SDS will be breaking down every bowl game and what to watch for. Check out the LSU-Clemson preview if you haven’t already.
The Game: #8 LSU vs. #14 Clemson
What’s at stake: The real Death Valley
Besides a Chick-fil-A Bowl Trophy, both schools have stadium monikers of ‘Death Valley’. The winner will claim to be the real Death Valley, and the loser will have a blemish the entire offseason with a bitter taste from a loss in the bowl game. In October, the quotable Les Miles said, “That was Death Valley. That was the place where opponents’ dreams come to die”. LSU’s Death Valley was around 18 years before Clemson’s, and it seats more people.
Why LSU will win: Defensive Line
The reason the SEC has been dominant over the years is because of their defense. Specifically, defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo should wreak havoc on the Clemson offensive line. Remember how Jadeveon Clowney ate their lunch about three weeks ago? Yeah, expect Mingo and Montgomery to do the same. I know they haven’t had the year everyone hoped for. In fact, Clowney has more sacks than both combined, but Clemson’s weakest point is at offensive line. Tackles Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson will be a force, too, but the defensive end speed LSU will bring isn’t easily blocked. It won’t be blocked.
Why LSU will lose: They can’t run the football
Everyone knows QB Zach Mettenberger hasn’t exactly lived up to the preseason hype. But the emergence of freshman running back Jeremy Hill has been a very pleasant surprise. Hill was fifth on the depth chart entering ’12, and he will exit first. However, if LSU can’t move the ball on the ground, it could be a long day for the offense, as Mett hasn’t proven he can win a big game through the air yet. Clemson is 63rd overall in rushing defense, allowing opponents over 160 yards on the ground. I bet the four-headed running back monster from LSU is licking their chops as we speak.
3 players LSU must stop: Three players LSU will get sick of John Chavis talking about leading into the game will be QB Tajh Boyd, RB Andre Ellington and WR DeAndre Hopkins. Boyd threw for over 3,500 yards with 43 combined touchdowns, and Ellington rushed for 1,031 yards and eight touchdowns. However, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught 69 passes for 1,214 yards and 16 touchdowns, and he’s not even the best receiver on the roster. That title belongs to Sammy Watkins. When Clemson’s offense is at their best, they are running the football with Ellington, and Boyd is throwing it all over the yard. LSU will look to make Clemson one dimensional on offense.
3 players for LSU who must play well: LSU will look to exploit Clemson with RB Jeremy Hill, WR Odell Beckham and DE Barkevious Mingo. Hill has rushed for 631 yards, and he’s only really played six full games. He leads the team in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns with 10. Odell Beckham is the leading receiver with 40 catches for 673 yards and two touchdowns, but he had some drops earlier in the season. In addition to being a game changer at receiver, Beckham will look to impact the game on special teams, too. And finally, Mingo will look to make Boyd uncomfortable in the passing game. Seeing Clowney dominate Clemson with 4.5 sacks, Mingo is the best pass rusher on the Tigers’ defense with so much speed to get to the quarterback.
MVP prediction: Playing in what will likely be his final game as an LSU Tiger, I fully expect LB Kevin Minter to be the MVP. Minter has been the best player on the defense, not Montgomery, Mingo, Logan or Eric Reid. Minter leads the team in tackles with 111 total and also leads the team in tackles for loss with 13.5. I like Minter to go off against Clemson.
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports