LSU fans were disappointed with the announcement that the Tigers would play the Clemson Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, but in all honesty, the matchup between these two clubs is one of the most intriguing bowl games of the season.
Yes, everyone will want to watch Alabama face off against Notre Dame for the BCS National Championship. High ratings are also guaranteed for the Cotton Bowl, which features 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies against the Oklahoma Sooners.
But LSU versus Clemson will also be one of the most watched games of the bowl season.
In Clemson, the Tigers will face one of the most explosive offenses in college football.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd has developed into one of the elite signal-callers in the game. This season, the strong-armed junior completed 251 of his 377 passes for 3,550 yards, a completion rate of 66.6 percent, 34 touchdowns passes and 13 interceptions.
Boyd’s quick feet and mobility skills have always been a big part of his game, but over the last two seasons he has developed outstanding accuracy skills from the pocket. He also has the arm strength to make all the throws downfield.
Plus, he has a fantastic array of receivers.
Junior wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is a future first round draft choice and the 6-2, 215-pound end caught 69 passes for 1,214 yards and 16 touchdowns this season.
Sophomore standout Sammy Watkins played in just nine games, but was able to grab 57 passes for 708 yards and three scores. Senior tight end Brandon Ford is also a very effective middle range target and he caught 33 passes for 253 yards in 2012.
Unless LSU can get a really good pass rush from Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery and Bennie Logan, the Clemson passing attack will be very hard to slow down.
Clemson is averaging 42.3 points per game, but the problem is that Clemson’s defense is giving up 24.9 points per game.
I don’t see the LSU defense slowing down Clemson’s passing attack, but in watching film on Clemson’s defense I don’t see them being able to match up well against LSU’s huge offensive line and the rushing skills of Jeremy Hill, Michael Ford, Spencer Ware and Kenny Hilliard.
LSU’s defense, which is filled with NFL talent in Mingo, Montgomery, Logan, Kevin Minter, Eric Reid and Tharold Simon, must come up with some big stops and turnovers to aid their offense.
The one thing that has held true for many years is something former Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer told me many years ago.
“The team you see in late November you never see again in late December or January. You either get better or worse and sometimes you can’t gauge what happens even when a team is practicing in those weeks leading up to a bowl game,” he said. “It’s a long time between games and there are distractions that you can’t really put your finger on. I always think that certain coaches can get teams focused in that time frame and others have difficulties. But in the football world nothing stays the same from November to January.”
The one thing that would surprise me would be a defensive oriented game.