Chick-Fil-A Bowl Pick
December 31, 2012
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LSU (-5) vs. Clemson (+5); Total set at 60
The final game on the Bowl card this New Year's Eve is the Chick-Fil-A Bowl between two teams that are ranked in the top 15. LSU and Clemson both finished with a 10-2 SU record, and for either program to get to 11 wins would be a great way to cap off this season. Both schools only lost to very highly ranked schools, but it was LSU who had the tougher ones, losing to #2 Alabama and #3 Florida this season.
SEC teams tend to get the benefit of the doubt in Bowl games simply because of how strong their conference has been in recent years and this game is no different. LSU's two losses came against very good foes and the grind that is playing in the SEC week in and week out will have them overly prepared for anything Clemson may through at them.
But LSU struggles at time offensively and in a game like this they will need to score points. In four of their past nine contests LSU has only scored 20 or fewer points, going 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS in that span. The lone cover was as 7-point dogs vs. then #1 Alabama but Clemson's defense won't provide the same sort of resistance. QB Zach Mettenberger will be asked to take some shots down the field and against a Clemson defense that ranks 76th in the country and gives up 411 yards per game, the opportunities will be there. If Mettenberger can make some early connections down the field it opens things up for LSU's running attack with Spencer Ware, Jeremy Hill and Kenny Hilliard all expected to make big contributions. Clemson wants to get in a shootout type game and LSU will have to oblige.
Clemson's defense has some holes that have been exploited by good running teams like Georgia Tech and NC State but the Tigers still managed to prevail in both contests. However, both times the needed 47 or more points to come out on top and to beat LSU they will need to score in the high 20's at least. They are a team built around speed and offense and they have eclipsed this total of 60 in half of their games.
However, the most telling thing about this line is the fact that despite LSU's defensive prowess, we still have a high total here in the 60's. That means the odds makers expect this one to be a Clemson-type game that will go back and forth all evening. Even with the majority (65-70%) backing the under here because of LSU's defense, this total has gone up from its opening number and I believe that is the right side here. This game likely will come down to the final possession or two to determine a winner but there will be points scored.
Take the over.