Clemson’s offense is sexy. The Tigers put up points in boatloads and have scored at will against nearly all of their opponents. They averaged 42.3 points per game and racked up an average of 518.3 total yards per game on their opponents.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd has had a fantastic season, throwing for 3,550 yards and rushing for 492 yards. He’s combined for 43 touchdowns in ‘12 alone, and the improvement in his decision-making and mobility has been noticeably much better than ‘11. We saw running back Andre Ellington run at will against Auburn, and we know what DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins can do after they catch the ball in space. Both have combined for 126 catches for 1,922 yards and 19 touchdowns.
The biggest unknown, however, has remained from preseason right on through the regular season. All questions surround the offensive line, and it will be under the microscope tonight in Atlanta. Pass protection remains the Tigers’ top priority and Dabo Swinney’s biggest obstacle of beating a worthy opponent.
Clemson’s offensive line combines for 1,510 pounds of beef that has showed it struggles to block elite defensive linemen.
Just five weeks ago, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney posted five sacks against Clemson and single handedly dismantled the Tiger’s game plan.
So, while the Clemson offensive line will be under the microscope, the spotlight will be on the LSU defensive line – namely the two bookends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. It’s true – Mingo and Montgomery didn’t exactly have the type of season everyone expected. The duo only combined for 11 sacks. Compared to Clowney’s 13, it doesn’t look that impressive. But both will likely be selected in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft.
LSU’s speed off the edge will be a difference for the Tigers tonight. LSU’s secondary is good, but they’re not great. However, if LSU can apply the Python pressure and squeeze the life out of Clemson’s offense, it all becomes nullified. Then, Boyd’s ability to stretch the field and defense will be valueless.
However, if LSU can’t get to the quarterback, Clemson can outscore the Tigers with all the weapons on offense.
We’ve seen this movie and read the script too many times before about ‘elite’ offenses lining up with fast and physical defenses. It happens every year, and the outcome remains the same every year – elite defensive teams win. And LSU’s defense should control the tempo of the game and make the Bayou Bengals an 11-game winner for three consecutive years.
Sexy offenses and layoffs don’t mix, and Mingo and Montgomery will take advantage of Clemson’s offense as it tries to kick off the rust. Let’s see how Clemson handles another round of SEC elite defensive linemen.
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