For only the second time since 2015, the college football national championship game is not Alabama vs. Clemson. Dabo Swinney's Tigers, however, are still here, hunting for a second straight title and third in the last four years. Instead of facing the Tide this time, though, they'll get an LSU team looking for its first title since 2007.
Ed Orgeron's Tigers are 14–0 this year, and—just like Clemson—are looking to finish off an undefeated season. Quarterback Joe Burrow is aiming to join the short list of Heisman winners that won the national championship in the same season, and his improbable year could have a fairytale ending. Standing in LSU's way is a team that has not lost in 29 straight games, and a quarterback in Trevor Lawrence that has not lost a game since high school.
So who will wear the crown in 2020? Below, SI’s writers and editors make their picks for Monday’s national title game, offering up a final score prediction and the player who will be remembered as the game’s MVP.
Ross Dellenger: LSU 31, Clemson 24
No one has figured out how to slow LSU's offense this season, but if anyone's going to get close enough, it's Clemson DC Brent Venables. The problem? The upstate Tigers lost three NFL first-rounders on defense from the squad that pounded Alabama in last year's championship game. Clemson keeps it close, but the bayou Tigers win their first national title since 2007.
Game MVP: LSU QB Joe Burrow. The Heisman Trophy winner caps a magical senior season with an MVP award in leading his Tigers to the championship.
Laken Litman: LSU 45, Clemson 40
Joe Burrow will find receiver Justin Jefferson over and over, while Dave Aranda’s defense will limit Clemson to a season-low in total yards. LSU defensive backs like Derek Stingley Jr., Kristian Fulton, and Grant Delpit will make the necessary plays to frustrate Clemson’s standout receivers like Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins, and Trevor Lawrence will lose his first game since high school.
Game MVP: Burrow. He may not break as many records as he did while lighting up Oklahoma’s defense in the CFP semifinal, but given the way this season has gone for LSU’s Heisman Trophy winning QB, it feels like his best game of the year has yet to come. It also feels like there’s truly only one way for this season to end: with Burrow holding up both the national title and MVP trophies after another jaw-dropping performance on the sport’s biggest stage.
Pat Forde: Clemson 37, LSU 35
The purple-and-gold Tigers are on a red-hot roll and playing a virtual home game—so why take the purple-and-orange Tigers? Because I've got to see someone beat them to believe it can happen. Clemson has developed the ultimate winner mentality, absolutely believing it cannot and will not lose—with a 29-game winning streak as evidence. That was abundantly clear against Ohio State, when pushed to the brink of defeat. LSU has the best offense Clemson has faced, but Clemson also has the best defense LSU has faced—by a pretty wide margin. The 16-day gap between semifinals and final helps a Clemson team that had a much more taxing semi, and something tells me this comes down to a game-winning field goal by the same kicker (B.T. Potter) that Dabo Swinney famously ripped all over the sideline earlier in this season.
Game MVP: Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. He will guide the winning scoring drive, and is plenty capable of producing a memorable quarterback duel with LSU's Heisman Trophy winner, Joe Burrow.
Max Meyer: LSU 38, Clemson 35
LSU’s offense is obviously one of the biggest stories this season, but the defense has quietly been fantastic over the past month. LSU has held Oklahoma, Georgia and Texas A&M to their lowest point totals of the season in the past three games. On the other side of the ball, LSU simply has too many weapons for Clemson to handle, especially with tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire getting healthier with the extended time off. Tigahs over Tigers for me here.
Game MVP: Burrow. The Heisman winner will complete his fairytale season with a perfect ending.
Molly Geary: Clemson 38, LSU 34
Being the underdog in the national championship game is nothing new for Dabo Swinney's team; in fact, of the five title games in the playoff era, the Vegas favorite has only won twice (both Alabama) and has never covered the spread. A magical season for Joe Burrow and LSU seems fated to end in confetti, but it also feels like the other Tigers have been lurking all season, waiting for the right time to truly play to their ceiling. Granted, they didn't always do that against Ohio State, but how many thought Clemson would rally back from 16-0? Swinney's Tigers have the offensive firepower to challenge an impressive LSU bunch and the 'chip-on-your-shoulder' mentality an underdog needs to succeed.
Game MVP: Lawrence. Clemson isn't going to win this game without a big night from its QB, who has yet to taste defeat in college.
Michael Shapiro: LSU 34, Clemson 30
Clemson should be able to provide at least a modicum resistance against Joe Burrow after LSU thrashed Oklahoma in the national semifinal, though I see Burrow's career in Baton Rouge ending in storybook fashion. Passing game coordinator Joe Brady continues to dial up beautiful wrinkles for LSU's offense, springing a slate of deep touchdowns on a weekly basis. Trevor Lawrence won't be afraid of the moment, but the likely 2020 No. 1 pick will ultimately win the national championship over the potential top pick in 2021.
Game MVP: Burrow. Perhaps a receiver will steal the award, but it's hard to envision anyone but Burrow hoisting the MVP award if LSU wins its first national title since 2007
Lorenzo Arguello: LSU 34, Clemson 28
The extended break between the semifinals and the national title game will help both teams, especially Clemson. The prediction here is that Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables’s rested group will get some stops early and force LSU to go for three, but Joe Burrow & Co. will eventually break things open. There won’t be a Peach Bowl-like blowout, but Coach O’s Tigers will control things for most of the second half.
Game MVP: Burrow. Kinda boring and obvious? Probably.