Monday, December 31, 2012

Tigers vs Tigers: A Prediction

In our last article, we laid out five keys for Clemson to be able to pull out a win Monday night (now tonight); however, we didn’t go into how those keys would go. Here, we’ll do that. And in the end, we’ll let the chips fall where they may and choose a winner.

Key #1 – Be Physical
In discussing this game on LSU message boards, one internet guru compared preparing for LSU like preparing for Ali or Tyson. You can spar with the best boxer in the gym, but it will never prepare you for Tyson’s uppercut or Ali’s speed. And until you’ve actually been hit by a heavyweight champion, you’ll never know if you’re really ready or not.

Clemson has been physical in the past (see Auburn 2010), but in their last few marquee games, they have fallen well short in the physical department. Clemson has been working hard to correct that, but until the first snap Monday night, we’ll never know…

Advantage: LSU (for completely dictating how Clemson practices)

Key #2 – Win 1st Down
Clemson must keep the tempo and yards flowing against this LSU defense, and the key will be first down. The issue is both Clemson and LSU understand this, so great emphasis will be placed on 1st down by both sides. In the end, Clemson will do what it takes to win 1st down, including trick plays, sweeps, roll-outs, etc... They won't always be successful, but the ones that are will set the Clemson offense up for points.

Defensively, the key to the LSU running game is staying ahead of the chains. Positive yards out of the running game on 1st down sets up more rushes, and more body blows to a young Clemson defensive front. But the difference between LSU's philosophy on 1st down to Clemson's is LSU will stick to their bread and butter and try to out physical you. They'll occasionally sprinkle in some play-action passing to keep the defense honest, but 1st down will generally be the LSU running game against the Clemson defense - biggest and baddest man wins.

Advantage: Slight to LSU (the Clemson has a slight advantage while the LSU offense has a distinct advantage)

Key #3 – Stay the Course
In games against FSU & USC, Clemson had moments of brilliance on offense, and moments of utter ineptitude. They had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The highs were had to maintain and the lows hard to overcome. Against LSU, Clemson must find a way to combat both emotions as they will have offensive success and they will have offensive failures.

Clemson, & Morris specifically, should have learned from both games, but similar to being physical, we'll never know until the game is played. But look for the offensive gameplan to be more diverse, imaginative, and consistent. If Clemson & Co. can stick with it, points will be scored.

Advantage: Clemson (from past mistakes)

Key #4 – Win 1-on-1 Battles
If LSU can force Clemson to draw even in 1-on-1 battles, they win. Clemson needs to have a few dominant performances by a few key guys. Either Watkins or Hopkins needs to find a mismatch they like and take advantage of it. The offensive line needs to find ways to keep Mingo & Montgomery out of the backfield. The defensive line needs to fight through blocks and the linebackers need to pursue and make tackles.

Clemson has the edge on offense with their skill positions, but LSU owns both lines. Can Clemson's advantages be large enough that it changes the way LSU plays the game? It's one thing to do it in the 1st quarter, but another to do it consistently throughout the entire game. In the end, I'm concerned Clemson can't win enough of the individual battles, or can't win them consistently, to keep LSU from wearing down the Clemson defense.

Advantage: LSU

Key #5 – Nothing Cheap
No long punt/kick returns. No bad interception or fumble. No major busted play or defensive gaffe.

LSU has made a living on swapping momentum on special teams or with a big defensive play. Can Clemson prevent that from happening? Not sure as Clemson is good for one crazy or weird play per game. How that play falls typically determines Clemson's outcome. The goal will be to break even in turnover margin, or limit where or how they occur. I expect Clemson to play conservative enough, or to minimize their risk, so this doesn't occur.

As for the defensive gaffes, I make no guarantees.

Advantage: Even (don't expect LSU to return the favor and give Clemson something cheap)

If you sum the keys to the game, LSU wins - handily. They will be the more physical team, they have better overall talent and will win many of the 1-on-1 battles, and will control the Clemson defense by sheer power and will. In return, Clemson will have some offensive success, stay the course, and not give anything cheap to LSU. But comparatively, the LSU advantages are greater, which will make it tough for Clemson to stay in the game.

However, with that said, this is one of the better matchups for Clemson. The LSU offense uses very little misdirection and Clemson will be well rested from the break. As long as Clemson continues to play and fight, they will be in the game, with a chance to win in the end.

But will they?

LSU draws first blood with a field goal, but Clemson responds with a touchdown to take a 7-3 lead. The remainder of the half is back and forth as the teams trade field goals.

Unfortunately, their early Clemson touchdown will be their only touchdown they are forced to continue to settle for field goals. However, the Clemson defense stands tall and keeps LSU within one possession. In the end, the LSU running game begins to find more success and LSU keeps Clemson at bay.

LSU 23
Clemson 19


  1. Nice analysis. Your points are valid and based on what we have all seen from both of these teams this season.However one area that I do believe needs to be mentioned is game day attitude. These are 18-21 boys/men. How they are emotionally on game day is huge. There is no way to predict this one area. My hope is that Clemson's men are relaxed and focused! Good article!

    1. I hope they are too. I think we'll play well - the question will be for how long.

      Go Tigers (the orange kind)!


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