It is a real rarity for a team with a losing conference record to make a late night, New Year’s Eve bowl game. But considering the conference and the recent history of the team itself, it is not that shocking.
Coach Les Miles will take his 7-5 Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers with a 3-5 mark in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), into the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Georgia Tech in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
Not only are The Bayou Bengals the defending national champions with their 38-24 win over Ohio State, but they also have a stellar recent bowl game record, winning nine of their last 11 appearances.
What made this year’s LSU team far different from most was its defensive holes, leading to an uncharacteristic 311 points allowed. That included yielding more than 50 apiece to Florida and Georgia. Luckily, LSU’s offense was not too shabby.
The passing offense was not overly impressive. Sophomore quarterback Jarrett Lee struggled to complete just over 53 per cent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and a mere 1,873 yards. Meanwhile, Lee threw 16 interceptions. Junior Brandon LaFell was Lee’s top receiver with 61 catches for 903 yards and eight TDs.
But LSU has had a strong running game. Junior back Charles Scott rushed for 1,109 yards and 15 TDs on 202 carries. Overall, the Tigers easily won their season’s ground game battle, outrushing their opponents with 4.4 yards per carry to 3.3. Senior place kicker Colt David certainly helped LSU’s offense by converting 15-of-20 field goal attempts, including a season long 52-yarder.
Despite registering just 27 total tackles, junior defensive end Rahim Alem led LSU with eight sacks among 11 tackles for losses. Junior safety Harry Coleman was the tackles leader with 69. Surprisingly, the LSU defense only registered eight interceptions.
Surprising in the opposite extreme was Georgia Tech’s 9-3 record that included a four-way tie for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s best with a 5-3 mark. The Yellow Jackets’ regular season finale was a 45-42 road win against rival and then No. 11 ranked Georgia.
Georgia Tech has been known through the years to possess real tenacious defenses. Even this season, Tech had a mid-season three-game stretch where it allowed just 14 points total, including a shutout of Duke.
In addition to recovering four fumbles, sophomore defensive end Derrick Morgan had seven of his team’s 32 sacks. Sophomore safety Morgan Burnett led Tech with 79 total tackles and latched onto seven of his team’s 18 interceptions.
The Jackets are known for their triple option offense, engineered by sophomore quarterback Josh Nesbitt. Despite completing just 46.5 per cent of his passes for 658 yards, Nesbitt also rushed for 631 more yards and seven TDs on 156 carries. Tech’s top receiver is bif sophomore wide receiver Demaryius Thomas with 36 catches for 595 yards. No teammate had more than seven.
Naturally, that would hardly be enough to have made Tech winners this season. The biggest threat of all is Jonathan Dwyer. The hefty sophomore back bulled his way to 1,328 yards at 7.0 yards a pop and 12 TDs. Dwyer’s backup was not too shabby, either. Diminutive freshman back Roddy Jones ran for 9.1 yards per carry on his 72 rushes.
This should be an incredible matchup.
Sources used for this story were Sports.espn.go.com, lsusports.net, ramblinwreck.cstv.com