Monday night’s Chick-Fil-A Bowl is a match up of strength against strength: one of the nation's best offenses versus one of the top defenses when No. 14 Clemson and No. 9 LSU meet in Atlanta, Georgia at the Georgia Dome.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think this year’s contest was a love affair instead of a football game. I understand that coaches feel like they have an obligation to be cordial and not provide any bulletin board material for their opponents. But Les Miles and Dabo Swinney have taken cordiality to a whole new level.
Here is how their love affair has transpired.
Dabo Swinney, the head coach of the orange and purple Tigers from Clemson oozed with adoration in regards to the LSU team and, specifically, their defense.
"Our coaches, our players and our fans always look forward to playing against the best programs in the nation, and LSU certainly fits that description," Swinney said last week. "We are going to have the opportunity to compete against a top 10 team that played for it all last year."
Swinney went on to gush over their defense. If you didn’t know any different, you would think they were playing against the San Francisco 49er’s defense. "Their defense is as good as it gets, their defense is built for championships. Their front four is as good as any I've seen. They have great cover guys they can match up with you. It will be a very competitive matchup for sure."
Not to be out-done, Les Miles, the head coach of the purple and gold Tigers from LSU had his own flattering comments about the Clemson team, focusing on QB Tajh Boyd.
I’m not saying it isn’t warranted. Boyd has a passer rating at 168.5 which is among the leaders in FBS. He has thrown for 3,550 yards and 34 touchdowns, which ties him for the ACC record. He has also run for 492 yards and nine scores.
So Miles made sure everyone knew how much he loves, I mean, respects, Boyd. "He's a very talented quarterback with a real strong arm," Miles said. "He has the ability to move his feet and run and extend plays. Their offense speaks to Boyd (whatever that means), it does the things that he does well and gets the most out of his talent. You don't affect great players; you just try to contain them."
Okay, we get it. Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers think the LSU defense is one of the best ever. And Les Miles and LSU think the Clemson offense is as explosive an offense as there is.
But this relationship is not built on give and take. This is a football game and something has to give. The Clemson offense has hit the 37-point mark 10 times this year. The LSU defense has given up more than 22 points only once. So, regardless how much these two teams talk about how much they admire the other, neither will be in a giving mood come game time.
You can bet your Valentine’s candy hearts that when the ball is teed up and the whistle blows, there won’t be any love lost between these two love birds.
Both will be aiming to regain bowl respectability from their bowl games of a year ago. LSU got embarrassed by the Crimson Tide in last season's BCS title game, while Clemson was ambushed by West Virginia 70-33 in the Orange Bowl.
There isn’t a lot of history between these two teams. What little bit of history there is, is in LSU’s favor. They last faced each other in Atlanta in this same bowl in 1996, then it was called the Peach Bowl, and LSU won 10-7. The only other meeting was in 1959 and won 7-0. Not exactly a budding rivalry. However, by mere geographic proximity to Atlanta and the south, these two teams make for an intriguing match-up.
LSU also has had a ton of success in Atlanta. They have a 9-1 record at the Georgia Dome and are 5-0 in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, outscoring their opponents 78-6 in their last two appearances.
With so little history and so much admiration between the two coaches, it’s hard to pick a winner. But, when the pleasantries end and the game begins, look for the purple and gold Tiger’s defense to stifle the purple and orange Tiger’s offense and leave Clemson broken hearted thanks to an abrupt end to this short term love affair.
The game can be viewed on ESPN, Monday, December 31 at 7:30 EST.
Where To Watch Online: LSU vs. Clemson