John Bazemore/Associated Press
For the third time in four years, a program from the SEC topped the final College Football Playoff rankings.
This time around the No. 1 seed carries more significance because the LSU Tigers avoided the Clemson Tigers in the semifinal round.
The Oklahoma Sooners will not be an easy opponent in the Peach Bowl, but they are perceived as the weaker foe compared to the reigning national champion.
Clemson is headed to the Fiesta Bowl to face the Ohio State Buckeyes in a rematch of the 2016 playoff semifinal at the same location.
The knock against Dabo Swinney’s team is its weak ACC schedule, but it has been as dominant as LSU and Ohio State for a majority of the regular season.
College Football Playoff Schedule
Saturday, December 28
Peach Bowl: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson
College Football Playoff Odds
CFB Final Projection
No. 1 LSU vs. No. 3 Clemson
LSU possesses the likely Heisman Trophy winner in Joe Burrow, a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in JaMarr Chase and Justin Jefferson and a defense that allowed 17 points in the last two weeks.
Burrow has passed every test thrown in front of him, including in the SEC Championship Game triumph over the Georgia Bulldogs.
The senior has 4,715 passing yards, 48 touchdowns and seven consecutive 300-yard performances.
While Oklahoma’s defense deserves credit for improvements in wins over Oklahoma State and Baylor, the top units in the FBS have not been able to stop Burrow.
Georgia entered Atlanta with the second-best scoring and rushing defense and it was torched for 37 points and 481 total yards.
Between Chase, Jefferson and Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU has enough weapons to challenge an Oklahoma passing defense that allows 198.5 passing yards per game, which is the same total as Georgia.
Jalen Hurts and CeeDee Lamb are capable of hurting the Tigers’ secondary on occasion, but that unit is coming off one of its best outings of the season, as Derek Stingley Jr. picked off a pair of passes and it limited Jake Fromm to 225 passing yards.
With its near-unstoppable offense expected to produce a large total, the defense of the SEC champion does not have to be perfect, and it should focus more on limiting the big-play potential of Hurts and Lamb.
As for Clemson, its defense could be the difference-maker in getting past Ohio State.
The ACC champion ranks ninth in the FBS in rushing defense, which is just two positions behind the Buckeyes.
Additionally, the five-time playoff participant has allowed an opponent to hit 20 points once, and that was North Carolina on September 28.
Of course, the knock against Clemson’s defense will be it racked up those numbers versus easier opponents and Ohio State’s totals should be deemed more impressive because of the competition in the Big Ten.
But what the Tigers contain that the Buckeyes do not have is playoff experience.
Trevor Lawrence threw for 300 yards in both playoff contests a year ago, while Travis Etienne, Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins accounted for four touchdowns in the final.
After experiencing early-season struggles, Lawrence has at least three passing scores in his last eight games and he is coming off a 16-for-22, 302-yard outing versus Virginia.
Clemson’s elite collection of offensive talent could put Ohio State under pressure, and its lack of turnovers could be the difference.
In a game where the margins are expected to be slim, the Georgia transfer can’t make similar errors, and since he has been more turnover-prone than Lawrence, the edge could go to Clemson.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.