Breakdown: LSU offense v. Clemson defense

Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley hits North Carolina State's Mike Glennon during the third quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley hits North Carolina State's Mike Glennon during the third quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

Clemson coaches haven’t talked about LSU’s offense without one word: physical.

LSU’s o-line is massive, at just about 315 pounds on average, but not without youth, three underclassmen starting (all rated 4-star or higher by recruiting services).

The Bayou Bengals’ tailback-by-committee nearly outweighs Clemson’s starting linebacker corps (225.5-226.7 pounds).

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables described LSU’s running game behind that physicality as “inside-out,” pounding the ball at the d-line to open up the field. They’ll call a variety of power runs and quick tosses to the running backs to wear down a defense.

A part of that larger plan is a healthy rotation at tailback. LSU has four players averaging at least six carries per game, with true freshman Jeremy Hill standing out down the stretch.

Since the Bayou Bengals’ midseason loss at Florida, Hill’s touches and production shot up, averaging 19.5 carries for 93.3 yards a game and eight touchdowns (previously had 13 carries total for 71 yards and two touchdowns).

Another back to watch is junior Spencer Ware, who has lined up at quarterback in short yardage situations this season and is also a receiver threat – 14.1 yards per catch on the year with 10 catches and a touchdown in LSU’s last four games.

Category LSU Clemson
Yards Per Pass 7.5 7.44
Yards Per Play 5.6 5.7
Total Yards 387.2 411
Rushing Yards 179.9 160.7
Yards Per Carry 4.3 4.2
Rushes Per Game 41.8 38.3
Turnover Margin +1.25 +.25

Clemson’s results against the run have been mixed.

They rank right in the middle nationally at 60th, allowing 160.7 yards per game, and improved to giving up 118.7 yards per in their final six games.

The quality of competition has been a determining factor in the numbers though.

Against opponents ranked higher than LSU in rushing (44th – 179.9 YPG), Clemson surrendered 292 yards per and 11 touchdowns (three games), and against teams ranked lower, 104.8 per and three touchdowns (nine games).

Junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger runs the show for the Bayou Bengals, in an inconsistent first-year at starter in Baton Rouge, but riding a solid four-game finish.

He became the first quarterback at LSU since 2006 to throw for over 200 yards in four-straight games. Mettenberger’s best performance came in a loss to No. 2 Alabama, completing 24-of-35 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown against a top-10 pass defense.

A trio of receivers mark his top targets, in Odell Beckham Jr. (673 receiving yards/16.8 yards per catch), Jarvis Landry (team-leading 52 catches/4 touchdowns) and Kadron Boone (4 touchdowns/13.9 yards per catch).

The overall stats don’t exactly shout “showdown” like the other side of the ball in the matchup, with a No. 78 total offense (386.2 YPG) up against a No. 74 total defense (411 YPG).

Clemson has given up an amount of yards below the lower-third average of college football in passing (248) and rushing (180) five times each, and four times over the total defense mark (420.5 yards – against Florida State, Georgia Tech, NC State and South Carolina).

LSU surpassed those numbers six times in rushing and three times in passing, but put it all together just five times (over 420.5 yards against North Texas, Washington, Idaho, Alabama and Ole Miss).

If the Tigers’ run defense can hold up, it could open the door for what’s been an improving Clemson pass rush.

They reached the opposing QB just seven times in the first six games, but averaged 3.5 sacks per in their final six, with 21 sacks. LSU is tied, with Clemson incidentally, at 77th nationally in sacks allowed (2.17 per game). The Bayou Bengals gave up 13 sacks in a four-game stretch midseason, which included FCS-opponent Towson, and a more manageable eight in their final four contests.

Defensive end Vic Beasley is atop the group with eight sacks, at fourth in the ACC, but starter Malliciah Goodman has come on, with a sack a game each against NC State and USC to close the season (four total), after going half the year without one.

More Clemson-LSU Statistical Outlooks

Red zone success, opportunities key against LSU

Clemson big-play passing game meets match in LSU

When Clemson and LSU score could shape game

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