Merry CFB Christmas, friends! The narratives have all been spun. Coach O has grumbled his peace. And now, it's time to settle this thing on the field. We’ll run through our favorite props for Monday’s title game matchup between LSU and Clemson in this space. If you’re looking for a full ATS breakdown of the contest, check out Thor Nystrom’s monster title-game preview here. And away we go!
LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire UNDER 95.5 rushing yards (-130) -- While Edwards-Helaire has posted six games over 96 yards on the ground this season, we’re bullish on the under, here. Edwards-Helaire has been held under 90 yards rushing in each of his last three games. Even beyond that, he sustained a hamstring injury during December bowl practices and was limited to just two carries against Oklahoma in the Playoff semis back on Dec. 28. Now, the Tigers didn’t need him in that game -- the Sooners were lit aflame by Joe Burrow and the passing game, of course -- and Edwards-Helaire has had over two weeks to get right since. But we still don’t know just how ready he will be for a full game of action. Clemson hasn’t been completely immune to surrendering big rushing efforts (they have given up more than 96 rushing in four contests, most recently allowing OSU’s JK Dobbins to go for 174 yards rushing), but if LSU is going to win this one, it’s going to be on Joe Burrow’s arm.
LSU QB Joe Burrow UNDER 372.5 passing yards (-130) -- We get that Burrow has put up a monster season. We get that Burrow threw for 493 yards (almost all in the first half) against OU at the end of December. Don’t fall into the trap, friends. Don’t do it. Clemson boasted the No. 1 pass defense this fall on a per-game average. But that was just against the dregs of the ACC! We hear you yelling it, now. Granted. Clemson DC Brent Venables, for our money, is the best coordinator in the country, with his schemes limiting Tua Tagovailoa to 295 yards passing in last year’s title game. And crucially, has had time to plot, here. That the ACC was a caldron of mediocrity is irrelevant to the talent -- both on field and on sideline -- in this game.
Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence OVER 51.5 rushing yards (-125) -- While Lawrence has gone for 52 or more on the ground in just three contests this season, all three such showings have come within his last five games. That includes, of course, a monster 107-yard effort against Ohio State in the semis. We don’t necessarily expect Lawrence to bust off another 67-yard touchdown run, as he did in that contest -- turning on the jets to help get Clemson going in the second quarter -- but there are going to be lanes, here. Think back to Rebs QB John Rhys Plumlee gouging LSU for over 200 yards rushing. Most recently, while LSU held Sooners QB Jalen Hurts to 43 yards rushing on Dec. 28, we would suggest you keep in mind that that game escalated in a flash, forcing Oklahoma out of any sort of normal game plan. Clemson made a concerted effort to utilize Lawrence as a rusher vs. Ohio State, with the star sophomore carrying a season-high 16 times in that contest. We think this will be a real part of the game plan versus LSU, too.
Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence UNDER 294.5 passing yards (+120) -- This is no shade on Lawrence, more the reality of an exceedingly balanced offensive attack. And the under holds to what we’ve seen throughout the season -- Lawrence has just three games of 295 passing yards or more for the campaign. Against Ohio State, Lawrence had 259 passing yards, and that was with Clemson falling behind early. This is a patient, methodical attack, more trench warfare than blitzkrieg. That you get a little juice taking the under, all the better. If LSU kicks in the scoreboard doors early, Lawrence will probably hit the over on necessity. That’s not how we see this game playing out, though. Clemson isn’t going to go Army and simply sit on the ball. But we suspect that they will be very, very measured in their approach, in order to limit LSU’s opportunities.
Clemson RB Travis Etienne UNDER four receptions (-140) -- You do have to pony up a little extra to take the under, here, but we are fine with that. Because there is a good chance that even if the under doesn’t hit outright, you’ll be pushing. Etienne has improved as a pass-catcher, indeed, can do real damage in the passing game -- just ask the Buckeye faithful. It’s just that he doesn’t do it on volume. At all. Etienne’s season-best for receptions in a game is four, and he has hit that mark just twice in 14 games. If the over cashes on this prop, it’s going against trend.
Clemson WR Amari Rodgers UNDER 2.5 receptions (-105) -- Rodgers has been held under three catches in each of his last three games and in seven of 12 total contests this year. Our biggest trepidation with this one actually comes down to the health of Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins, both of whom were dinged up versus the Buckeyes at the end of December. If Ross and Higgins are limited later tonight -- we just don’t know -- that pumps up the potential opportunities for Rodgers. And, we’ll note fairly, could potentially put Etienne in play for the over on the receptions prop above.
LSU QB Joe Burrow UNDER 3.5 touchdown passes (+115) -- Burrow is a passing machine, but an over on the touchdown mark given here has been a coin flip all year. He has just as many games under four passing touchdowns as games at or over. Again, be careful not to allow recency bias to leach into your thoughts. When last we saw Burrow, he was throwing seven first-half touchdown passes versus the Sooners. OK, cool. We more or less don’t care. That game was such an extreme whooping that it essentially reaches outlier status in our books. And in our predicted flow for Monday’s contest, LSU’s passing game is going to have far more issues than public perception would have it. You wanna go over, here, it’ll hit you at -155. Against arguably the best pass defense in the country, coached by a defensive coordinator who completely discombobulated Alabama’s operatic passing attack a year ago.
LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire UNDER 53.5 receiving yards (-115) -- At his best, Edwards-Helaire is a cool little matchup weapon in the receiving game. There’s a reason he was a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award (given annually to the most versatile player in the country). Real talk? Edwards-Helaire has gone for 54 or more receiving yards in just 3-of-14 contests this season. And then there’s that pesky hamstring. We simply don’t have proof of concept that Clyde will be at full strength, and this is a mark which he wasn’t hitting consistently over on even when healthy. If you’re fading LSU’s offense -- which we generally are for this game -- these Edwards-Helaire unders are gold.
LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire UNDER 149.5 rushing + receiving yards (-125) -- And here is the coup de grace of Edwards-Helaire unders, wrapping our concerns into one neat package. The LSU rusher has cracked the over of this mark four times this season, all during a four-game stretch against Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas from late October into mid-November. To hit on the over, here, would require a hitting-on-all-cylinders, healthy Edwards-Helaire. Once more -- and with feeling -- we don’t know if we’re getting that. And even if Edwards-Helaire is healthy, you’re going to need a peak peak performance (of the kind that only came through for the aforementioned stretch) to get there.
LSU WR Justin Jefferson UNDER 8.5 receptions (-140) -- Mr. Jefferson, meet Mr. Simmons. Mr. Simmons, Mr. Jefferson. While Jefferson has caught 102 passes this season -- and a silly 14 against wet paper towel Oklahoma -- Simmons is an eraser. Rotoworld colleague Thor Nystrom sees Clemson utilizing do-everything defensive chess piece Isaiah Simmons being put on Jefferson out of the slot and causing major problems, here. We like the thought, Nystrom. As Odysseus put wax in his ears to prevent himself from being lured to his doom by the siren’s song, so we are with LSU’s offense in this contest. The song’s allure is real, but so was Alabama’s a year ago. Fall for it at your own peril.