Chick-fil-A Bowl preview: Clemson-LSU
If Clemson has not solved its issues along the offensive line, this will be another long night at the hands of an SEC defense.
last time offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ record-setting scoring
machine took to the national stage, it was being single-handedly shut
down by South Carolina’s defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (4 1/2 sacks).
The Gamecocks rushed Clowney from the right, from the left, from a
3-point stance and standing up. Clemson could not find an answer, and it
showed on the scoreboard: Quarterback Tajh Boyd posted a season-worst
183 yards passing and threw two picks.
Now, though South
Carolina’s All-American sophomore might be the most talented player in
the nation, LSU pass rushers Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo are
also top 15-caliber NFL Draft prospects in their own right. The two have
combined for 11 sacks and 17 1/2 tackles for loss this season.
the ACC Tigers have not sorted out a way to protect Boyd – he’s been
sacked 26 times this season – expect a second straight loss at the hands
of an SEC power.
Player to Watch
Amid the freshman
hoopla surrounding Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon
following the SEC Championship (for good reason), it’s easy to forget
that LSU’s Jeremy Hill quickly became the go-to guy in a loaded Tigers
LSU entered the 2012 season boasting a backfield of
Spencer Ware, Kenny Hilliard, Alfred Blue and Michael Ford. Those four
runners combined to rush for 2,338 yards and 30 touchdowns for last
season’s BCS national title runner-up.
Hill was not even in the picture.
as the redshirt freshman goes, so goes Les Miles’ offense. Hill has
averaged 19.5 rushes over the last six games, including 100-yard
performances against top-10 opponents South Carolina, Alabama and Texas
A&M. He leads the team with 631 yards and 10 scores, including a
season-saving three-touchdown performance against Ole Miss.
Hill and his Tigers can control the ground game, it’s going to be that
much more difficult for Clemson’s offense to crack LSU’s 8th-ranked
9 — Clemson’s explosive
sophomore Sammy Watkins receives most of the media’s attention, but
wideout DeAndre Hopkins was much more productive this season. Hopkins
has caught a touchdown pass in nine-consecutive games, tying an ACC
record. Thus far, he’s amassed 1,214 receiving yards (ninth nationally)
and 16 scores.
In all honesty, there
is not a single quality win on Clemson’s resume. That may sound harsh
for a 10-2 team in a big-name bowl, but what qualifies as quality?
Virginia Tech? N.C. State? Maybe in some other season, but not this
time around. The ACC’s Tigers played two ranked opponents in 2012
(Florida State, South Carolina) and lost to both of them in rather
LSU fell beneath its high preseason
expectations, but it still beat the likes of South Carolina and Texas
A&M and took No. 2 Alabama down to the final possession. The defense
is still terrifying, and with its pass rush likely putting pressure on
Boyd all night and a premier secondary led by safety Eric Reid forcing
turnovers (31 this season), LSU holds the edge here.
can start clicking on offense, it is one of the more dangerous teams in
the country, but it has not happened yet against a top-25 scoring
defense. With LSU’s running game and quarterback Zach Mettenberger
playing better, LSU should squeeze out a win in this one.
The Pick: LSU 24-21