LSU’s run of dominance hasn’t even shown a single sign of slowing down.
That continued in emphatic fashion in the first semifinal of the College Football Playoff on Saturday in Atlanta.
The top-ranked Tigers absolutely trounced No. 4 Oklahoma 63-28, punching their ticket to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in New Orleans on Jan. 13 where they will meet the winner of the Fiesta Bowl between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Clemson.
The game was essentially over at halftime. By that point, LSU led 49-14 and had put up an absurd 497 yards of offense, an attack led by Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. Burrow carved up the Sooners’ outmatched secondary with ease, completing 21-of-27 passes for 403 yards and a ridiculous seven — yes, seven — touchdowns.
Four of those seven touchdowns went to Justin Jefferson, who caught nine balls for 186 yards in the first two quarters.
How many touchdown catches do you have in the first half, Justin Jefferson? pic.twitter.com/MUwLpGei0u— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) December 28, 2019
Oklahoma showed a bit of fight early, tying the score at 7-7 midway through the first quarter. But from there, the Sooners had no answer for LSU’s aerial barrage. The undefeated Tigers would score touchdowns on their next six drives without much resistance whatsoever from the Sooners’ defense.
Meanwhile, the LSU defense bottled up Jalen Hurts and the Sooners’ renowned offense. Hurts, the Heisman runner-up playing in his fourth consecutive College Football Playoff, looked completely overwhelmed. Though he scored once on the ground, Hurts started the game just 5-of-18 through the air, including an interception on a creative play call from Lincoln Riley.
LSU already led 28-7 when Hurts turned it over. And Burrow would make it 35-7 when he found Jefferson for the fourth time in the first half just six plays later.
Burrow would open the second half with yet another score — his eighth of the game, an SEC individual record. This one came on the ground, opening up a 56-14 lead. And when the dust finally settled and Burrow was removed from the game early in the fourth, he compiled with 493 yards and seven touchdowns passing to go with 22 yards and a score on the ground.
Oklahoma would tack on a few scores in the fourth quarter, but it was way too late to generate any sort of a comeback. In all, LSU totaled 692 yards of offense while limiting the Sooners to just 322 yards, including only 97 yards rushing — 154 yards below their season-long average.
LSU’s array of offensive weapons
In the lead-up to Saturday’s game, one of the bigger storylines was the health of LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who injured his hamstring in practice. Edwards-Helaire entered the game with 1,290 yards and 16 touchdowns along with 50 catches for 399 yards, so he was one of the team’s key weapons all season long.
Edwards-Helaire barely played against the Sooners, carrying the ball twice for 14 yards. But it wouldn’t matter. In the rushing game, LSU leaned on freshman Chris Curry early on and he went for a career-high 89 yards on 16 carries. The running game only played a small part in what proved to be a record-setting LSU game plan, however.
The Burrow-to-Jefferson combination led the way, but Burrow was also able to spread the ball to tight end Thaddeus Moss (four catches, 99 yards, TD), Terrace Marshall Jr. (six catches, 80 yards, 2 TDs) and JaMarr Chase (two catches for 61 yards). Chase led the Tigers in receiving this year, so the fact that he was limited to just two receptions and LSU still dominated shows the incredible depth of the Tigers’ receiving corps.
And if Edwards-Helaire comes back healthy for the CFP title game, it becomes an even bigger headache for the opposing defense — no matter if it’s Clemson or Ohio State — to deal with.
After another CFP loss, what’s next for Oklahoma?
Another year, another College Football Playoff semifinal loss for Oklahoma.
For the fourth time in five seasons, the Sooners bowed out in the CFP semifinals. And this was the most lopsided loss yet. OU fell to Clemson 37-17 in 2015 under Bob Stoops before losing the last three seasons under Lincoln Riley — 54-48 in double overtime to Georgia in 2017, 45-34 to Alabama last year and Saturday’s disaster against LSU.
Riley has relied on transfers at quarterback in each of his three seasons. He had Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray before luring Hurts from Alabama for his senior season. Unless he hits the transfer market again in the coming weeks, Riley will look to a homegrown QB to lead the charge in getting the Sooners over the hump and to an elusive national championship.
Redshirt freshman Tanner Mordecai served as Hurts’ backup this season, but most expect Spencer Rattler to become the starter in 2020. Rattler, a five-star prospect, was the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 recruiting class, according to Rivals. After redshirting the year, Rattler will have big shoes to fill but should earn the starting role.
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