We continue our look at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, as we break down the special teams battle between LSU and Clemson.
Chandler Catanzaro's consistency will be needed against LSU.
To beat LSU, Clemson must make some plays on special teams. The return game for Clemson, both kickoff and punt, has been rather average in 2012. Adam Humphries is a sure handed punt returner, but he is definitely not the game breaker that Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins are.
Clemson finished the 2012 regular season ranked 100th in punt return average at only 4.86 yards per return. Humphries finished the regular season ranked 55th in the country, as he had 16 returns for only 89 yards. Most of Clemson’s kickoff return yards have come from the trio of Sammy Watkins, Andre Ellington and Martavis Bryant. Between the three, they have 29 returns for 620 yards, an average of only 21.4 yards per return.
Clemson’s opponents have only averaged two more yards per return than the Tigers. The big stat comes in total kickoff return yardage which opponents have outgained the Tigers 1029 to 692 yards, on just 11 more returns.
While the return game has been less than spectacular, the kicking game has been the total opposite. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro is hitting field goals at a 94% clip. On the season, he is 16-17, with a long of 50 yards. Spencer Benton, the Tiger’s long distance specialist, is 1-3 from 50 plus yards on the year, with a long of 61 yards.
Clemson’s punting and kickoff specialists, Bradley Pinion and Spencer Benton, combined have 51 punts for a 36.8 net average. Both also have 91 combined kickoffs with 48 touchbacks.
LSU possesses one of the top punters in the country in Brad Wing. Wing will come into the bowl game ranked 12th in the country with a punting average of 44.8 yards. On the year, Wing has punted 59 times, with 19 of those being over 50 yards. Wing has also pinned opponents inside the 20 yard line, 21 times.
The Tigers from the Bayou excel in the return game as well. Odell Beckham Jr. and Michael Ford are ranked in the top 35 in punt and kick returns respectively. Beckham Jr. averages 9.68 yards per punt return and has taken two of his punt returns for touchdowns, including an 89 yarder versus Ole Miss. Ford on the other hand, has 18 kickoff returns for a 25.4 yard average, with a long of 86 yards.
Much like Clemson, LSU is very solid in the kicking game. Senior Drew Alleman has converted 20 of 28 attempts with a long of 49 yards. Alleman has also made multiple field goals in seven of the Tiger’s 12 games. Kickoff specialist James Hairston has 74 kickoffs on the year with 24 touchbacks. LSU’s kickoff team only averages giving up 18.3 yards per return.
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