ATLANTA — The Chick-fil-A Bowl will be Tigers vs. Tigers.
Bowl officials announced Sunday night that No. 9 LSU will face No. 14 Clemson in the Dec. 31 game at the Georgia Dome. Both teams are known as the Tigers, and both play in the stadiums that are known as “Death Valley.”
Despite the similarities, the Southern powers have met only twice before.
Their third meeting will feature one of the nation’s best offenses (Clemson) against one of the leading defenses (LSU).
“That is awesome,” said Clemson center Dalton Freeman, who will make his 49th and final career start in the Atlanta bowl. “If you want to be a consistently outstanding program, you have to play national championship contenders like LSU. They have won the national championship in recent years and always seem to be in the mix for the championship. They have outstanding players and it will be a great challenge, but a great opportunity for us.”
LSU (10-2) was selected after a day of frenzied speculation on how the Southeastern Conference bowl hierarchy would shake out. Clemson (10-2) was a lock to be the Atlantic Coast Conference representative after Florida State won the league championship the previous night, beating Georgia Tech 21-15.
LSU has won its five previous appearances in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, most recently a 38-3 rout over Georgia Tech in 2008.
“We enjoy playing in Atlanta,” coach Les Miles said. “It’s a great city that has been very good to LSU. I’m sure that we’ll travel extremely well.”
Clemson is set to play in the Atlanta game for the eighth time, having gone 2-5 in its previous appearances. That includes a 10-7 loss to LSU in 1996 when it was known as the Peach Bowl.
The only other meeting between the schools came in the 1959 Sugar Bowl, when LSU finished off a national championship season with a 7-0 win.
LSU won the SEC championship in Atlanta last season, earning a spot in the BCS title game against division rival Alabama. The Tigers were denied their second national championship in five seasons when they were blanked by the Crimson Tide, 21-0.
This season, LSU’s conference hopes were doomed by a last-minute loss to Alabama in Baton Rouge. The Tigers won their remaining games and have a shot at the seventh 11-victory season in school history, led by a defense that ranks 11th nationally in points allowed (16.2 per game), eighth in total defense (296.2) and ninth in both pass efficiency defense and rushing yards allowed.
Clemson began its season at the Georgia Dome, defeating Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Coach Dabo Swinney’s team tied Florida State in the Atlantic Division but was denied a spot in the ACC title game because it lost to the Seminoles.
On its return to Atlanta, Clemson will be looking to rebound from a wrenching loss to state rival South Carolina in the regular-season finale. The high-powered offense is directed by quarterback Tajh Boyd, who threw for 3,550 yards and 34 touchdowns. He’s a big reason the Tigers rank sixth national in scoring (42.3) and ninth in total yards (518.3().
“Our coaches, our players and our fans always look forward to playing against the best programs in the nation, and LSU certainly fits that description,” said Swinney, whose school has won 11 games in a season only three other times. “We are going to have the opportunity to compete against a top 10 team that played for it all last year.”