Chick-fil-A Bowl preview: Clemson-LSU

Key Matchup

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


Telling Stat

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.

Final Analysis

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

convincing fashion.

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.

If Clemson

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