This preseason, Clemson was a consensus selection to make the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. LSU? Not so much.

That may have been the perception outside of Baton Rouge, but the Tigers from the SEC have expected this all season long.

“We expect to be there, just like (Clemson) did,” JaCoby Stevens recently said during a media availability. “They’ve been in this situation more than us but for us, we expect and we deserve to be here, playing a Clemson team. So we are just going to take it how it is and prepare just like it’s any game but all fall camp and all summer workouts, we’ve been planning to get here.”

Many likely picked Clemson to make a return to the title game based on what everyone knew about Trevor Lawrence coming into the season. While few could have seen Joe Burrow’s historic season coming, he’s been the catalyst in LSU’s climb to the top of the college football world.

After facing off against Burrow in practice all year long, LSU’s defense will be tasked with stopping one of the few college quarterbacks in the nation that stack up to their signal-caller.

“He gets to his second read so quick and the spin on the ball, it’s ridiculous,” Stevens said of Lawrence. “Somebody that really did that against us was the Utah State quarterback, but (Lawrence) is more talented than him, I feel like. He is going to be a heck of a quarterback, he is a heck of a quarterback. Just like every gameplan, we are going to try and limit him and take away throws that he likes to do, likes to make. I think he’s going to be, next year, the No. 1 pick.”

Stevens isn’t the only LSU Tigers with a high grade on Clemson’s quarterback.

Even the defensive linemen in Baton Rouge are impressed in what they’ve seen from Trevor Lawrence.

“This past game, they used him, as much as they have all year, as a runner,” Rashard Lawrence said of Clemson’s QB. “I think that caught Ohio State off guard, and it kinda blindsided them, in a way. I think Etienne only had 36 yards rushing and Trevor Lawrence had over 100 yards rushing, so it was kind of a plot twist.

“He can throw the ball and also he can get out and run in space, which was pretty interesting to see how fast he was — breakaway speed. He’s the real deal, he’s kinda like a Joe Burrow, I mean, those guys are right there for best in the country. Both of them are probably going to be No. 1 overall draft picks. It’s going to be a pretty good game.”

Considering the firepower under center in this game, we could be in for the best title game of the Playoff era come Jan. 13.