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This should be one of the most intriguing overall bowl matchup of the year outside of the Alabama-Notre Dame national title game and perhaps the Oregon-Kansas State Fiesta Bowl. The orange Tigers weren’t able to defend their ACC Championship, blowing a game at Florida State early in the season. Clemson was still in good shape for a BCS at-large bid before it was rather shockingly beaten soundly by South Carolina and its backup QB in the regular-season finale. LSU opened the preseason at No. 1 in the polls but took a hit early with the dismissal of the “Honey Badger,” Tyrann Mathieu. Still, the defense was among the nation’s best, and LSU just might be playing for a national title if not for a stellar final-minute drive by Alabama QB A.J. McCarron in the classic 21-17 Tide win on Nov. 3. LSU got a bit of a scare when it was announced shortly after the season that coach Les Miles had talked to Arkansas about its head coaching job, but Miles seems to talk to someone every year (Michigan twice). He got his nice new extension. These two couldn’t be much more different. The Clemson offense is one of the best in the nation – so good that coordinator Chad Morris got a few interviews for head coaching jobs and still might be hired at Texas Tech. Behind ACC Offensive Player of the Year and quarterback Tajh Boyd, Clemson set school records (again) and led the ACC in scoring, total offense and passing. The Tigers had a whopping six first-team All-ACC players on offense. This could be the final college game for Boyd and stud receiver DeAndre Hopkins as both might declare for the NFL. At least receiver/return man Sammy Watkins has to stay one more year.
LSU, meanwhile, didn’t get the season expected out of highly-touted QB Zach Mettenberger, although he definitely did get better as the season went on. He was actually better than McCarron in that Alabama game. Still, the Tigers ranked No. 106 in passing. They did find a future star running back in freshman Jeremy Hill. But being as LSU is in the SEC, its defense is the calling card. There are multiple NFL Draft picks on the roster, especially up front.
Clemson scored less than 37 points just twice all year and it was against its two SEC opponents: Auburn and South Carolina. So as good as the Tigers offense is, it clearly can be neutralized by the speed and physicality of SEC teams. LSU has allowed more than 22 points just once, a typical letdown game win over Mississippi. I’m sure both LSU and Clemson want to put last year’s bowl disappointments behind them, with LSU looking offensively inept in the national title loss to Alabama and Clemson looking defensively atrocious in a 70-33 loss to West Virginia. Both teams know this building well and the crowd should be about split. I still remember how the SEC treated the ACC like a little sister on the final weekend of the regular season. But again as there are lots of games that do not seem to be that close this game should be interesting and close. I have LSU winning this game by a point and obviously have to sit back and wait it out until closer to game time to make my final decision. Really makes sense to play Clemson since the line keeps rising and I do have a slight lean on Clemson BUT with New Years Eve and since Im not watching the game I will roll with the Over and take a small shot on that.