Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming College Football Playoff semifinal in our Oklahoma vs. LSU preview and prediction.
Saturday, December 28th, 2019, 3:00 CST, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
TV: ESPN (Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge)
Radio: Sooner Sports Network (Toby Rowland); ESPN Radio (Steve Levy); LSU Radio Network; Sirius/XM Channel 81
Fun Fact: OU is making its 21st consecutive bowl appearance, by far the longest streak in school history (the previous record was eight from the 1975-82 seasons under Barry Switzer). The streak, which began in Bob Stoops’ 1999 debut season as head coach, is the third-longest active bowl streak in the nation recognized by the NCAA (Virginia Tech 27, Georgia 23).
QB Jalen Hurts
Hurts was the Heisman Trophy runner-up, but one thing he has over the man who beat him, Joe Burrow, is that he has played on this stage before. He will be the first quarterback to start a College Football Playoff game for two schools. He started two CFP games in each of the 2016 and 2017 seasons for Alabama. Hurts has completed over 71% of his passes this season for 3,634 yards and 32 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He has also rushed 219 times for a team-high 1,255 yards (96.5 per game) and 18 TDs. Hurts and Tim Tebow are the only two players since 1996 to record at least 32 passing TDs and at least 18 rushing TDs in a season. Hurts leads the nation in yards per pass attempt, yards per completion, points responsible for per game and touchdowns accounted for and is third in total offense.
LB Kenneth Murray
Murray was a first-team All-Big 12 selection and a semifinalist for the Butkus, Bednarik and Lott IMPACT Trophy awards, as well as an ESPN midseason All-American. He has registered team highs of 95 tackles and 16.0 tackles for loss, including 4.0 sacks, four pass breakups and five QB hurries. In the Big 12 Championship Game against Baylor, Murray led OU with 10 tackles and a career-high 3.0 tackles for loss (1.0 sack), a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. He’s a veteran who has started 41 games during his OU career and he will have to step up even more with a couple of key players on the OU defense set to miss the game.
QB Joe Burrow
It was a record-setting season for Burrow on his way to a Heisman Trophy this year. He’s thrown 48 touchdown passes this season for 4,715 passing yards an his 77.9% completion percentage, which is first in the country and on pace to break the NCAA record of 76.7 set by Texas QB Colt McCoy in 2008. Burrow is the first player in SEC history to throw for 4,000 yards and 40 TDs in a season.
Safety Grant Delpit
Delpit was an All-American selection, the second-straight year he won the award, and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back becoming the third player in LSU history to win the Thorpe Award, joining first round NFL Draft picks in Patrick Peterson (2010) and Morris Claiborne (2011). In 13 games, he recorded 56 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, two interceptions and a sack, along with a fumble recovery and eight passes defended. As a safety he’ll have to help protect the LSU defense from the deep ball, but also will likely have to play up in the box at times to defend OU’s top rushing offense.
Can OU’s defense play up to its abilities from recent weeks? In the Big 12 Championship Game, the Sooners gave up 265 yards on the day and held BU to eight first downs and 4.7 yards per play. Baylor didn’t amass 100 yards of offense until 3:00 remained in the third quarter. Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in total offense (554.2 ypg) and total defense (330.6 ypg). In the previous 23 years of the league, OU has never been atop both categories at the end of a season. Now in terms of defensive efficiency, OU is 34th in the nation, so there are metrics showing that maybe this defense, which is improved, may not be as strong as some of the traditional stats would tell you. But without Ronnie Perkins and Delarrin Turner-Yell, the Sooners need to play their most complete game of the season on defense to try and slow down the most explosive offense in America this season.
The Tigers need to do what they’ve done all season long and try to torch the OU secondary for big plays and plenty of points. This year, LSU became the first team in SEC history to have a 4,000 yard passer (Joe Burrow), a 1,000-yard rusher (Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and two 1,000-yard receivers (Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson) in the same season. The genius behind the offense is new passing game coordinator is Joe Brady. Brady, in his first year with the Tigers after spending two seasons on the New Orleans Saints staff, and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger have transformed the LSU offense into the most explosive unit in college football. The Tigers are averaging a school-record 47.8 points per game. The Tigers led the nation in total offense (554.3 yards per game) and rank No. 1 in the SEC and No. 2 nationally in passing offense (386.8).
LSU 41, Oklahoma 34
This game has all the makings of a shootout with the top two offenses in America going at it in the Peach Bowl. But LSU knows that stadium, as it’s the home of the SEC Championship Game, should have a home field advantage with the game in Atlanta, and the losses of Perkins and Turner-Yell cannot be overstated. What could also be the difference here? How about Red Zone defense. OU’s is ranked 126th in the country and LSU’s is ranked 16th. In a game where 70+ points could be put up with ease is one team forcing another to a field goal. The Tigers are about to face their sixth Top 10 opponent and will make it 6-0 against those teams and advance to the National Championship Game.
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