Why Oklahoma Will Win
– This version has a defense. The 2018 Oklahoma Sooners were dead last in college football in passing yards allowed, dead last in first downs allowed, and 114th in the nation in total defense. It was also 111th in pass efficiency D and couldn’t come up with a third down stop.
Kyler Murray could’ve used a little help.
The 2017 Oklahoma defense wasn’t all that bad, but it didn’t have much of a pass rush and the secondary didn’t make enough big plays.
Baker Mayfield could’ve used a little help.
This year’s OU defense doesn’t come up with enough takeaways, it lost some parts to suspension, but it led the Big 12 in total D, was ninth in the nation in third down stops, and was outstanding against the run. Considering LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire has a hamstring issue, the Sooner defense is getting even more help.
Okay, but …
– Can Oklahoma do anything to slow down the LSU passing game? It’ll get hit by a few deep passes, but it’s got the talent and the athleticism in the secondary to at least hold up a bit.
No FBS quarterback was able to hit the 70% mark on this D, and even the quarterbacks who had a little success didn’t go off.
In the pass-happy Big 12, Texas Tech managed just 122 yards through the air. Sam Ehlinger of Texas came up with just 210 yards with no scores, and only Iowa State’s Brock Purdy and Carter Stanley of Kansas threw for more than two touchdown passes and eight yards per pass.
That doesn’t mean that Joe Burrow will go off, but OU has just enough ability to generate pressure, and just enough experience across the defense to slow down the machine a bit.
– Jalen Hurts is Jalen Hurts. This is the fourth time in four years that Hurts will be in the College Football Playoff, and this will be his seventh CFP game. He’s hardly going to be overwhelmed by the moment
He’s going to let it rip against an LSU defense that’s going to do whatever it can to make sure he doesn’t take off and crank up yards with his legs, but he’ll have CeeDee Lamb and a healthier receiving corps to play around with.
The only way this works for Oklahoma is to match Burrow and company with big play after big play. Tua Tagovailoa was able to do it, and so was Sam Ehlinger. Florida’s Kyle Trask threw for 310 yards and three scores and Ole Miss QB John Rhys Plumlee ran for 212 yards and four scores.
Hurts in this offense has the ability to be a combination of all of that.
Now throw in the intangibles. The experience, the toughness, and the make-up of a guy who’s got that extra juice needed to have been Nick Saban’s starting quarterback as a freshman, and to run for what would’ve been an all-timer national championship touchdown if Deshaun Watson didn’t do him one better.
All the pressure is on the other side of the field. LSU is supposed to win by more than two touchdowns. Burrow is supposed to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. Oklahoma is supposed to be the fourth team in a three team national championship chase.
Hurts has been here before, and so has Oklahoma. LSU hasn’t.
Why LSU Will Win
– LSU’s defense has decided to kick it in. Joe Burrow might be the signature superstar, the offense might be historically unstoppable, and the team might have spent the last few weeks getting its butt kissed by the college football world.
Now it’s time for that defense to make it all happen to get the team to New Orleans.
It was if the battle against Ole Miss was the enough-is-enough moment. Clemson had one of those against North Carolina, and LSU had the back-to-back games against Alabama and Ole Miss on the road allowing 1,155 yards combined in the two games. Ever since then, this has been the D everyone was waiting for.
Arkansas did next to nothing the week after, Texas A&M was shut down to a dead stop, and Georgia was never allowed to play in the SEC Championship. It all started with more pressure from the front.
It was there against Bama and Ole Miss, but it was ramped up a bit more against the Hogs and Aggies. Get to Jalen Hurts, don’t let him get comfortable, and rely on the speed and talent of the back seven to keep him from turning plays on the move into gashing dashes.
LSU has the talent on D to do just that, starting with a secondary that should be able to lock down just enough on the OU receivers to keep them from going off.
S Grant Delpit won the Thorpe as the nation’s best defensive back, but …
Freshman CB Derek Stingley is better.
This is an NFL group of defensive backs that’s about to stand out.
– Ja’Marr Chase might have won the Biletnikoff as the nation’s top receiver, but if it’s possible for a corps to produce this much and still be underappreciated, this one has done it.
Burrow was able to hit his targets, but his guys also made a whole lot of plays. Chase averaged close to 21 yards per catch with 18 scores, Justin Jefferson led the team with 88 grabs to go along with 14 touchdowns, and Terrace Marshall scored ten times on his 37 catches.
And then there’s the Oklahoma secondary.
Yes, it’s good, but no, it’s not like playing in the Big 12 a few years ago. Besides Sam Ehlinger and Brock Purdy, the great conference passing quarterback that the Sooners faced was … ?
Baylor’s Charlie Brewer was fine. OU had to deal with Houston’s D’Eriq King, and Jett Duffey was just getting going, and there wasn’t a whole lot else. And now …
– Okay, Joe Burrow. It’s time to get back to work. Whatever you might have thought about Burrow’s season, it was even better.
He never dipped below the 70% passing mark, only averaged fewer than nine yards per throw once – the 23-20 win over Auburn – and the shootout against Ole Miss was the only time he threw more than one interception.
He was able to pull off the win over Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama, beat Georgia and Jake Fromm in the SEC Championship win over Georgia, came through in a duel against Sam Ehlinger of Texas, and did hie part in the blowout win over Utah State and Jordan Love.
He went up against the NFL quarterbacks on the slate, and he was better than all of them. And if he’s not better than Jalen Hurts in Atlanta, he’s got the team around him to pick up the slack.