Now that New Year’s Day is only hours away and all of the lousy bowl games are finally out of the way, we can turn our attention to the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl. The matchup between the LSU Tigers and Clemson Tigers should be a dandy.
A game between Clemson's high-scoring offense and an LSU defense that has built the reputation of being one of the best in the country should provide quality entertainment.
That said, there aren't many folks giving the Clemson Tigers a chance to pull off the upset. While Dabo Swinney and company have had another successful year, the majority of the college football world would be stunned if LSU lost this game.
Here are the keys to Clemson pulling off a victory in tonight's matchup.
Tajh Boyd Has to Have the Game of His Life
We have talked about the Clemson offense and how explosive it can be when everybody decides to show up. It is the main reason why this team even has a chance in tonight's football game. However, Boyd has not been his usual self when the lights have shined the brightest during his career.
Just this season alone, Boyd wasn't great against Auburn, completed less than 50 percent of his passes against South Carolina and thrived on trick plays against Florida State in a losing effort. This doesn't include another horrible performance against the Gamecocks last season and a two-interception game in last year’s bowl blowout to West Virginia.
The junior quarterback has been amazing throughout his career at Clemson, throwing for more than 7,000 yards and 71 touchdowns. The problem is that he has been really mediocre in big games and still lacks that one marquee victory against a quality opponent to cement his legacy.
I am looking for Boyd to have a big game against this LSU defense, and Clemson fans should as well. After all, it will be key to the team winning its first bowl game since 2009.
Defense Must Dig Deep and Get Stops
This may be asking too much, but if Clemson is going to win, the defense must man up and provide more stops than usual. We are talking about a squad ranked seventh in the ACC in total defense and that has allowed 34 plays of over 30 yards, which is second-worst in the conference.
Having a defense ranked 74th in the country is not going to get the job done against an LSU offense that has surprisingly found a little momentum the last few games. A power running game that is averaging 180 yards on the ground a game is going to be a stiff test for a Clemson defense that has allowed five teams to rush for more than 150 yards.
It really isn't rocket science; Clemson must perform better on the defensive side of the ball. LSU isn't an offensive juggernaut, but it is a physical unit that will look to wear you down over time and go for the kill late in the game.
Like they say if you want to be the best you’ve got to beat the best, and LSU is one of the best teams out there with a really good offense. All we’ve talked about is going out there and stepping up and that’s what we plan to do.
Planning to do something and actually getting the job done are two different stories. The defense must step up tonight.
Don't Turn the Ball Over
Isn't this one of the main keys for any underdog?
It doesn't matter how talented a football team may be or how many advantages it may have. If you have trouble holding on to the ball, you aren't going to win many games. Winning the turnover battle will always give you a chance to win.
Clemson has only turned the ball over 19 times on the season, but 11 of those have come in the last four games. Those numbers don't bode well when playing an LSU team that has forced 31 turnovers and is seventh in the country with a plus-1.25 turnover margin per game.
Turning the ball over three and four times against Maryland and Duke, respectively, is fine and dandy, but it is not going to work against a team as talented as LSU.
Doing a better job of holding on to the football will give Clemson an honest shot of pulling off the upset.
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.