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Area coaches split on which Tigers will win Monday’s championship

wanted to bring back a tradition I always loved reading as a kid, when The Daily Leader sports editor Tom Goetz would quiz the local coaches on who they were picking for the national championship.

This year, making the selection isn’t an easy one. Clemson is the defending national champion and made the title game with comeback win over previously unbeaten Ohio State.

However, who is going to pick against LSU and their scorching-hot offensive attack, led by Heisman winner Joe Burrow.

In Dabo they trust

One might call Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney a football coach’s football coach.

His passion, enthusiasm and positivity are what draw people to him. And the dude can flat out coach.

There’s an old Pat Forde column from 2008 when Dabo was named head coach after serving as the interim for six games after Tommy Bowden was fired.

Forde is a national columnist who makes a living by being wrong about half of the stuff he writes. In the column Forde gives Mississippi State an A-minus for hiring Dan Mullen (a fair grade), Tennessee a C-plus for hiring Lane Kiffin (another fair grade at the time) and Clemson a D-plus for hiring Dabo.

Swinney was the recruiting coordinator and wide receivers’ coach before getting the head job. The Clemson administration saw that the young, unproven coach had the “it” factor that transcends a lack of experience.

Wesson coach Jeremy Loy has faith in Dabo as does Lawrence County coach Jesse Anderson. They both cite Swinney as the reason they give Clemson an edge.

Allow me this quick aside, but if you’ve never read Swinney’s origin story — the son of a mother who had severe polio when she was a child, his father’s battle with alcoholism that ended with his parents’ divorce, a move to Tuscaloosa were he and his mother lived together in an apartment while he walked on as a receiver at Alabama — do yourself a favor and look it up. Mark Schlabach of ESPN wrote a piece in 2016 that traces Swinney’s story and all that he’s overcome in climbing to the top of the college football mountain.

Dabo hasn’t done it all by himself though. He has one of the best defensive coordinators in the country in Brent Venables. Venables isn’t some Johnny-come-lately, he won a national championship in 2000 as co-defensive coordinator for Oklahoma.

Known for coaching a fluid defense that molds itself to whatever shape it needs in order to stop an offense, Venables may be facing his stiffest test ever in LSU and Burrow.

Burrow and LSU offense

nearly unstoppable

What if LSU had an offense to match their defense? That’s been a great “what-if” in Baton Rouge for the last decade.

It’s happening now as the Tigers absolutely shredded Oklahoma 63-28 in their Peach Bowl matchup on Dec. 28.

There were tons of local LSU fans in attendance that day to witness the massacre, including Brookhaven Academy coach Ron Rushing.

Rushing is the kind of guy who when giving directions his phone autocorrects “go” to “GEAUX.” He’s seen LSU play in person five times this season, including their big win in Tuscaloosa over Alabama.

He’s rooting for LSU like his last name was Boudreaux.

Brookhaven High coach Tucker Peavey is also picking the purple and gold. Peavey was a graduate assistant from 1988-1990 at LSU. The ’88 team was SEC champs for coach Mike Archer.

West Lincoln coach Brad Bland is picking LSU while Bogue Chitto coach Gareth Sartin likes Clemson.

Loyd Star coach Brian Ford is a vote for LSU and Enterprise coach Trey Woodard likes Clemson.

So that’s four area high school coaches for Clemson and four for LSU.

Copiah-Lincoln head coach Glenn Davis breaks the tie with his vote for LSU. There are two former Wolves on the roster of LSU in defensive end Travez Moore and tight end/defensive end TK McLendon.

Las Vegas has the Tigers from the bayou as 5.5-point favorites. I think Vegas is pretty spot on as usual. I think the game is going to be very close and will probably be a track meet with lots of big plays.

How can you pick against LSU in New Orleans though? I think Coach O’s boys are going to play like they’re the ones who drank 15 Red Bulls that day — not him. I like LSU to win 48-45 in a classic.

Even if we can’t agree who’ll win, let’s look forward to the fun that will be had Monday. We’ll all be gathered with friends and family, eating rotel dip and other delicious finger foods and watching two great, unbeaten teams battle it out.

And best of all — neither one is Alabama.

 

LSU VS. CLEMSON: PREDICTING THE WINNER

CLEMSON

Bogue Chitto coach Gareth Sartin

Enterprise coach Trey Woodard

Lawrence Co. coach Jesse Anderson

Wesson coach Jeremy Loy

LSU

BA coach Ron Rushing

Brookhaven coach Tucker Peavey

Loyd Star coach Brian Ford

West Lincoln coach Brad Bland

Co-Lin coach Glenn Davis

Sports editor Cliff Furr

 

Cliff Furr is the sports editor of The Daily Leader. He can be reached at sports@daily leader.com. Unless you’re an Alabama fan who wants to complain, then you can reach him at 601-833-8888.