Two teams that expected to get to end the season a little bit higher with a bit more prestige in their bowl game, but the Chick-Fil-A Bowl is pretty much as good as it gets outside the BCS world. Clemson and their high powered offense with their ACC disappointments, LSU with their great defense and the too tough to play in SEC.
Clemson haven’t won 11 games in the season since the 1981 national championship team went 12-0. They finished the season with yet another loss in their state rivalry to South Carolina, a team LSU barely edged during the regular season. While their offense has been highly productive this season, averaging 42.3 points per game (sixth in the nation) with 518.4 yards per game, ninth in the nation. They set school records with 508 points and 6,220 yards.
This is offense is Tajh Boyd and then the rest. The Junior quarterback had a similar season to the previous one, but he was much more efficient in it, with 66.6% completion ratio and a 9.4 pass per attempt average. He did have his share of problems against strong defenses – rough 20-36 in the loss to Florida State, another tough one (12-21, 1 TD, 1 INT) in the win over Virginia Tech and less than 50% when he faces the Gamecocks. LSU have a defense that’s probably better than these teams.
LSU allowed more than 22 points this season only once. While they struggled with their passing game through Zach Metternberger, their defense and running game (180 yards per game) makes them the danger they are, finishing with a 10-2 record that easily could have been a bit or much better.
They allowed only 16.9 points per game this season and less than 300 yards from their opponents on average. Their ability to get to the quarterbacks and make life very rough for Tajh Boyd will determine the outcome in this Tiger derby. Without Boyd, Clemson have to rely on Andre Ellington, but LSU have allowed barely more than 100 rushing yards on average against them. LSU have 18 interceptions this season and their biggest threat is linebacker Kevin Minter, who had 13.5 tackles for loss of yards this season.
Clemson have had their problems on defense this season, but they should try and let LSU put the game in Metternberger’s hand, finishing with the lowest completion percentage (58.7%) among the quarterbacks in the SEC.
Prediction – Usually, meetings between SEC speed and defense with high powered offenses from other conferences end up with SEC teams winning. This should be the case in Atlanta once again.