Something the Clemson Tigers have going for them in preparation of the Chick-fil-A Bowl is the benefit of having played against an SEC team recently. While playing against a team from the same conference as your bowl opponent generally doesn’t guarantee that you’ll learn something that you can use in the bowl game, this is an instance where it does.
Clemson finished their regular season with a 27-17 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks. The loss ended up eliminating Clemson from BCS consideration despite them having 10 wins for the season.
The loss was devastating to the team both because it was a rivalry game and it cost them a BCS bowl berth, but that loss of a BCS bowl also cost the team financially. By ending up in the Chick-fil-A Bowl instead of a BCS bowl game, Clemson lost around $13 million in terms of the payout.
However, from a straight football sense, this loss may turn out to be a good thing. What’s lost is lost and now the only thing Clemson can do is win the bowl game and finish the season strong. And considering the last time a Clemson football team won eleven games in a season was their national championship season of 1981, winning an eleventh game would be a big deal for them. The fact that Clemson got to play a team like the Gamecocks may serve as real good preparation for their bowl game against the LSU Tigers.
LSU and the Gamecocks have a lot more in common than either team likely wants to admit, but they do. On offense, both teams rely on their running game and have quarterbacks that show hints of greatness though not the whole package. On defense, both have a suffocating nature and rely on big hits, good run defense, and plenty of physicality from all.
With the Gamecocks, Clemson didn’t even face their usual started. Connor Shaw was out that week with an injury, so backup quarterback Dylan Thompson ended up torching Clemson’s usually poor defense. Thompson had to come in for Shaw earlier in the season due to injury and started a few games; he also saw action in a few other games after Shaw returned. Thompson had a tremendous game against the East Carolina Pirates in his first game as a starter, but hadn’t been able to duplicate the success until he played Clemson.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has had brief moments where he has looked like the quarterback that he was expected to be. His game against the Alabama Crimson Tide immediately comes to mind. But other than the last three games of the regular season, 2012 was a struggle for Mettenberger to find his groove and have consistent success as a quarterback.
Clemson should be doing some intense studying of the game film from their loss to the Gamecocks, specifically how they stopped Tajh Boyd cold on the ground and how they limited Clemson running back Andre Ellington. They should study it with great attention because they will be seeing a similar kind of defense in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Yeah, it won’t be the same defense, but making sure that Boyd and Ellington are going to be able to contribute rushing yards will go a long way toward a bowl game win.
There is always much to learn from one’s history. And since recent history is freshest in the mind, it couldn’t hurt Clemson to look into their recent history. Maybe they’ll even find a solution and avoid becoming another victim of the SEC’s great fixation on gaining and preventing yards through the run.