’ is 8-6 overall for Clemson, but it has seen the ‘over’ go 4-2 in its last six games. This is Clemson’s highest total of the season, but it has had eight totals in the 60s, with the ‘under’ going 6-2 in those contests. The highest previous total was 63 at Syracuse in a 41-6 win that easily went ‘under.’

The ‘over’ is 9-5 overall for LSU. This is its fourth-highest total of the year, with the ‘over’ going 2-1 in the three games that had higher totals.

Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET. on ESPN.

B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets

-- In CFP history, the No. 1 seed (LSU this year) is 0-3 in the finals.

-- I like LSU’s team total to go ‘over’ 19.5 in the first half and ‘over’ 37.5 for the game. Orgeron’s team has scored 42 points or more in 11 of its 14 victories.

-- There are dozens of proposition bets out there at various books. At DraftKings, Burrow’s ‘over/under’ for passing yards is 365.5 (-110 either way) and his total for rushing yards is 26.5 (‘under’ -121, ‘over’ +100). That number for Burrow’s rushing yards is down five yards from 31.5, where it was on Jan. 9. Edwards-Helaire’s total for rushing yards is 99.5 (-110 either way). Edwards-Helaire ran for 103 yards or more in six games this year. Burrow has thrown for 373 yards or more six times.

-- Lawrence’s ‘over/under’ for passing yards is 294.5 (-110 either way) and his total for rushing yards is 51.5 (-110 either way). Lawrence has thrown for 295 yards or more only three times this season. He’s run for 59 yards or more just three times. His highest rushing total other than those three was 47 yards at Louisville. Etienne’s total for rushing yards is 94.5 (-110 either way). The junior RB has eight games with 109 rushing yards or more, turning in seven of those performances in Clemson’s last nine games.
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