Tigers vs. Tigers in Chick-fil-A Bowl
Clemson (10-2) will face Louisiana State (10-2) in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl in the Georgia Dome at Atlanta, GA on December 31. Both teams are ranked in the top 14 in the nation in both polls, as Clemson is ranked #14 by AP and #13 by USA Today, while Louisiana State is #7 by USA Today and #9 by AP.
This will be the highest-ranked team Clemson has faced in a bowl game since the 2003 season, when the Tigers upset #6 Tennessee in the Peach Bowl.
This will be the first meeting between the two schools who both call their home stadium "Death Valley" since the 1996 Peach Bowl, a game also played in the Georgia Dome. The SEC Tigers won that game 10-7.
Overall, it will be just the third all-time meeting between the two schools. The first meeting was played in New Orleans, LA on January 1, 1959, when top-ranked Louisiana State defeated Clemson 7-0. Louisiana State won the National Championship that season, but in those days, wire-service polls were not taken after the bowls, so technically they did not have to beat Clemson to win the title.
This will be Clemson's eighth appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (formerly known as the Peach Bowl), but its first since a 23-20 overtime loss against Auburn in 2007. Clemson's last victory in the bowl took place in January of 2004 when the Tigers upset Tennessee 27-14. The Tigers are 2-5 overall in their previous appearances in this bowl game.
The Clemson vs. Louisiana State game will feature one of the top offenses against one of the top defenses in the nation. Clemson is sixth in the nation in scoring offense (42.3), ninth in total offense (518.3), and 13th in passing offense (319.6). Those are all record rates for the Clemson program.
Louisiana State counters with a defense that is eighth in the nation in total defense (296.2), ninth in pass efficiency defense (101.4), ninth in rushing defense (101.8), and 11th in scoring defense (16.9).
Clemson has scored at least 37 points in 10 of the 12 games this year, while Louisiana State has allowed over 22 points just once, a 41-35 win over Mississippi.
Clemson's offense features six First-Team All-ACC performers, something no ACC team has done since 1995. The group is led by quarterback Tajh Boyd, a first-team All- American (AFCA) and the ACC Player-of-the-Year, who is fourth in the nation in passing efficiency. He has already set the ACC record for touchdown responsibility in a season (43), and has tied the league mark for passing touchdowns (34).
His offensive line features two First-Team All-ACC players in center Dalton Freeman and left tackle Brandon Thomas. Freeman has started 48 consecutive games at center and was named a first-team All-American by AFCA. He was also a finalist for the Rimington Trophy.
Andre Ellington is a First-Team All-ACC running back who has 1,031 rushing yards and 197 receiving yards. He is fourth in school history in career rushing yards and has scored 36 touchdowns.
DeAndre Hopkins is a First-Team All-ACC player with 16 receiving touchdowns, second-most in the nation. He has 69 catches for 1,214 yards and a 17.6-yard average. He needs just six receiving yards to set the single-season Tiger record. The record he can break belongs to sophomore wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who was a first-team All- American as a freshman in 2011. He has 57 receptions for 708 yards in 2012.
Tight end Brandon Ford is a sixth First-Team All-ACC player on the Clemson offense. Ford has eight receiving touchdowns, second-most in the nation among tight ends and has 31 catches for 411 yards overall. He is an honorable mention All-American by SI.com as well.
The defense is led by Second-Team All-ACC safety Rashard Hall, who has four interceptions and 75 tackles. The senior is third in Tiger history in career takeaways (17).
Linebackers Jonathan Willard and Spencer Shuey are tied for the team lead in tackles (88). Shuey has started each of the last six games and has 64 of his 88 tackles in those six games. Xavier Brewer and Jonathan Meeks are two experienced defensive backs. Brewer was named ACC Defensive Back-of-the-Week in the season-finale against #12 South Carolina when he had 12 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, and one interception.
Chandler Catanzaro is a Second-Team All-ACC placekicker who has attempted 74 placekicks this year, and 72 have gone through the uprights. The junior is 16-17 on field goals and 56-57 on extra points. He had a streak of 20 consecutive made field goals over two years, the longest streak in Clemson history.
The Chick-fil-A Bowl is annually one of the most competitive bowl games. Over the 20 years this has been an ACC vs. SEC matchup, teams from each league have won 10 times. Ten of the last 20 games have been decided by a touchdown or less as well.
Clemson's Bowl History
Clemson has a rich bowl tradition. One of the reasons has been Clemson's historical success against schools with legendary football traditions. The list of schools Clemson has beaten in bowl games includes five of the top-12 winningest programs in the history of FBS...Nebraska (#4), Oklahoma (#5), Ohio State (#7), Tennessee (#8), and Penn State (#12).
Clemson has 16 bowl victories, the 19th-highest total in FBS history. Ten of the 16 bowl victories have come against coaches who are in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Of course, Clemson's greatest bowl experience was the National Championship clinching victory over Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl. The Tigers were ranked #1 in the nation entering that contest and faced #4 Nebraska and Head Coach Tom Osborne. Danny Ford led the Tigers to a 22-15 victory to give the Tigers the national title and made him the youngest (33) coach of a national championship team in college football history. He still holds that distinction.
Clemson's first bowl game was in the 1940 Cotton Bowl when the Tigers defeated Frank Leahy and Boston College, 6-3.
Clemson won its first three bowl games, victories over Boston College, Missouri, and Miami (FL). The three coaches Clemson defeated in those games were Frank Leahy, Don Faurot, and Andy Gustafson, and all three are in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Clemson has a football program that has been steady over the years in bowl games, no matter who has led the program as head coach. No less than seven different head coaches (Jess Neely, Frank Howard, Danny Ford, Ken Hatfield, Tommy West, Tommy Bowden, Dabo Swinney) have won bowl games for the Tigers.
Overall, 10 of Clemson's 16 bowl victories have come against coaches who are in the College Football Hall of Fame. That includes Joe Paterno, who suffered his worst margin of defeat in a bowl game to Clemson in 1987. Clemson has four bowl victories over coaches who are in the 200-win club. Woody Hayes (Ohio State), Tom Osborne (Nebraska), Paterno and Don Nehlen (West Virginia) are all coaches with at least 200 wins who lost bowl games to the Tigers.