By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — Facing seventh-ranked LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl is just the remedy No. 13 Clemson needs to get past its loss to archrival South Carolina.
At 10-2, Clemson will have an opportunity to knock off a top 10 squad from the Southeastern Conference, while also ending a two-game bowl losing streak and becoming just the fourth team in Clemson history to win 11 games in a season.
A victory might also land Clemson in top 10 when the final USA Today Coaches and Associated Press Polls are released after the bowl games. No Clemson team has finished a season ranked inside the top 10 since the 1990 team finished the year No. 9 in both polls.
“We are trying to position ourselves to be one of the consistent elite, national type programs out there,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said during Monday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl teleconference with the media. “I think we have taken a step forward in that direction. This is our first back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since 1989-’90. That has not happened very often.
“I think we are making strides. So to be able to win a game like this, and be able to win an 11th game for only the fourth time in Clemson history certainly would be another step in becoming the type of program we want to be.”
But Swinney isn’t naïve. He knows beating LSU (10-2) isn’t going to be easy. Like Florida State and South Carolina—Clemson’s only two defeats—LSU is known for its defense. LSU ranks 8th nationally in total defense, 9th in rushing defense, 11th in scoring defense and 20th in pass defense.
“They are as good as it gets,” Swinney said. “It’s fun to look at the stats and all that stuff. Obviously, we just found out who we are playing so we will start breaking them down here this week, but I have known Coach (John) Chavis a long time and he has always had one of the top defenses in the country year in and year out, going all the way back to Tennessee when I was at Alabama.
“This defense is built for championships. That’s the bottom line. That’s how they have recruited and that’s how they have developed their depth. They are just an outstanding group. Their front four will be as good as anybody’s we have seen. They have obviously played some great opponents this year and we will have a great matchup on our hands that night.”
LSU head coach Les Miles, however, is just as nervous about Clemson’s offense. Clemson ranks 6th in the nation in scoring offense, 9th in the nation in total offense and 13th in passing offense. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd—ACC Player of the Year and First-Team All-American—finished the regular season with 3,550 yards, while accounting for 43 touchdowns.
Boyd’s 43 touchdowns and 34 touchdown passes were both ACC records. He is currently first in the nation in points per game (21.8), fourth in passing efficiency (168.5), fourth in touchdown passes (34) and eighth in total offense (336.8 yards).
“He is as talented as a quarterback prospect that we have faced in this season,” Miles said. “He has the ability to extend plays with his feet and then gain ground with his feet. He is a very talented quarterback.
“The offense really speaks to him and goes to the things that he does well and gets the most out of his talent. His talent is very capable. I see Tajh Boyd being someone we will have to consider when we go to game planning and trying to figure out exactly how we are going to contain him. I don’t think you really affect great players, you just try to contain them.”