SEC: Josh Downs

Pregame: Chick-fil-A Bowl

December, 31, 2012
No. 8 LSU (10-2, 6-2 SEC) vs. No. 14 Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC)

Who to watch: Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. The junior finished second in the ACC with 3,550 passing yards and led the league with 34 touchdown passes, but now faces one of his toughest challenges in LSU's exceptional defensive line. The last time Boyd faced a real quality defensive line, he was eaten up by South Carolina and ferocious defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Boyd completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes and threw one touchdown to two interceptions. Boyd must take on a line that features ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo and defensive tackle Bennie Logan, who combined for 13 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss. Oh, and then there are defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Josh Downs, who added 13.5 more tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. If Boyd can escape the pressure, he could have a chance to make some plays on LSU's secondary. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Boyd has completed 54.3 percent of his passes thrown 25 yards or longer, with 14 touchdowns to four interceptions. LSU's defense is allowing quarterbacks to complete just 21.2 percent of those passes, with two touchdowns to four interceptions, but it also allowed multiple receptions of 25 yards or more in the last two games of the season.

What to watch: Although Clemson has received the bulk of the offensive attention, LSU has been extremely successful with the ball in its past few games. The Bayou Bengals have always been able to run, averaging nearly 180 yards rushing per game, but passing with a purpose was rare for most of the season. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger didn't exactly get off to a great start in conference play, and he didn't register back-to-back 200-yard passing games until November. But he came through in the final four games, averaging 267.5 passing yards. He'll face a defense that ranks 75th in total defense, allowing 411 yards per game, including 250 passing. Clemson also has allowed 22 passing touchdowns and 7.4 yards per pass attempt. If LSU's offense is able to be as balanced as it has been, Clemson's defense could be in for another long bowl night.

Why watch: One of the nation's most high-powered offenses takes on one of the country's best defenses. Tigers vs. Tigers. Death Valley owners meet for the first time since 1996, when they played in what was then called the Peach Bowl. More had been expected from both teams after they won their respective conferences in 2011. LSU was a legitimate national championship contender before the season, while Clemson was a win away from trying to defend its ACC title. You'll see a ton of speed on the offensive side of the ball for Clemson, and just as much speed from LSU's defense. It's the perfect way to ring in the new year!

Prediction: LSU 31, Clemson 17. With Mettenberger's improved play, LSU now has a tougher offense for Clemson to battle. The fact that Clemson's defense is still struggling to stop anyone is a major concern. LSU will pound Clemson's defensive front with its tremendously strong running game, and that should help open up things for Mettenberger over the top. Clemson's offensive line had issues against South Carolina's defensive front a month ago, and now has to face one of the best lines in the country. LSU is going to make it very hard for Boyd to move around and use his talented set of receiving weapons, while keeping running back Andre Ellington in check.

GeauxTigerNation links: Seniors exit

November, 15, 2012
Gary Laney writes Insider: LSU will say its goodbyes to its 14-man senior class in their last home game Saturday against Ole Miss. At most positions, the Tigers have replacements ready to step up and star.

Laney Insider: 5 storylines -- Ole Miss at LSU

Checking in on the LSU Tigers

March, 29, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU held its last practice of the spring Thursday prior to Saturday's spring game, and coach Les Miles opened up the practice to the students.

Following practice, the students were invited inside to the indoor practice facility, where they had a meet-and-greet with the players and coaches.

It's Miles' way of reaching out to the student body, and the students' chance to get an up-close view of the team.

Just like the LSU team that went 13-1 last season, this team certainly passes the look test.

Most of the attention this spring has been on quarterback Zach Mettenberger, and specifically, the Tigers' passing game. Miles said Thursday there's no doubt in his mind that LSU will throw the ball much more efficiently in 2012, and a lot of that has to do with the way everybody on offense has rallied around Mettenberger, entering his junior season.

"He plays the game the way I want all of my players to play it," Miles said. "I enjoy his attitude. He's bringing the passing game to life, and he wants to compete on every single play. He doesn't mind stirring the pot, either."

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesEntering his junior season, quarterback Zach Mettenberger is "bringing the passing game to life," LSU coach Les Miles said.
Already this spring, Mettenberger went after defensive tackle Josh Downs in a scrimmage after Mettenberger felt there had been a late hit, and several in the LSU program said Mettenberger delivered the kind of tackle that even defensive coordinator John Chavis admitted was impressive.

Speaking of Chavis, he's losing two first-rounders off last season's defense. Both cornerback Morris Claiborne and defensive tackle Michael Brockers elected to give up their senior seasons to enter the NFL draft.

They will certainly be missed, but Chavis isn't exactly fretting.

In a lot of ways, he thinks the Tigers will be even faster on defense in 2012. They're two-deep at every position in the defensive line, and even though Brockers is gone, Chavis thinks junior tackle Bennie Logan was one of the more underrated defenders on the team last season. Chavis said sophomore tackle Ego Ferguson had also made a big jump.

Chavis really likes the way Kevin Minter and Tahj Jones have answered the call at linebacker, even though Jones has been out recently with turf toe.

"It's the best Kevin Minter has played since he's been here," Chavis said. "He really looks like an SEC linebacker and is playing like an SEC linebacker."

Two redshirt freshmen making big moves in the secondary this spring have been Jalen Collins at cornerback and Micah Eugene at safety. Chavis likes Collins' size and length. He's 6-foot-1 and 184 pounds, which gives the Tigers a pair of bigger corners. Tharold Simon is 6-3 and 187 pounds.

Chavis said Craig Loston was also playing well at safety until a foot/toe injury slowed him.

"Loston was really grasping things, but with him out, it's given us a chance to work several other kids," Chavis said. "Ever since Eugene got a chance to jump in there and work with the first unit, he got a lot of people's attention really quick. He's still learning the position, but he has a chance to be a really good safety for us."

Chavis said junior Tyrann Mathieu would continue to play both the cornerback and nickel back roles.

"We'll have some young kids that aren't here on campus yet that will come in and help us, too," Chavis said. "We like this class, and the linebacker group has a chance to be special. They have to come in here and do it, but we like the kids we signed there."

Tigers shuffling some guys around on 'D'

March, 5, 2010
Spring practice is all about finding your best football players and who fits where best.

Along those lines, LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis is taking a look at some guys in different spots. That's nothing new. He's always cross-trained players throughout his coaching career.

But one of LSU's goals on defense next season is to get more pressure on the quarterback. As solid as the Tigers were defensively a year ago, they tied for ninth in the SEC with just 21 sacks.

Senior Lazarius "Pep" Levingston has shifted inside to tackle this spring from end and hopes to give the Tigers more of an inside pass-rushing threat. The Tigers also need more depth at tackle with Al Woods and Charles Alexander both gone. Sophomore Josh Downs will also push for that other starting tackle spot opposite Drake Nevis, but Downs is limited right now with a thigh injury.

Michael Brockers and Chris Davenport, both 2009 signees, also figure into a tackle rotation that should be strong in 2010. Levingston, who only has three career sacks at end, may still play outside some in situations. But he thinks his quickness will be better utilized at tackle.

He's already played all four positions up front during his career at LSU. One of the reasons Chavis felt like he could move Levingston inside is that the Tigers are high on their young defensive ends, including Lavar Edwards, Chancey Aghayere, Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and junior college newcomer Kendrick Adams.