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SEC Banter: Here's what you need to know about Clemson, LSU in the national championship
Ben Prevost writes SEC Banter weekly for The Times during the college football season.

It’s Clemson and LSU for the national championship in New Orleans.

The all-Tigers affair kicks off at 8 p.m. Monday in the Superdome, raising an important question:  why the heck is the national championship played on a Monday night?

Conventional wisdom holds the College Football Playoff wants to avoid competing against the NFL playoffs.


Why not play the game on a Friday night?  

Much easier logistically, avoids NFL competition, and lets people enjoy a game that drags on until 12:30 a.m.

Something tells me — just a hunch — that money dictates the game being played on a Monday.

While SEC Banter can’t change when the game is played, with any luck, I can change your perception of it with this analysis of the Clemson and Louisiana State football programs.

I’ll focus on the factors that matter most; the ones that surely will determine the outcome of the game.  Here we go:

Who has the real Death Valley?: Both Clemson and LSU play home football games in stadiums proclaimed as “Death Valley.” But I don’t think anyone actually believes Clemson’s Memorial Stadium is a place where opponents’ dreams come to die. Death Valley is Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night in Baton Rouge, and it has the edge here.

Baton Rouge, La. vs. Clemson, SC: Let’s talk college towns.  Baton Rouge is the absolute best place in the world on seven Saturdays during the fall. For the remaining 358 days of the year, it’s a bland New Orleans wannabe with little to no redeeming qualities. Clemson wins here.

Golf Courses: Clemson’s golf course is terrific, features a signature “Tiger paw” green, and has several holes bordering a pristine lake.  LSU’s golf course is as boring as a non-football weekend in Baton Rouge.  Advantage: Clemson.

Food:  Visitors to LSU can hit seafood dives, upscale Creole restaurants serving classic South Louisiana fare, and enjoy a roast beef po-boy under the Mississippi River Bridge at a place called Pastime.  I’ve never had a single meal in Clemson so can’t really say, but . . . I will anyway.  LSU wins this one, hands-down.

Team Colors:  Sure is tough to look good in either of these teams’ colors.  Believe me, I’ve donned many a purple LSU shirt and it just doesn’t work.  That Clemson orange with traces of purplish-blue or whatever doesn’t do much better.  This one’s a draw.

80’s Action Movies vs. Teen Comedies:  The game may come down to this. Do you prefer 80’s action movies such as Rambo, The Terminator, Die Hard, and Top Gun?  Or are you a Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Teen Wolf person?  

Hey, this wouldn’t be SEC Banter without a few random 80’s references.

Quarterbacks:  Now we’re getting serious. Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence is essentially unbeatable, winning 29 straight games at Clemson and a stunning 70 of the last 71 games he’s been a part of, going back to high school in Cartersville. 70 of 71!

For its part, LSU has a guy named Joe Burrow who happened to win the Heisman Trophy running away and shatter most LSU and SEC passing records while doing so.

Both thrive when challenged, rising to the occasion, willing their teams to victory.  This is a tough one but slight edge to Burrow because he cut his long hair while Lawrence retains his.

Tigers vs. Tigers: LSU’s Tigers are named for a Confederate regiment from Louisiana that “fought like tigers” during a bloody Civil War battle. Research revealed no particular reason why Clemson is called the Tigers. Plus, I think Clemson’s mascot looks kinda weird. LSU wins this factor.

Coaches: Not too long ago, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was working in real estate in Birmingham, Ala. for a company started by his former strength coach at the University of Alabama. Sounds promising, huh?

Fast forward a few years and Dabo has guided Clemson to two national titles, plays for a third Monday, and is at the pinnacle of the college football world. Swinney is beloved by his players and respected by his peers.

Ed Orgeron was an afterthought at LSU. The Tigers having swung and missed at trendier names for a head coach in 2016, opted for the barrel-chested, gravel-voiced Cajun’s favorite song is Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Born on the Bayou,” which Orgeron himself was, quite literally.

Orgeron credits his success to treating every player as if they were his son.  Dabo has made Clemson a powerhouse, consistently attracting the country’s top recruits because they know he cares about them.

Slight edge to Dabo here but, in all seriousness, you can’t help but love both coaches and their stories.

Monday’s matchup has all the makings of a classic. Clemson is the defending national champion. Its quarterback has won 29 games in a row, but the Clemson Tigers are somehow underdogs.

LSU is playing in its fourth national championship game in New Orleans (2003, 2007, 2011, 2019). A win caps a historic season and cements Ed Orgeron, Joe Burrow, and the Bayou Bengals as Louisiana legends.

Whether it’s Geaux Tigers or Go Tigers in your house, I hope you enjoy the game and thanks for reading SEC Banter!

Ben Prevost writes SEC Banter for The Times. He can be reached at

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