By The Numbers: Chick-fil-A Bowl

Tajh Boyd and Clemson's high-scoring offense will face a tough test against the defensive minded LSU.

Clemson’s free-scoring offense will face a stiff test in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on New Year’s Eve as it comes face to face with an LSU defense that has been nothing short of stifling.

Last week Betting Sports.com took a first look at the Chick-fil-A Bowl. This week we delve into the numbers and check out how the two sides match up.

Clemson: Offense

Clemson’s success in the ACC this season was founded on its offensive strengths. The side averaged 42.3 points per game, going 10-2 on the season. The Tigers failed to score over 30 points just three times all season, and breached the 50-point mark three times.

Much of this offensive prowess fell on the arm of junior quarterback Tajh Boyd, who threw for 3,550 yards and 34 touchdowns. Clemson’s passing game averaged 319.9 yards per game, 13th in the nation.

Receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught 69 balls for 1,214 yards and 16 touchdowns, while the much hyped Sammy Watkins caught for 708 yards and three touchdowns over the course of nine games.

Clemson’s running game was not to be dismissed either. Averaging 198.8 yards per game, the side ranked No. 33 in the country on the ground, tallying 25 touchdowns in the process. Andre Ellington led the way with 1,000+ yards and eight touchdowns.

This is an offense built to score points.

Leaders: Passing Tajh Boyd (3,550 yards) Rushing Andre Ellington (1,031 yards) Receiving DeAndre Hopkins (1,214 yards)

Clemson: Defense

With the offense surging, Clemson’s defense got away with being very middle of the road.

The Tigers conceded an average of 24.9 points per game (47th), giving up 250.3 yards through the air (83rd), and 160.7 yards on the ground (61st). True, with teams playing catch-up to the formidable offense, those passing yards will go up, but this is a susceptible defense.

That being said, the team took 12 interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. 12 forced fumbles led to just one recovery, which happened to go for a touchdown.

Leaders: Tackles Jonathan Willard (42 solo, 39 assisted, 81 total) Sacks Vic Beasley (8) Interceptions Rashard Hall (4)

LSU: Offense

At its best, LSU’s offense this season was manageable. For much of the season it was much less than that.

Early season struggles saw the Tigers of Baton Rouge stumble against poor defenses. Towards the end of the season – following a breakout performance against Alabama – LSU’s offense started to pick things up a bit.

Zach Mettenberger (2,489 yards, 11 touchdowns, six interceptions) was far from the focal point of the offense, acquiescing to a running game by committee.

Jeremy Hill led the side with 631 yards and 10 touchdowns, but this was very much a team effort on the ground. Kenny Hilliard (456 yards), Michael Ford (393), and Spencer Ware (358) all exceeded 350 yards, while seven different players ran the ball into the end zone.

Leaders: Passing Zach Mettenberger (2,489 yards) Rushing Jeremy Hill (631 yards) Receiving Odell Beckham, Jr. (673 yards)

LSU: Defense

Of course, LSU was built for defense. And defense was what the Tigers fielded.

Les Miles’ side conceded just 194.3 yards through the air (20th) but was even more dominant against the rush. Teams ran for just 101.8 yards per game (9th). This proved to be one of the most balanced in the league, up there with Notre Dame and Alabama.

LSU gave up 16.9 points per game (11th), registering 17 interceptions in the process, three of which went back for touchdowns. Seven forced fumbles led to two recoveries.

Linebacker Kevin Minter had a monster year, compiling 111 tackles all told, while Lamin Barrow (92) and Eric Reid (81) held stuff offenses.

Leaders: Tackles Kevin Minter (48 solo, 63 assisted, 111 total) Sacks Sam Montgomery (7) Interceptions Tharold Simon (4)

Advantage…?

The sides matchup in a classic battle between offense and defense. If defense does in fact win championships bowls, then LSU will be smiling come New Year’s Day. But Clemson’s offense is surely too good to go down without a fight.

LSU is coming out of the dominant SEC and has faced stiffer competition than Clemson in the ACC, which would suggest the Baton Rouge side have an advantage. However, this is not the dominant LSU team of recent years, and a lot of the Tigers’ wins this year have been closer than they should have been. Clemson meanwhile has looked impressive for most of the season, although a loss to South Carolina on the last day of the regular season could leave a lasting impact.

Oddsmakers like LSU in this one, just. The Fighting Tigers opened as three-point favorites and have bumped up to four-point favorites since.

Regardless, the Chick-fil-A Bowl looks to be one of the crown jewels of College Bowl Season this year.

Stay tuned to BettingSports.com for more on the Chick-fil-A Bowl, ahead of kickoff on Dec. 31.

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