These two teams were the ones left standing at the end of the college football season. This was like a preview of the Wilder-Fury 2 fight. Two heavyweights going at it for the right to call themselves the national champion. Here are my observations:
-LSU quarterback Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy for a reason. He turned in a 521-yard and six touchdown performance in order to complete the mission. This was his lowest completion percentage (63.3%) this year, but it's to be expected against his best competition. He made a statement game and staked his claim to having one of the best seasons in college football history.
-Clyde Edwards-Helaire turned in a 21 touch for 164 yard performance. He didn't score for LSU, but his presence made a huge difference. Averaging 6.9 yards per carry and 10.8 per catch out the backfield provided just enough of a weapon LSU to give their passing attack what they needed in order to do what they did to carve up the Clemson defense.
-Defense was the name of the game. Despite the amount of points scored (67) and yards gained (1,022), all of them were hard-fought. There are times when we as fans must recognize when good offense beats good defense. Both defenses gave both offenses all they could handle. Holding Clemson to just under 400 yards helped LSU win and complete the mission.
-LSU got called for two penalties early on that hurt them on both sides of the ball. The first was an offsides on defense in which Trevor Lawrence hit Justyn Ross for a 35-yard gain on the free play. The next was an illegal man down field on offense when a lineman must've thought Burrow was going to scramble after feeling pressure, but he hit a Thaddeus Moss for a 38-yard gain and got called back. Both led to them being pinned deep in their own territory.
-Trevor Lawrence completed less than 50% of his passes. His 18/37 for 234 yard performance led to his first loss since he took over the starting duties for Clemson. If you want to get technical, this was his first loss since high school in 2017. Despite being the better pro prospect, Lawrence was out-performed by Burrow.
-Travis Etienne was held to 78 yards rushing on 15 carries. Take out his long of 29, and he rushed for only 3.5 yards per carry. He was the guy I looked at when I though of how Clemson could beat LSU. They needed Etienne and the run game to come through, and it didn't happen.
-Blatant pass interference call missed by refs at the 7:15 mark in the 3rd quarter. Derion Kendrick grabbed Ja'Marr Chase and pulled him down on a pass that appeared to be catchable, but the refs didn't see it as a catchable ball so they didn't throw the flag. I always thought when a defensive back grabbed a receiver while the ball was in air it was a penalty. Starting to think the pass interference rule has gone the way of the catch rule.
-There were a combined 18 accepted penalties for 183 yards between the two teams. In the biggest game of the year between the two best teams in college football, we saw some sloppy play. Granted, it was a bit over two weeks since they last played, but this was not what I expected from the best two teams in the country.
-When looking at the game and figuring out how LSU was able to take control and win, one key stat popped out: Clemson was 1 for 11 on 3rd down conversions. They were 46.5% on the season converting 3rd downs, but were held to only one in the biggest game of the year. Converting 3rd downs means moving the chains and ball control, which usually translates to wins. This was possibly one of the main reasons why Clemson lost.
What a game. I'm a Louisiana native an admitted LSU fan. I'm also a sports nerd who loves college football. When I say this was a great cake topper to the beautiful dessert college football has been to us this season, I mean that. LSU and Burrow have made their case for one of the best seasons by a team and player ever. Clemson was the perfect opponent. They were the defending champs on a 29-game win streak seeking their third title in four years led by a guy who's been hyped to be one of the best quarterback prospects in recent memory. However, they were beat by a team that had a mission in mind and weren't going to be stopped. So let the debate begin on where LSU and Burrow stand in the all time rankings. They have earned their spot in that argument and then some.
- In a week that is in large part about being thankful for the good things we are fortunate to have in life, Texans’ fans can have an extra helping of glee. After three years of enduring an absolute turkey of a franchise, it is certainly a football blessing to have the Texans gobble up three straight wins to get to 6-4 and make it a legitimately big game Sunday versus 7-3 Jacksonville at NRG Stadium.
Should the Texans beat the Jaguars for a second time, they sweep the season series and take over first place in the AFC South. Raise your hands if back in early September you had this as a likely scenario. Hands down liars! With six more games to play after Sunday it’s not as if the Texans clinch the division with a win, but it clearly positions them to take the division and go from last to first as the Jaguars did from 2021 to last season. Among the Texans’ final six games, only Cleveland is an opponent currently with a winning record. The Broncos have won four in a row to enter the wild card race at 5-5, but that game is in Houston. Then the Texans play at the offensively impotent Jets and the dead in the water Titans. The Deshaun Watson-less Browns are here Christmas Eve before the Texans get their second game with the Titans, ahead of the season finale at the presently 5-5 Colts. That is a very favorable schedule. With a win over the Jags Sunday, the Texans finishing 11-6 becomes very plausible. That would force the Jaguars to win five of their final six games, which include playing at Cleveland and a home date vs. the Ravens. Jacksonville’s other four games project as wins: home games vs. the no-Joe Burrow Bengals and the horrible Panthers, road games at Tampa Bay and Tennessee.
On the flip side, if the Jaguars come here and win Sunday, they come relatively close to putting away the division. The Jags’ would leave with a two game lead, and a split with the Texans would give the Jacksonville the tiebreaker via better divisional record, unless they somehow lose at Tennessee in their season finale.
Beating the Jags again doesn’t figure to be as easy as it turned out to be for the Texans in Florida back in September. The Texans won 37-17 despite being outgained 404 yards to 366. After getting out to a 17-0 lead, the Texans saw Jacksonville draw within 17-10 with 4:35 to go in the third quarter. Then Andrew Beck shockingly rumbled 85 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return. Thereafter the outcome was never in doubt. The Texans were turnover-free in the game, the Jaguars coughed it up twice. With C.J. Stroud coming off of a three interceptions game you know taking care of the ball is a point of re-emphasis this week.
The Jaguars are a perfect 4-0 on the road, one of the road games being a road trip not a true road game. They beat the Buffalo Bills in London.
If C.J Stroud opted to take the rest of the season off, he’d still have the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award just about sewn up. Fellow freshman Texan Tank Dell is in the hunt for runner-up. The dynamic 165 pound former Houston Cougar has six touchdown catches. That equals the rookie TD haul total of Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins combined. Johnson had four TD grabs as a rookie in 2003, Hopkins just two as a rook in 2013. Dell is on pace for 10 touchdown catches. The schedule being 17 games now impacts this stuff of course, but Dell missed the Saints game while in concussion protocol. In the Super Bowl era, only nine first year wide receivers have cracked double digits in TD receptions. Randy Moss blew away the field with his epic 17 TD catch rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings in 1998. Next with 13 are Ja’Marr Chase two years go with the Bengals and the begoggled John Jefferson with the Chargers in 1978. Odell Beckham and Mike Evans caught 12 apiece as rookies, Mike Williams 11. Calvin Ridley, Daryl Turner, and Sammy White each snared 10. White did it in a 14 game schedule.
Rams rookie fifth round pick Puka Nacua is Dell’s chief competition for rookie wideout of the year. Nacua is on pace for a whopping 117 receptions for more than 1500 yards.
A Thanksgiving-related note/quasi prediction. If the Texans ultimately finish second in the division, here’s a guess that they play at the Arlington Cowboys Turkey Day 2024. The Texans next season will play a game at the NFC East team that finishes in its division this year in the same place the Texans do theirs. The Cowboys are going to be second behind Philadelphia in the NFC East. C.J. Stroud’s arrival means no more zero nationally televised games for the Texans. A Texans-Cowboys holiday tilt makes sense. The Texans have played two Thanksgiving Day games, both at Detroit.
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Texans on Tap is the weekly Texan-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule a first video segment goes up Monday on the SportsMapTexans YouTube channel.