Can Clemson's versatile defenders flummox LSU and Burrow?

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Joshua L. Jones

LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton, right, breaks up a passintended for Georgia wide receiver George Pickens during the second half of an NCAA college football game for the Southeastern Conference championship, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. (Joshua L. Jones/Athens Banner-Herald via AP)

Top-ranked LSU and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow head into the national championship game peaking, matching their record-setting offense with a healthy and improving defense.

Clemson has not lost since sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence joined the team in 2018. The third-ranked Tigers are looking for their third national title in four seasons and second straight.

With the help of Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher, the only coach to face both Clemson and LSU, and Pro Football Focus college analyst Cam Mellor, the matchups that could make the difference Monday night in New Orleans:

WHEN LSU HAS THE BALL

What can Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables cook up to stop LSU's hyper-aggressive passing game that often attacks with five receivers?

Clemson is playing a 3-3-5 defensive alignment and using lots of eight-man coverage. Lacking dominant defensive lineman, Venables has needed to be creative to pressure the quarterback.

“Brent's going to blitz,” Fisher said. “But LSU has been good at either picking it up or Burrow identifying it and getting the ball out quickly. Or he can scramble away from it and keep his eyes down field. He is so patient.”

The stars of Clemson's defense are versatile back-seven players such as All-America linebacker Isaiah Simmons and strong safety Klavon Wallace, both of whom can play multiple positions, and free safety Tanner Muse.