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Monday, April 22, 2024

Well, here we are, folks. The end of another college football season is upon us.

Last month, the Gators wrapped up another successful season under head coach Dan Mullen with a win in the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, over the Virginia Cavaliers, 36-28.

While it was not as lopsided as Vegas had predicted (the spread was 14.5 in favor of the orange and blue -- royal blue), Virginia was unable to catch up after the Gators made it a two-possession game.

Two New Year’s Six bowl game wins in a row and an 11-win season? Not too shabby for a second-year coach.

So now what? Don’t fret, there’s one game left before the seven-month college football hiatus ensues.

The epic conclusion of this year’s CFP between Clemson and LSU -- or as I’d like to call it, “the most-anticipated catfight in history” -- is scheduled to kick off tonight at 8 p.m.

Sports Editor Kyle Wood and sports writer Payton Titus debate who they believe will win the national title game between the two Tiger teams.

Clemson will win because…

It entered the postseason with a chip on its shoulder. Head coach Dabo Swinney has been very outspoken about his disappointment in the playoff committee, which came to a head in December when his Tigers were ranked third in the final poll.

Everyone counted them out.

“The ACC sucks,” they said. “They didn’t even play anybody this season,” they griped. “Trevor Lawrence peaked last season,” they assumed.

Clemson now has the chance to win back-to-back national championships.

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In Clemson’s playoff game against Ohio State, Lawrence led the Tigers in both passing (18 of 33 for 259 yards, two touchdowns) and rushing yards (16 carries, 107 yards, one touchdown). Over the course of the season, Lawrence is fifth in the country for passing touchdowns with 36. But, most importantly, he knows how to win this thing. He’s done it before against one of the most dominant college football programs of all time in Alabama. Why not tonight?

And with Dabo whispering sweet nothings like “God wouldn’t put a Goliath in your life if he didn’t know there was a David in you,” into their ears (as he told “Game On” reporter Emily Austen last week), how could they lose?

- Payton Titus

LSU (-5.5) will win because…

I had the privilege and the pleasure of watching Joe Burrow, Heisman winner and destroyer of defenses, play football this year. It was a cool night in mid-October in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Burrow had a bad game -- by his astronomical standards.

Only twice this season did Burrow throw for fewer than 300 yards: one was a 55-3 dismantling of Georgia Southern in which his services were not required after halftime. The other was a 42-28 win over then-No. 7 Florida. What I’m saying is Burrow on an “off night” is enough to defeat a top-10 team with a top-10 defense.

Burrow the past few weeks has been far from “off.” In the SEC Championship Game against Georgia and the College Football Playoff Semifinal against Oklahoma, he accounted for 904 total yards of offense and 12 touchdowns. Accordingly, the Tigers outscored their opponents 100-38 in those two games. That’s not normal and neither is this offense.

The question surrounding the Tigers for years has been “when can they get over Alabama?” The Tigers went to Tuscaloosa and all but punched their ticket to Atlanta in a shootout win. A few weeks later, they returned for the semifinal because they had so much fun the first time around against Georgia.

Now they have what is essentially a home game in New Orleans for the title. (Yes, Dabo Swinney already complained about this.)

Burrow has ridiculous weapons at his disposal in running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, who are tied for the most receiving touchdowns in the nation with 18 apiece.

Give me LSU in this game. Because there is just no way that a historical season like this can end with these Tigers coming up short now. Because I’m convinced Burrow could make a group of alligatorSports writers look like All-SEC-caliber wideouts and he has much better targets to throw to. Because there’s no way this season doesn’t end with a Gatorade-drenched Coach O saying, “Go Tigahs” one last time.

- Kyle Wood

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