2018 Clemson vs. 2019 LSU: Who Is the Best Team Ever
It began as soon as the 2020 College Football National Championship was completed, and the 2019 LSU Tigers joined the 2018 Clemson Tigers as the only two teams to complete a college football season 15-0 in the modern era of college football.
What began was a debate over which of the two teams really is "The Best Ever."
Now that we have had a couple of months to step away from the Jan. 13 game between the two Tiger teams, it is time that we put this rest — for once and for all.
The case for LSU:
Statistically, LSU had the No. 1 offense in college football, averaging 48.4 points per game. While its defense was only 32nd in the land by allowing 21.9 points per game.
LSU faced seven teams ranked inside of the top-10 at the time of their meeting. The Tigers beat the No. 9 Texas Longhorns, the No. 7 Florida Gators, the No. 9 Auburn Tigers, No. 3 Alabama, the No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs, the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners and No. 3 Clemson.
LSU was the first team to beat the top-four teams in the initial AP Poll from the start of the year (Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma). All seven of the top-10 teams LSU beat finished the season ranked in the top-25 of the final AP Poll too, including five of the top-eight.
LSU's website clearly believes that the debate was over when the final seconds ticked off the clock Jan. 13:
"History will show the 2019 LSU Football team finishing 15-0 — the second team in modern football to do so — with an NCAA record seven victories over Top-10 opponents, while leading the nation in scoring and total offense. LSU capped its perfect season by ending defending national champion Clemson's 29-game winning streak.
"Inside the lines, the Tigers were led throughout the season by record-setting, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback; Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver; and Thorpe Award-winning safety. They were supported by fellow All-Americans cornerback, guard, center and running back Clyde Edwards Helaire.
"Outside the lines, national coach of the year followed a blueprint he presented in November of 2016 to bring LSU back to the pinnacle of collegiate athletics in his third full season as head coach.
"He vowed to recruit the best offensive coordinator in football — then paired "slinger" with rising star and 2019 Broyles Award winner Joe Brady. He wanted to run a spread offense with a dual-threat quarterback — "somebody who knows how to run it" — and he convinced Burrow to transfer to LSU for his final two seasons and bring the Tigers the championships he envisioned."
The case for Clemson:
Clemson had a 15-0 record, becoming the first team to accomplish the feat since Penn in 1897. Clemson won the ACC title for the fourth year in a row, marking the first time in ACC history a school won four consecutive outright league titles. The Tigers joined Florida (1993-96) as the only teams to win four consecutive Power Five Conference championship games.
Clemson posted a 15-0 record against a schedule that included a school-record 12 games against teams who finished with winning records. The Tigers played the nation’s most difficult schedule, as their opponents had a 120-57 record (. 642) when not playing them.
Clemson won a school-record 13 of 15 games by at least 20 points, surpassing 2013 Florida State (12) for the most by any team since 2000. Clemson won its final 10 games by 20 points or more, and won by an average margin of 31.1 points per game, the best margin in the nation and the second-largest in school history, trailing only a 35.3-point average margin in 1900.
It passed the 30.4-point average margin in 1901, a season in which Clemson won one of its five games by a score of 122-0.
Clemson ranked second in the nation in yards per rush (6.57) and first in the nation in yards per rush allowed (2.51), becoming the first program since at least 2009 to rank in the top two in both categories in a single season.
Clemson tied team records in wins at home (seven), on the road (five), away from home (eight), in regular season conference play (eight) and against conference opponents (nine).
Clemson posted a 5-0 record in true road games, joining Northwestern as only teams in the nation to go 5-0 on the road. It marked the sixth time in school history (and the third time in last four years) they have been 5-0 on the road.
Clemson featured five first-team All-ACC selections and a total of 18 who made first, second or third team, more than any other school and the most in a season in school history. The Tigers produced seven players who made an All America team, second-most in a season in school history. That included a record five first-team selections by at least one of the five major teams, the most first team All-Americans in one season in school history.
Clemson set a school record with 44.3 points per game, ahead of the previous record of 41.0 set in 2012. The Tigers reached 27 points in 15 straight games, a school record. Clemson scored a school-record 664 points, becoming the second team in ACC history to score 650 points in a single season (Florida State, 723 in 2013).
Clemson broke the school and ACC record of 7,718 yards of offense, set in 2015, by recording 7,908 yards of offense. They also posted a school-record 527.2 yards per game, which included a record 15 games with 400 or more yards and a record-tying three 600-yard games. The Tigers set a school record by averaging 7.35 yards per play, shattering the previous record of 6.5 from 2006.
Clemson led the country in scoring defense (13.1 points per game) for the first time in school history, and set a school record with 54 sacks, breaking the mark held by the 2016 team (49).
Offense: The 2018 Clemson team and the 2019 LSU team are very similar with respect to points per game, margin of victory and total offense — however, the prolific nature of the LSU offense with what Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and company did gives the Bayou Bengals the nod for the best offense.
Schedule: The seven wins over Top 10 teams (at the time they played) is impressive, but so was Clemson's schedule — which featured wins over six teams ranked in the Top 25 (at the time they played) and was the nation's toughest schedule played, something that the LSU Tigers cannot boast. The slim advantage goes to the Clemson Tigers.
Defense: The 2018 Clemson Tigers finished the season with the nations top scoring defense, fourth-ranked rushing defense, 24th-ranked pass defense and the fifth-ranked total defense.
The LSU Tigers finished the season with the 31st-ranked scoring defense, 21st-ranked rushing defense, 59th-ranked pass defense and the 31st-ranked total defense.
Clearly the Clemson Tigers take this category.
While the decision cannot be made only on the basis of these three categories, they do weigh in the favor of the Clemson Tigers, but eye-appeal does matter. What did we see when we turned on the television or walked out of the press box?
With those things taken into consideration, along with the bevy of stats, it is our determination that the title of "The Best Ever" resides with the first 15-0 team — the Clemson Tigers.