LSU Football: Why the Tigers Won't Break a Sweat Beating Clemson

Jake MartinCorrespondent IIIDecember 18, 2012

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 10:  Zach Mettenberger #8 of the LSU Tigers looks to throw a pass against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Tiger Stadium on November 10, 2012 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LSU will display its full potential against Clemson in the Chick-fil-a Bowl on Dec. 31. Book it.

By no means is this a slap to the face of Clemson. The Tigers from the ACC have a very talented bunch, coming off an impressive 10-win season (even if it was in the ACC). 

So simply dismissing the thought of them upsetting the Tigers from the SEC in the upcoming Chick-fil-a Bowl would be in poor taste. But LSU fans have seen this before.

Think back to the 2005 and 2008 seasons. LSU showed glimpses of greatness but waited until the bowl game to finally put it all together. That bowl game just so happened to be the Chick-fil-a (Peach) Bowl.

A Les Miles-led group arrived in Atlanta both seasons and barely broke a sweat in defeating two premiere SEC clubs. The Tigers put a 40-3 whooping on Miami in '05 and a 38-3 thumping on Georgia Tech in '08.

There's just something about a Miles' team entering the Chick-fil-a Bowl that doesn't bode well for the opposition. But that's all in the past. This is a new year with an arguably better opponent standing in the way of an LSU victory.

So will the results be any different? Well kind of.

LSU will still win by double digits, but it will be close in the early stages of the game. The reason LSU will eventually pull away is detailed in three factors—growth, maturity and confidence.

No one will deny that LSU is one of the most talented teams in the country, but in some crucial moments this year, the Tigers' youth has cost them games.

Case and point—LSU's 21-17 loss to Alabama. LSU came out and dominated the game, but had a miscue in coverage that allowed T.J. Yeldon to score the game-winning touchdown on a 28-yard screen pass with 51 seconds left.

Or what about LSU's loss to Florida? The Tigers came out and could not get anything going offensively. Credit the Gator defense for most of that, one of the best units in the country, but Zach Mettenberger has grown in leaps and bounds since that game.

Now, anticipate LSU's best performance of the season against Clemson. With a year of experience for Mettenberger, freshmen defensive backs, freshmen linebackers and an extremely young right side of the offensive line, LSU is ready to execute.

The giants from the SEC West should come out and run the ball early with Jeremy Hill and Spencer Ware to soften Clemson's defense. Expect Mettenberger to drop back and throw it deep in the early stages of the game also.

Clemson will key in on LSU's running game, when that happens Mettenberger's long passes to Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Kadron Boone must count. If you've watched any of LSU this season, you know that Mettenberger has struggled with accuracy on deep throws. But hey, the guy has a month to prepare for this upcoming matchup in the Georgia Dome.

As for LSU's defense, the Tigers should do what they always do—bend but don't break. Clemson will gain some yards here and there, but LSU will get its fair share of sacks and turnovers.

The Tigers rank second in the SEC in interceptions with 18. With creative blitzes by the "Chief" John Chavis, LSU should force Tajh Boyd to make some rushed throws.

After LSU has worn down Clemson's defense in the second half, this offensive unit should dominate the line of scrimmage and the score will really start to show it. Boyd will then feel pressured to make big plays and that will create more turnover opportunities for LSU.

Suddenly, the game becomes more of a rout by LSU than a competitive matchup like most are expecting. But this should not come as a surprise to LSU fans.

The Tigers have one of the best teams in the country that struggled because of growing pains at the quarterback position. Now that Mettenberger is starting to get the hang of things, it doesn't bode well for the nation in 2013.

With the experience gained, LSU should be a favorite to win the national championship, and Clemson has the unfortunate advantage of a preview of what to expect.

If past performances in the bowl game are a precursor of what's to come at the end of the year, Clemson doesn't stand a chance. The journey for the 2013 national championship begins Dec. 31.