Reports out of Clemson is that the practices have been very physical and that head coach Dabo Swinney even had a bit of a “meltdown” when the practices weren’t going as he liked:
The practices have been physical, and I’ve had players tell me that they have been among the most physical ever seen at Clemson. One linebacker told me he loved them, but they weren’t the type of practices that could be held during the season. He said players would get too beat up and not have any legs left on game day, and I can see that.
We also had a couple of players tell us that Swinney went a little crazy at the first Saturday practice 10 days ago. We in the media noticed something was different when the team was an hour late coming off the field, and players could be seen exiting the new indoor practice facility and doing up-downs and sprints outside.
Apparently, that practice wasn’t going like Swinney wanted, and he “lost it” according to one player. Another player agreed that it was a meltdown to see, but said he had seen Swinney worse one other time. No matter how bad it was, it appears Swinney had a head coaching/teaching moment for the ages, and the word is that the team had some pretty focused practices after that Saturday.
Now, does that mean they are going to win the bowl game? Of course not. This team prepared for a physical bowl game last year, and we understand that some of the practices in preparing for the Orange Bowl were a little rough. Some players said last year’s bowl practices beat the team up. Others will say that once the team arrived in Florida, all focus was lost in the pomp and ceremony of a BCS bowl.
Regardless of reports coming out of Clemson practices, it’s hard to deny that this game means more to Clemson than LSU. Dabo hasn’t excelled in non-conference wins. Four straight losses to South Carolina and an ugly loss to West Virginia in last year’s Orange Bowl have left a Clemson fans wondering about Dabo’s ability to lead this program.
As William Wallace mentioned recently:
As you mentioned these are all favorable matchups for the SEC. Bowl games largely mean nothing so upsets happen when the game means different things to the two teams. Take LSU vs. Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. LSU has already played Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M and South Carolina. One year ago they were undefeated and preparing for the BCS Championship game. Clemson might be the sixth best team LSU played all season, but if they lose this game, it does nothing to change the perception of their program. This easily could be a trip to a wild town full of swag bags and strip clubs.
Clemson, on the other hand, needs this win. If they can beat LSU it helps offset the loss to South Carolina the end of the season. A win over LSU would be the biggest win for the program in years. LSU is the better team, but Clemson has some legit NFL caliber weapons. If LSU is expecting to coast or isn’t fully invested, then Clemson could sneak up on them.
Regardless, the LSU-Clemson game on New Year’s Eve is one of the more interesting matchups this bowl season.