ATLANTA - The Clemson Tigers won’t know whether or not they can beat LSU until the deal goes down at the Georgia Dome on New Year’s Eve. They are confident, however, that the Baton Rouge-based Tigers will have to do it without their help.
While Les Miles’ club offers a huge challenge in Monday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl, Dabo Swinney’s charges are much more concerned about the men in the mirror – at least for now.
“Our mindset is that we’re ready,” said Clemson offensive tackle Brandon Thomas, who joined his teammates for their second workout at the dome on Thursday. “LSU is a great team but we’re just focused on ourselves. We’re concerned about making sure we’re conditioned and have our legs and go into the game healthy.”
The heavy lifting for the contest was completed in Clemson, where the players did what they could to replicate the speed and strength of LSU.
“We got a lot of good, physical work done way before we came here,” defensive tackle Josh Watson said. “I mean, we’ve studied them for almost a month.”
With more than 30 days to prepare, the Tigers say they have gotten quite familiar with the Purple and Gold’s style
“Obviously we focused on trying to stop the run game and from an offensive standpoint looking at how Ole Miss was able to spread them out so well,” offensive tackle Gifford Timothy said.
But after the game plan was in place the mental work began in earnest.
“We have the attitude that they’re a good football team but so are we,” said nickleback Travis Blanks, who is shifting to safety for the bowl game. “So it’ll come down to assignment, alignment and technique.”
The matchup between two sets of Tigers who both call Death Valley home is one of the more intriguing of the postseason. While No. 14 Clemson and No. 9 LSU each have 10-2 records they represent a big contrast in styles.
The Upstate Tigers have won games with sometimes dizzying displays of offense. In their 10 wins they scored at least 40 points eight times, eclipsing the 50-point mark three times and hanging 62 points on North Carolina State.
Even in its only Atlantic Coast Conference loss of the year Clemson still managed 37 points in a 49-37 setback to Florida State.
The Bayou Bengals, meanwhile, have often utilized the old-fashioned “run hard, hit harder” approach in notching their 10 victories. They can still score points in bunches, but keeping the opposition from doing likewise is what Miles enjoys most.
But those identities were established over the length of an entire season and Swinney knows what his team’s best chance at victory in a one-game season depends on its preparation.
“We came here with the right frame of mind and the right energy,” Swinney said. “They present a different style than we’re used to seeing and we understand that. But we have a good plan and it comes down to executing the plan.”