College Football Playoff National Championship

LSU vs Clemson CFP National Championship Game: Good, Bad and Ugly

LSU vs Clemson CFP National Championship Game: Good, Bad and Ugly
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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:

The Good

-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.

The Bad

-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.

The Ugly

-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.

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The Astros need to turn things around in a hurry. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros have already been swept in four series this season. They were swept in four series all of last season. As Mexico City says bienvenidos to the Astros this weekend, there are certainly more than a few folks fretting that the Astros are already close to saying adios to playoff hopes. The Astros are not at the point of no return, though one can see it out there on the horizon. It wouldn’t take another month of their garbage level 7-19 performance for the season to be essentially down the drain.

If the Astros were in the American League East, they’d already be ten games out of second place. But they’re not! If in the AL Central they’d be eleven and a half games back of Cleveland. But they’re not! Dozens of teams have rebounded to win divisions from larger deficits much later in the season than the Astros face presently. The Seattle Mariners lead the thus far weak AL West at 13-12. The Astros being six and a half games in arrears of the M’s and six back of the Texas Rangers in late April is far from optimal but nowhere near devastating.

Multiple media outlets have noted how few teams historically have started a season in as stumblebum a fashion as the 2024 Astros and wound up making the playoffs. What every outlet I have seen noting that failed to include: this is just the third season since Major League Baseball added a third Wild Card to each league’s postseason field. So, while 7-19 out of the gate is indisputably awful, it is not the death knell to the extent it has been over generations of MLB.

The issue isn’t where the Astros sit in the standings, it’s that they have played atrocious baseball and aren’t providing reason for optimism that a stark turnaround is imminent. The starting rotation is the best hope. Justin Verlander has made two starts. Framber Valdez rejoins the rotation Sunday. Cristian Javier should be a week or so away. Obviously, Ronel Blanco isn’t going to continue pitching as well as he has through his first four starts. But if he is a good number four starter, that’s fine if the top three coming into the season pitch to reasonably hoped for form.

Hunter Brown simply is not a good big league pitcher. Maybe he someday fulfills his potential, but the data at this point are clear. What can Brown do for you? Not much. Spencer Arrighetti needs better command to be a good big league starter. J.P. France was a revelation over his first 17 starts last season, but since has looked like the guy who posted underwhelming numbers when in the minor leagues. If the Astros wind up with 50-plus starts from Brown/Arrighetti/France their goose will probably be cooked.

The only MLB teams with worse staff earned run averages than the Astros’ horrific 5.07 are the Chicago White Sox (Wait! They have Martin Maldonado!) and Colorado Rockies. At 3-22 the White Sox are on an early pace to post the worst record in the history of Major League Baseball. The Rockies never have a chance to post good pitching stats because of the mile high offensive freak show environment in Denver.

Way to go, Joe

Props to Joe Espada for his conviction in making what he believed to be the right call in pulling Verlander after four and a third innings Thursday at Wrigley Field. Verlander allowed no runs but had reached 95 pitches in just the second outing of the injury-delayed start to his season. Not easy for a rookie manager skippering what has been a Titanic journey thus far to pull a surefire Hall of Famer who was two outs away from qualifying for a win. Many were no doubt poised to destroy Espada had Rafael Montero given up the lead in the fifth. Verlander was angry at being pulled from any chance at his 259th career win. Understood, but the manager’s job is to make the decisions he thinks are in the ballclub’s overall best interest. That Montero and Bryan Abreu combined to blow the lead in the sixth is immaterial.

Then there's the offense…

Six runs total the last four games. Scored more than four runs in just one of the last nine games. Timely hitting largely non-existent.

At last check Alex Bregman still hawks that “Breggy Bomb” salsa. At the plate, he’s been mostly stuck in “Breggy Bum” mode, including zero bombs (home runs). 23 games played without a homer is Bregman’s longest drought since 2017 when he had separate 35 and 27 game stretches between dingers. Bregman has a history of slow first months of the season, but never anything as inept as he’s posted thus far. A litany of lazy fly balls, infield pops, and routine grounders add up to a .216 batting average and feeble .566 OPS. Reference point: Martin Maldonado’s worst OPS season with the Astros was .573. If Bregman was a young guy handed a starting job coming out of spring training, if a viable alternative were available, there’s a chance he’d be a Sugar Land Space Cowboy right now. Bregman’s track record makes it a decent bet that he winds up with decent numbers, but nothing special. Certainly nothing remotely worth the 10 years 300 million dollars or whatever Bregman and agent Scott Boras intend(ed) to seek on the free agent market this coming offseason. Two hits Thursday did get Bregman to the 1000 hit plateau for his career.

Despite arriving south of the border with his batting average at .346, even Jose Altuve has his warts. With runners in scoring position, Altuve has one hit this season. One. In 16 at bats. Small sample size, but it counts. That’s .063. Yordan Alvarez has been no great shakes either, five for 24 (.208) with RISP.

One wonders what would happen if the Astros got a hold of and “lost” Jose Abreu’s passport/visa this weekend in Mexico City and Abreu couldn’t get back into the U.S. after the two-game set with the Rockies.

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via YouTube: stone cold stros - YouTube with the complete audio available via Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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