No. 8 LSU Tigers (10-2 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. No. 14 Clemson Tigers (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS)
College Football Chick-fil-A Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Monday December 31st, 2012. 7:30PM Eastern
Where: Georgia Dome Atlanta, G.A.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LSU -4/Clem +4
Over/Under Total: 59
Before the ball drops to ring in the New Year, college football fans will be treated to an intriguing match-up between the no. 8 LSU Tigers and the no. 14 Clemson Tigers in this year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl. Personally this is one of my favorite non-BCS Bowl games because of the venue located inside the Georgia Dome that creates an ecstatic college football atmosphere. Then you have great teams from rivaled conferences in the SEC and ACC on the big stage. Those ingredients typically created a great football game and that is what fans should expect on New Year’s Eve.
This year’s Chick-fil-A bowl presents two of the best teams from the SEC and ACC with completely different identities. No. 8 LSU is an extremely physical football team with power and size in the trenches. The Bayou Bengals rely on defense and a strong running game to help wear down opponents over the course of 60 minutes of play. No. 14 Clemson on the other hand resembles a west coast offense loaded with talent at the skill positions. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris runs a heavy up pace tempo that has a lot of similarities to Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks offensive scheme out in Eugene. Clemson looks to outscore opponents while LSU has that old school smash mouth football mentality. So what happens with both collide in Atlanta?
Clemson has to be dealing with a little bit of confidence issues against SEC opponents. The Tigers lost for the 4th straight instance against in-state rival South Carolina 27-17 in the final game of the regular season. Clemson was held to season lows with 17 points and just 328 total yards in that game. The Tigers’ offensive line succumbed to the Gamecocks defensive front as QB Tahj Boyd was sacked 6 times in the contest and could never get that spread offense going as a result of the pass rush. Clemson’s offensive line will be the main concern again as they line up against LSU’s equally talented defense.
If the offensive line can hold up, Clemson has the players to post huge numbers on offense. The Tigers offense has averaged 518 yards (9th in FBS) and 42.33 points (6th in FBS) per game. Boyd has posted stellar numbers throwing the football by completing 66.6% passing for 3,550 yards for 34 touchdowns and 13 picks. Boyd is surrounding by playmakers from running back Andre Ellington that has over 1,000 yards rushing to two of the best wide outs in the entire country in Sammy Watkins and DeAndrea ‘Nuke’ Hopkins. Hopkins led the ACC in receiving this year with 1,214 yards and 16 scores. Needless to say, Clemson does not lack playmakers but it will be interesting to see if they can produce those plays against another tough SEC defense.
LSU’s defense ranks 8th nationally holding opponents to just 296 total yards per game. The Bayou Bengals have also held opponents to just 16 points (11th in FBS) per game on the season. The key for the defense will be getting pressure in the backfield similar just like South Carolina was able to do in the season finale. Defensive end Sam Montgomery is a big time talent on the defensive line with 7 sacks on the season and his performance play a major role in this game.
Offensively, LSU does not have a flashy look but they will line up and run the ball directly into the heart of opposing defenses. LSU has tremendous talent on the offensive line and a stable of talented running backs led by Jeremy Hill. As a team, LSU has averaged 180 yards per game on the ground and they have a knack for wearing defenses down with that relentless running attack. In the passing game, QB Zach Mettenberger has not been too impressive this season. Then again when is the last time an LSU quarterback has been impressive? Mettenberger completed 58.7% passing on the year resulting in 2,489 yards with 11 scores and 6 picks. Even though LSU is not a big passing team, Coach Les Miles may allow Mettenberger to throw the ball down the field to test Clemson’s weak secondary. LSU will need to connect on some of those big plays, if Clemson’s offense finds it’s rhythm.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: LSU appears to be the pick here but I am just a bit wary laying the points. If LSU stalls out on offense, Clemson will find ways to score. I think this game could go a few different ways. Therefore, I think the better pick is the under 59. Despite Clemson’s fast pace offense, the Clemson Tigers have gone under the mark in 4 of their last 6 games. Take the under 59!
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