CLEMSON — Clemson football’s season will end how it began: attempting to prove itself against a Southeastern Conference program, a foe also possessing a Tigers mascot, in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
No. 14 Clemson (10-2) accepted an invitation Sunday to play No. 9 Louisiana State (10-2) in the Chick-fil-A Bowl at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 (ESPN).
Clemson had been projected to play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl since its loss to South Carolina. The game is the ACC’s No. 2 bowl slot but the No. 5 for the SEC. LSU tumbled due to a logjam of top 10-ranked SEC teams.
The game is Clemson’s 35th bowl trip in program history and fifth straight bowl appearance.
The game offers a chance for Clemson to validate its 10-win season as Dabo Swinney’s team has not defeated a ranked opponent this fall. Some consider Clemson’s double-digit win total the product of a weak schedule.
“It is a great opportunity for our program,” Swinney said. “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. “We are going to have the opportunity to compete against a top-10 team that played for it all last year. … They barely lost to Alabama.”
The game will also offer a compelling matchup of contrasting styles.
LSU ranks eighth in the nation in defense, allowing 296.2 yards per game, while Clemson ranks ninth in total offense, averaging 518 yards per game.
Said LSU coach Les Miles: “Clemson is obviously a very talented team. Dabo Swinney has done a great job there.”
LSU will present Clemson with a physical test not unlike South Carolina as the LSU defense is loaded with talent including talented defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo.
Clemson struggled with a similarly talented defensive front against South Carolina last month. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney sacked Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd 4½ times and South Carolina recorded six sacks as a team. Clemson entered having allowed just 20 sacks in its first 11 games.
Clemson has not faced LSU since they met in the Peach Bowl — renamed the Chick-fil-A Bowl — in a 1996. Clemson lost, 10-7.
While LSU’s offense has struggled at times this season, ranking 80th in the country, another physical SEC offensive line that will test Clemson’s 62nd ranked rush defense. LSU averages 179.9 rushing yards per game.
The game will be the middle of three contests against SEC opponents for Clemson. The Tigers closed the regular season against South Carolina and open up next year against Georgia.