In one week, LSU faces the Tigers of the ACC in Clemson. Say what you will about LSU being in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, this will be a great matchup in the Georgia Dome, a place that's treated LSU very well throughout the years. The offense comes into this game a more effective unit than it was six weeks into the season. The defense comes into the game with a decided limp, having given up 450+ yards to both Ole Miss and Arkansas in the final two games of the regular season. Will this turn into a shootout or will LSU's defense do what it normally does in bowl games, shut the opponent down?
Clemson has a record setting offense, having set the school records for points and yards gained already this season. They've got the ACC player of the year in Tajh Boyd leading the offense as one of the best passers in the FBS, with a quarterback rating somewhere north of the stratosphere. Last year's freshman phenom Sammy Watkins had somewhat of an off year battling suspensions and injuries, but junior DeAndre Hopkins filled the role of big-time WR for Clemson instead. Both receivers are speedsters who can manufacture big plays if given the space.
The Clemson defense, on the other hand, is your traditional Clemson defense…in that they Clemson a lot. This Tiger D will not be confused with LSU's version, allowing nearly 25 points per game.
I can see Zach Mettenberger continuing to improve and having success against Clemson's leaky defense. The key, though, will be LSU's rushing game. Clemson allows opponents almost 4.2 yards per carry, so Jeremy Hill and the rest of the Tiger backs should find plenty of running room, especially late in the game.
In the past few games offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa has gotten a little more pass-happy now that Mettenberger is finding his stride, but LSU needs to remember their bread is buttered by the run game. LSU is being more successful through the air, but the team is most successful in the second half of games when the running game destroys the will and soul of the other team. Establishing the running game is the key to LSU's success.
I have a feeling the defense will rebound. While they've given up a staggering 927 yards in the last two games, giving John Chavis a month to prepare for a team is usually a death sentence for the opposing offense, no matter how potent (see Oregon, 2011). LSU's young defensive backs, while they've given up more the past couple weeks, will continue to grow and fill into their rolls. This game is about setting up next season and I expect to see an LSU defense that is hungry.
While not a prediction, I do think LSU takes care of business in the Georgia Dome. LSU is a 4.5 point favorite at the moment, but I don't expect the final score to be so close. I'm not looking for a blowout like most of Miles bowl victories, but I think LSU will add a few points near the end of the game to win comfortably.