Both of these schools would much rather be playing in a BCS bowl, but it didn't turn out that bad in the end as they have a great matchup ahead of themselves in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Each team started the regular season in the Top 15 and each team finished in the Top 15. In many eyes, this is one of the better bowl games out there and will have plenty of viewers being the only game on the night of New Year's Eve.
LSU had the Championship game in their grasps back on Nov. 3. With just under two minutes to play, they were up by three on Alabama with a chance to make it six on a 45-yard field goal. Instead, the field goal was missed and the Crimson Tide drove down the field for a touchdown to crush the hopes of all Tigers fans. That loss put them out of the SEC title game and out of a BCS bowl. That happened to be LSU's second loss of the year with their first coming at Florida in a defensive battle. The Tigers still had a successful season, although maybe not in their eyes. They have wins against South Carolina and at Texas A&M which shows they are still a very good team.
Clemson had a very similar game with Florida State earlier in the season. Up by 10 points with seven minutes to go in the third quarter, things were looking good for the Tigers. Four straight touchdowns for the Seminoles removed any hope for them as they were also likely out of a chance to play in the ACC Championship. Being in the ACC, they don't have many wins that highlight their season. Their best win was against a 6-7 Georgia Tech squad. They took out Auburn in the first game of the year, but that win seems irrelevant at this point. A regular season finale with in-state rivals South Carolina could've been a defining win for their season, but it was not to be as they lost 27-17 at home. Now, they get to face a very similar team in LSU who have just as good of defense as the Gamecocks.
In that game, Clemson was held to just 17 points. This is from a team that's scoring 42.3 points per game and had a stretch of 10 straight games with at least 37 points. The problem was that Tajh Boyd could get nothing going. He had by far his worst passing game of the year completing 11-of-24 passes for 183 yards with a TD and two interceptions. While he had 17 rushes, he only could muster 26 rushing yards. That is how you stop a high-powered offense. Boyd is having another great season with 3,550 yards, 34 TDs and 13 INTs, but if you can't do anything against better defenses, the stats are all for naught. DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins will have to help him out in the receiving game. The combo who has 126 receptions on the year only had five in that game. Hopkins still had a 43-yard touchdown, but that was his only catch. He leads the team with 1,214 yards and 16 touchdowns. Running back Andre Ellington didn't have all that bad of a game against South Carolina rushing 15 times for 72 yards. He has 1,031 yards on the year to go with eight rushing TDs. Boyd actually leads the team with nine TDs on the ground.
We know LSU can play defense, but can they score? They've had trouble all season against the tougher teams (six points at Florida). Luckily for them, Clemson does not have a great defense. They've had problems all season, most notably in their losses. Even against NC State, they gave up 48 points to a school that averages 28 per game.
Zach Mettenberger will need to capitalize on that which is something he's had trouble with this year. Against a beatable Ole Miss defense, LSU scored 41 points, but Mettenberger had zero TDs compared to two interceptions. That cannot happen if they want to win this bowl game. For the season, he has just 11 TDs and six INTs. Freshman RB Jeremy Hill will be the go-to player in LSU's offense. After being an afterthought in preseason, Hill took the reins as starter in the seventh game of the season and hasn't looked back. With only six starts on the year, he has 631 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. This includes three straight 100-yard games against South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama. Clemson gives up 160 rushing yards per game which means a good dosage of Hill should be expected.
We're going to go against our model here, which likes LSU by anywhere from 5 to 10 points. We just don't trust LSU and Les Miles. They seem to come up short in big spots every time. Both of these teams are looking to make up for embarrassing losses in bowl games last year but we lean towards Clemson here. The line in this game is dead on accurate, so no real edge here. This is basically a play against Les Miles. With any luck, the line will continue to rise. But for now, Clemson +5