Well, it’s almost been two weeks and most of the Clemson nation, especially the ones who live in South Carolina, can not get over the fact that the Gamecocks have now won four in a row over the Tigers. While it still burns, Clemson does have a bowl game to play; a pretty big bowl game at that. A game that some are calling a must win.
Les Miles stingy defense will test the Clemson offense.
Opportunity in the Georgia Dome
More than a must win, this is a huge opportunity. The Tigers can move into the off-season with a ton of momentum by defeating their opponent, the LSU Tigers, in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. LSU will be Clemson's second straight opponent from the SEC, and a third, the Georgia Bulldogs, will await the Tigers when they open the 2013 season.
LSU 19-1 against ACC
Clemson and LSU will meet for just the third time, with the Tigers from LSU holding a 2-0 advantage.The last meeting ironically, came in this very game in 1996 when it was still called The Peach Bowl. LSU defeated Clemson 10-7.
The only other meeting between the schools came in 1959. LSU defeated the Tigers from Clemson 7-0 on their way to winning the National Championship.
Stern test for Clemson's offense
The LSU Tigers come in ranked eighth in the nation in total defense, allowing only 296 yards per game. They play a physical brand of football that Clemson doesn’t see much, being in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis will present Clemson problems up front with his defensive line. Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo set the tone for the Tigers on defense. Both are 6’5”, and both go over the 240 pound mark. Combined they have 11 sacks on the year and cause major problems for opposing offensive lines.
Sam Montgomery leads a ferocious LSU defensive line.
When you move to the interior of the defensive line, there’s no drop off. Getting a push to run the football is very difficult. Defensive tackles Josh Downs and Bennie Logan, both of whom are over 285 pounds, clog gaps and allow the linebackers to flow and make plays.
At linebacker, LSU brings one of the nations best in Kevin Minter. Minter is the leader of a group that many thought would take a step back in 2012. That simply has not been the case. Minter has tallied 111 total tackles on the year, including four games where he totaled 10 or more. Lamar Louis and Lamin Barrow are the other two linebackers that get most of the run alongside Minter.
Know where you throw
LSU boasts one of the top secondaries in college football as well. Led by safety Eric Reid, the Tiger defense ranks 20th versus the pass, and sit only behind the Florida Gators in the SEC, with 18 interceptions. Joining Reid, cornerback Tharold Simon continues the Tigers tradition of having a solid lockdown corner. Opposite Simon, LSU will rotate two freshman in Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins. Junior Craig Loston, a one time Clemson commit, joins Reid at safety.
Smash mouth running
LSU’s offense is not flashy, they pound the football. They are not going to line up and try to fool you. Instead, they come right at you. The Tigers from the Bayou average 179.9 rushing yards per game.
At the beginning of the season, LSU was labeled as having one of the deepest and most experienced stable of running backs in the country. But, it has been a freshman, Jeremy Hill that has come in and stole the show. Hill burst onto the scene versus South Carolina, where he carried the ball 17 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns. He followed up his breakout performance versus the Gamecocks with back to back 100 yard games versus Texas A&M and Alabama.
Pass by necessity
At quarterback, Zac Mettenberger silenced his critics with an outstanding performance versus Alabama. Mettenberger finished the game versus the Crimson Tide, 24 of 35 for 298 yards and one touchdown.
Odell Beckham Jr will have to be accounted for by the Clemson defense at all times.
The thing about LSU, is they do just enough in the passing game to keep you off balance. Although their receivers really don’t scare opponents, Odell Beckham Jr. is a player that can take a short pass and turn it into a big play. Beckham Jr. is also dangerous in the return game and is a player Clemson must always keep an eye on.
If there has been one disappointment, it has been wide receiver Russell Shepard. Coming out of high school, Shepard was one of the top players in the country, but has consistently moved further and further down the depth chart with each passing year in Baton Rouge.
Just like the strength of the Tiger defense lies with the defensive line, the offense is no exception. The Tigers go three hundred plus pounds across the front, and actually lost their best lineman, Alex Hurst, and didn’t miss a beat.
When you look at what makes a great football team, you can usually look to the man that squats over the football. LSU is no exception. Senior center P.J. Lonergan has been through the wars of the SEC and his outstanding play really makes the Tigers offense go.
LSU boasts players at every position. Behind the starters, they have backups that would start at almost every Atlantic Coast Conference school. This will be a tough game for Clemson, and if they expect to win, it’s going to take maximum effort from every player and the entire coaching staff.You don’t just show up and expect to beat a Les Miles coached football team you better play sound fundamental football.