Clemson will end its season the same way it started it: In Atlanta facing an SEC team with a Tiger mascot. Clemson opened its season with a win over Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic and will wrap up the year back at the Georgia Dome, but against the LSU version of the Tigers. And now, just like before the season opener, Clemson is still out to prove it can play with and beat the so-called heavyweights of college football.
The Bayou Bengal version of the Tiger mascot will obviously come with more bite than the Auburn. LSU finished the regular season 10-2, with the losses coming against BCS bound Alabama and Florida. Auburn was winless in the SEC and iscurrently searching for a new coach. LSU will also bring a more physical team to the Georgia Dome, especially on defense.
Perhaps the biggest question for LSU just how motivated will they be? This is a team that played for the national championship last year and had aspirations of doing the same thing this year before the Gators and Crimson Tide derailed them. The Chick-fil-A Bowl is one of the best out there and has one of the highest payouts, but it is only natural to expect some letdown for LSU.
Meanwhile if Clemson isn’t fired up for this one, they need to check the players for a pulse. Outside of the BCS title game between Bama and Notre Dame, Clemson might have the most to gain or lose in their bowl game. Clemson desperately needs a win over a strong team to get some street cred to go along with the flashy numbers they’ve padded against the struggling ACC opponents. A win over LSU would give them that, and help ease the sting of the loss to South Carolina. Plus it would give them some momentum and confidence in the offseason and eventual preseason leading up to the 2013 opener against defending SEC East champion Georgia.
If Clemson loses, well, it will be just another one of the many examples people point to about SEC dominance and ACC futility. Dabo Swinney has talked a lot about the significance of back-to-back 10 win seasons, but the fact of the matter is no one will remember or care about those wins if this season ends with two straight losses to SEC teams. It wouldn’t do much for the team’s confidence heading into that season opener against Georgia next year either.
Take a listen to Dabo Swinney’s thoughts about playing the LSU version of the Tiger mascot below:
AUDIO: Dabo Swinney’s thoughts on LSU matchup [3:36]