LSU and Clemson will battle it out in this year’s Chick-Fil-A Bowl, which should be one of the more entertaining bowl matchups of the college football postseason. And once the game is over with, both teams will begin preparing for next year and a shot at a BCS title in 2013.
The preparation will begin with discerning which players are graduating and leaving for the NFL. It will be up to the coaches to fill these positions by helping younger players mature into respectable starters.
Then before you know it, spring ball and fall camp kicks off and we will begin another wonderful college football season.
But if you had to pick in the month of December, which Tigers team would you give the better shot of appearing in next year’s national championship?
Here is an extremely early breakdown of both teams and their shot at the title.
The reasons that give us hope about LSU every season are the same reasons to like the team heading into 2013.
Les Miles remains the head coach and there are a ton of top prospects that will be stepping on campus next year.
Miles and his coaching staff have seen plenty of players come and go over the years with the Tigers. Still, he has managed to produce double-digit winning seasons in six of his eight years with the program. That includes three BCS bowls and one national championship victory.
If you like some of the talent that is returning next year, just take a look at the 2013 recruiting class that will be able to help along the way. The Tigers' class includes 15 4-star players and seven 3-star players, with two of those recruits being ranked in Scouts Top 100 list.
It is really no secret why LSU has been in position to compete for championships over the years and the recipe will continue yielding success heading into next year.
I always like a team heading into a new season that has an experienced quarterback. Give me the team that has a leader who can be relied on to win football games for his team.
Unless junior quarterback Tajh Boyd hears that he will be one of the first quarterbacks taken in April (which he won't), he is returning to Clemson.
Boyd is a quarterback that has thrown for more than 7,000 yards in the last two seasons and has passed for 71 touchdowns throughout his career.
By the numbers, Boyd is one of the top quarterbacks in the country and should continue to play well with three seasons now under his belt.
It also helps having a playmaker on your side in wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
You also have to like the fact that the Tigers' schedule will force Florida State and Georgia to travel to their place. Realistically, the only tough road game Clemson will have to play all year is the end-of-season rivalry matchup against South Carolina.
LSU will look mighty different when it takes the field for spring ball next season.
You know those two monster defensive ends in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo?
You will have to kiss them goodbye, as they are locks to leave college early and become first-round picks.
Safety Eric Reid and linebacker Kevin Minter could also leave early with their draft stock pretty high heading into next year’s draft.
This doesn't even include having to find new offensive linemen with Alex Hurst, P.J. Lonergan and Josh Dworaczyk all graduating.
We also can't forget to mention Tyrann Mathieu putting his name in the hat for the NFL, which removes any hope of him returning to Baton Rouge for his senior year.
Needless to say, this will be a young team and there will be a lot of new bodies taking over this Tigers football team. Knowing this, it can't be comfortable playing an SEC schedule that includes trips to Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi State next season.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables came over from Oklahoma to turn Clemson's defense around.
The unit gave up 411 total yards a game, which is good for seventh in the ACC. That is actually more than the amount given up last season that resulted in Kevin Steele getting fired (394). The jury is still out on Venables and it isn't fair to judge him on just one season on the job.
However, how much will this Clemson defense improve after just one season?
Five starters from this defense are no longer going to be around after the bowl game. That includes arguably their best defensive prospect in defensive end Malliciah Goodman, and three members of the secondary.
The program has done a solid job recruiting on the defensive side of the ball, including landing a top recruit in Jayron Kearse, but it is going to take more than that to turn this unit around.
We know Clemson has the offensive playmakers to light up the scoreboard, but defense wins championships and we are just not seeing it from Clemson yet.
Until the Tigers fail to show up for an entire season, it is hard to pick against them. I'm talking about LSU, of course.
We can point at all of the talent the team is losing, but this is one of the few teams that is able to reload every year—it doesn't rebuild.
As I mentioned earlier, six seasons in the last eight years of at least 10 victories does not happen on accident. Many of those seasons have also taken place when the team was losing a bunch of players to the NFL.
As for Clemson, the program really has yet to turn the corner as far as becoming one of college football’s elite. It has improved by leaps and bounds under head coach Dabo Swinney, but is still looked at as the little brother to Florida State in the ACC.
Even with all of the talent leaving LSU, you just know a defense that is capable of holding its own is going to show up. The defense has been ranked in the top 3 in the SEC in four of the last six years and is usually one of the best in the country.
That is the one thing that Clemson has yet to master and it is something that doesn't take place overnight.
Defense continues to rule in college football.
Due to the track record of LSU, I find it difficult to pick Clemson having a better title shot than Les Miles and company.