When I look at the 2012 Chick-Fil-a Bowl, I see teams with two different mindsets. The LSU Tigers are better than a used-to-be-Peach Bowl bid, and Clemson may not be as good as their record indicates.
LSU could have been playing in a New Year’s Day Bowl, but instead the Tigers are back in Atlanta for a Bowl game for the first time since the whipped Georgia Tech in 2008 in the very same location.
The Clemson Tigers are looking to win 11 games for the first time since 1981 when Coach Danny Ford’s Tigers won the National Title. Clemson has also won ten games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in over 20 years.
LSU is once again a double digit win team, which has become almost a constant under Coach Les Miles. In fact the only two seasons that Miles has not guided LSU to 10 or more wins was in 2008 and 2009. Tigers Fans were hoping to go to a better bowl, as the LSU Fan base will gladly tell you they’d rather be in Atlanta in the first weekend of December playing football instead of the last.
In a battle of Tigers, one set of Tigers is battle-tested, and the other has yet to pass a legitimate test. Clemson comes into this game with a high-powered offense while LSU has put up some impressive offensive numbers as well.
The Bayou Bengals’ offense has averaged nearly 30 points and 400 yards in its final four games of the season, and those numbers are plenty enough to make an already suspect Clemson defense more than worried.
Clemson will have to get LSU out of rhythm in order to hang around in this game. What I’m saying is that Clemson is a team that needs a fast-paced offensive style to dictate the flow of the game, whereas LSU is a defensive first team that uses a strong running game to help keep their defense off the field of play.
The Clemson offense will need big play from their stars if they are to knock off the physical Tigers of LSU. The reigning ACC player of the year Tajh Boyd is one of the premier players in the nation. Boyd threw for 3,550 yards with 34 touchdowns and only 13 picks this season. Boyd also rushed for 492 yards and nine scores this season.
But Boyd is not alone…he has a lot of solid weapons around him including RB Andre Ellington. Ellington rushed for 1,031 yards this season with an average of 5.1 yards per carry. And if you want to see good wide receivers, the Tigers certainly have two of the best.
Junior WR DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins are arguably the best WR tandem in the nation. Hopkins was a third team All-American this season. Hopkins hauled in 69 receptions for 1,214 yards and 16 TD’s. Sammy Watkins was solid this season as well with 57 grabs 708 yards and three scores despite not playing in three games this season.
Clemson was 13th in the nation this season in passing yards per game with an average of 319.6 and the Tigers rushed for an impressive 199 yards per game as well. The Tigers posted the nation’s sixth-best scoring offense with an output of 42.3 points per game.
The Clemson Defense is what many feel will be the key in this match-up of Tigers. Clemson made a change in coordinators after giving up 70 points to West Virginia in the 2012 Orange Bowl last season. The Tigers Defense did play better this season.
Clemson allows on average 411.3 yards per game to opposing offenses but those numbers look far worst in the Tigers two losses this year. In their losses to South Carolina and Florida State the Tigers allowed a whopping 556 yards per game.
The Tigers will counter the Clemson offense with a tenacious defense that features two of the best pass rushers in the game today in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Clemson had better do some quick routes and short drop backs for their QB or these guys will be all over him.
And one of the best LB’s in the nation is the Tigers’ Kevin Minter, who will also be able to not only key on the Clemson running game but he is also solid when defending in pass coverage for the LSU Defense.
One question is how will the LSU defensive backs handle the speed and ability of the Clemson passing game. Jalen Mills will certainly be picked on as will the entire defensive backfield that has given up over 300 yards in their last three games.
As far as preparing for the game is concerned LSU Coach Les Miles is pleased with his club. “We had another good workout today,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “We have prepared well. These players have done a great job here all week in Atlanta. They been able to have some fun, but at the same time, when it’s been time for football, they have been dialed in 100 percent,” Miles said in a press release prior to the game.
I could sit hear all day long and tell you about numbers and what I think, but the bottom line is what it going to happen in this game. The LSU Tigers are just too physical for Clemson. A team just can’t change who they are in one month, no matter how much they prepare and practice.
Clemson had a lot of trouble in their loss the South Carolina, and I expect the Orange and White Tigers to have much of the same issues against the Bayou Bengals. Clemson is a very good team, but their weaknesses are defense and being physical…which happen to be the two areas in which LSU excels.
I look for another big game from QB Zack Mettenberger and the LSU O-Line. They will control this game and lead the Tigers to a two-touchdown win over Clemson.
Location: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia
Team’s: LSU Tigers (10-2) vs Clemson Tigers (10-2)
The Line: LSU -6 ½ (59)
The Coaches: LSU – Les Miles / Clemson Dabo Swinney
Last time in a Bowl: Clemson lost 70-33 to West Virginia in 2012 Orange Bowl and Alabama beat LSU 21-0 in the 2012 BCS Title Game