Florida Gave the 2020 National Champions their Biggest Test
With LSU capturing the program’s fourth national title on Monday night, the 2019-20 college football season has officially come to a close. And while college football games are undoubtedly all independent from one another, the LSU-Clemson title fight did reveal a lot about the Florida Gators.
The biggest takeaway being that Florida is on the brink of hanging with the big dogs.
Again, I truly understand the concept of the countless factors that go into a football game. I’m not saying Florida is better than Clemson and deserved to be in the College Football Playoff this season. Instead, I’m reiterating the notion that the college football world is at the fingertips of Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators -- all that’s left to do is reach out and grab it.
Using LSU as the common denominator for the sake of this argument, by the numbers, Florida fared better than the defending national champions.
Offensively, Kyle Trask outperformed Trevor Lawrence -- Clemson’s QB who is the current Heisman favorite for 2020.
Against the same defense, Trask finished his night in Baton Rouge 23-39 for 310 yards and three touchdowns. Conversely, Lawrence struggled for the better part of the game as he threw for just 234 yards in Clemson’s 25-42 loss to LSU in the title game. And though Lawrence’s 234 yards is just ten yards less than his season average, his 48.6% completion percentage proved to be a glaring issue.
Meanwhile, back in October, Trask posted his least accurate performance against the Tigers. Yet, he still managed to blow Lawrence’s accuracy out of the water with a completion percentage of 59% versus LSU.
On the ground, Florida and Clemson’s stats against LSU were eerily similar. However, one of the big differences is the fact that Clemson’s offensive line is leaps and bounds better when compared to Florida’s. In the title game, Clemson gained 160 yards on the ground. In the regular season, the Gators ran for 146 yards against the National Championship winning Tigers. In my opinion, 14 additional rushing yards don’t make up for the talent gap on the offensive front between Clemson and Florida.
However, the important part of the football game when facing Joe Burrow and the LSU offense is how a team performs on defense.
When defending a team that averages 568.4 yards per game, it seems as though even the perfect game plan will have its flaws. So when the No. 6 ranked defense in the country was getting ready to face off against the No. 1 ranked offense in the country, it seemed as though the college football gods were getting ready to gift fans with a great showing. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
In the national championship, the Clemson Tigers gave up 628 offensive yards to Joe Burrow and the LSU offense. However, the Florida Gators -- who have the ninth best defense in the country -- held the same offense to 511 yards.
And of course, we can’t forget that Florida was without their two best pass rushers in Jon Greenard and Jabari Zuniga when the Gators and the Tigers met up in Baton Rouge in October.
All of the differences on the field eventually translate on the scoreboard, which brings up the arguments that we have all seen about Florida being better and more deserving than Clemson because of the three-point differential on the scoreboard. However, like I said, I’m not sure that Florida is more deserving than Clemson or that Florida is three points better than Clemson even though the common denominator might suggest that.
Yet, I do think when comparing Clemson and Florida’s performances against LSU, it should stand out and be encouraging for Gator fans. Though this season has ended, next season is just around the corner. And if the 2020 National Championship was any indication of where Florida stands with the rest of the pack, then Florida could see themselves playing late in December next season.