Chick-fil-A Bowl preview capsule

by Leslie Turk

No. 9 LSU (10-2) takes on No. 14 Clemson (10-2) at 6:30 p.m. New Year's Eve at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Line: LSU by 6.

Series Record: LSU leads 2-0.


Clemson is trying to reach 11 wins for only the fourth time in school history and the first time since a 12-0 finish in its 1981 national championship season. LSU, which one year ago was preparing for the national championship game, is hoping for a top-five finish and to close with four straight wins after its 21-17 loss to Alabama on Nov. 3.


LSU freshman cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins, who have had prominent roles since the dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu before the season, will be challenged to contain DeAndre Hopkins, who is second in the nation with 16 TD catches, and Sammy Watkins. Mills, the starter, and Collins, who plays on passing downs, have combined for four interceptions. LSU QB Tajh Boyd has 34 TD passes, taking advantage of his fast receivers.


LSU: LB Kevin Minter, a second-team All-American who leads the Tigers with 111 tackles, will be a key to LSU's hopes of containing 1,000-yard rusher Andre Ellington and Boyd's runs on QB keepers to make Clemson's offense one-dimensional. Minter had 12 tackles and an interception in LSU's 24-19 win over Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M on Oct. 20.

Clemson: Watkins has only three TD catches, a big drop from his 12 as a freshman last season. He could be ready for a strong finish after missing three games early in the season - two to a suspension and one to illness. He had 11 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown against N.C. State on Nov. 17 and could have another big game if LSU leaves him in man coverage while focusing on Hopkins.


The Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference are 10-10 in the annual game. ... LSU is 36-1 in non-conference games since 2005, with the one loss coming against Penn State in the 2010 Capital One Bowl. ... LSU running backs have a streak of 271 carries without a fumble since two against Towson on Sept. 29. ... LSU is 9-1 all-time in the Georgia Dome, including four wins in the SEC championship game, four wins in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and a season-opening win over North Carolina in 2010. Les Miles' 5-2 bowl record at LSU includes a 2-0 mark in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. ... Clemson needs 25 points to break Florida State's ACC record of 532 points in 1995. ... Boyd is tied with former N.C. State star Philip Rivers' 2003 ACC record of 34 touchdown passes in a season. Boyd has 10 more TD passes than Manziel and 20 more than Heisman runner-up Collin Klein. ... LSU is Clemson's highest-ranked bowl opponent since Clemson beat No. 6 Tennessee in Atlanta in the 2003 season, when the game was called the Peach Bowl. ... Clemson leads the nation with 49 pass plays of at least 25 yards. ... Clemson's Brandon Ford has eight TD catches, the second-highest total for tight ends in the nation, behind the 10 by Marshall's Gator Haskins.