Both 10-2, Clemson and LSU appear to be worlds apart in terms of perceived success. While the former dropped their major rivalry game (and a possible BCS bid) in the year’s final contest, the latter’s only losses were close calls to the second- and third-ranked teams in the country (Alabama and Florida, respectively).
Bowl Game: Chick-fil-a Bowl
Location: Atlanta, Ga.
First Year: 1968 (Peach Bowl)
2012 Participants: Clemson Tigers (10-2) vs. LSU Tigers (10-2)
Last Meeting: LSU over Clemson, 10-7 (1996 Peach Bowl)
Clemson (previous bowl game: 70-33 loss vs. West Virginia in 2012 Orange Bowl)
The talk out of the Clemson camp leading up to this game has been all about learning from last year’s blowout postseason loss. Now, the Tigers will be tasked with turning that talk into action against an elite LSU defense. While the 2012 season was a phenomenal one for Clemson on offense, there are no guarantees they’ll be able to replicate the 42.3 points per game they averaged all season (6th in the FBS). In the team’s other two games against top-11 total defenses (Florida State and South Carolina), Clemson’s scoring average dips to just 27 points per game. In part, this is due to Tajh Boyd‘s struggles against extreme pressure — especially with a fairly young offensive line. But there’s also the issue of the Tigers’ reduced number of plays run under this duress. On average, Clemson calls 83.5 plays from scrimmage, yet against South Carolina, they ran just 57 (including just 16 in the second half). If the Tigers hope to move the ball against LSU, which runs a very similar defense to the Gamecocks, they’ll need to figure out a way to continue moving the ball as the pressure ramps up. In particular, this is where senior halfback Andre Ellington makes a huge difference. If he, and the rest of the Clemson backfield can move the ball effectively on the ground, they’ll be able to combat LSU’s pressure with at least moderate success. Contrary to Clemson’s typical play-calling, ball control may be their best offensive and defensive strategy.