Clemson’s offensive and defensive lines have heard enough about No. 9 LSU’s SEC credentials, both in success, and more so, physicality.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t,” Clemson defensive tackle Josh Watson said. “All we can do strap up and show them on December 31st.
“All this talking and all this interviewing isn’t going to win the game. At some point you have to put your hand in the dirt and go prove yourself, and that’s what we’re looking to do on New Year’s Eve.”
The feeling is similar on the other side of the ball, says left tackle Brandon Thomas.
“Yes, we are actually (tired of the SEC is physical talk),” Thomas said. “And I can say that. I think the ACC’s pretty strong and our line is pretty strong and we’re going to go out there and prove it.
“I wouldn’t say it’s unfair. Other people are going to have their opinions, but we’re going to have go and show everybody that criticized us.”
Watson and co. believe their execution is the key to knocking off the Bayou Bengals.
“If we’re going to win the game, it’s going to be in the trenches, offense and defense,” Watson said. “…I’m a man just like they are – I was recruited by SEC schools. They’re not really doing anything different, but with the ACC it’s spread offenses all over the place…it’s not really smashmouth, run down-the-hill football like the SEC.”
Clemson’s plan to winning the trenches, offensively, is establishing the run and maintaining a quick tempo.
“We have to spread them out so we can have those natural lanes so we can run the ball,” Tigers right tackle Gifford Timothy said. “…That way you can keep your offense balanced. We can keep the run game going and then we can throw the ball and keep them from shutting down our run game.
“It’s a matter of keeping our tempo up and game-speed. Coach (Dabo) Swinney said after practice that it’s going to be a big thing for us to keep our tempo up and move the ball as fast as we can.”
Against top-25 defenses like LSU, Clemson averaged 70 plays per game, according to the Seldom Used Reserve, which fell well below a season average of 80.2 per.
Most notably, South Carolina held the Tigers to just 59 offensive attempts, and only 19 in the second half.
Third down offense and defense were a major factor in that.
“We’ve been really good as a team on third down all year,” Swinney said. “Our two losses, we’ve been somewhere around 50 percent (conversions given up) on defense. It’s hard to win that way – you gotta get off the field. Our last game, we just couldn’t get off the field.
“A team like this (LSU) that’s going to grind the clock – you have to get stops. And we have to be who we are and do what we do and get some conversions on offense.”