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Clemson, LSU ready to showcase strengths
ATLANTA — Tajh Boyd said it.
So did his coach.
Monday night's Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU is a prime-time national stage for Boyd and Clemson's high-scoring offense.
His coaches and teammates see Boyd as the player destined to grab the bowl spotlight. The dual-threat quarterback led No. 14 Clemson (10-2) with 34 touchdown passes to tie Philip Rivers' Atlantic Coast Conference single-season record. He was honored as ACC player of the year.
A win over No. 9 LSU (10-2), one of the powerful Southeastern Conference's biggest names known for its strong defense, would be a big step for Boyd. It also could be the perfect setup for Clemson's 2013 season.
LSU ranks eighth in the nation in total defense and 11th in points allowed.
Boyd, a junior, could be playing his final college game. But he sounded as though he was making plans to return when he said this week the program "is on the verge of something great" and "we want a national championship; it's in sight."
Clemson needs to score 25 points against LSU to become the most prolific offense in ACC history. Boyd has led Clemson to 37 points or more in 10 of 12 games.
"We want to be the most explosive offense in the country," Boyd said. "There's no better stage for that other than the one we're on right now — one of the best bowl games out there going against one of the best defenses."
Clemson offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chad Morris also spoke of the game as a chance for the nation to witness Boyd's brilliance.
"It's the stage that he's been looking for, and you can't ask for anything better than this," Morris said.
There will be no other bowl competing for the nation's attention when the Tigers from the SEC and the Tigers from the ACC play in the Georgia Dome.
Clemson's regular season ended with a disappointing 27-17 loss to in-state rival South Carolina. Clemson averages 42.3 points, but Boyd was held to 183 yards passing with one touchdown.
Clemson is known for its passing game, but senior running back Andre Ellington topped 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season. Boyd had 492 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.
The loss to South Carolina raised new questions about the ability of the spread offense to dominate outside the ACC. Clemson's second-lowest points total also came against a team from the SEC, a 26-19 opening win over Auburn in the Georgia Dome.
Boyd said the motivation is "just going out there and proving what type of team we are."
"You know, we are getting a chance to play against one of the best," he said. "But for us, it's more about the competition, the nature of the business, the nature of the game and going out there and proving who is best out there. That's what we pride ourselves on."
LSU will counter with a power offense. Zach Mettenberger had only 11 touchdown passes with six interceptions.
Freshman Jeremy Hill leads LSU's balanced running game with 631 yards and 10 touchdowns. Kenny Hilliard, Michael Ford and Spencer Ware will share the carries.
While Mettenberger has not reached 300 yards passing this season, Boyd had more than 400 yards with five TD passes in wins over Wake Forest and N.C. State. Boyd passed for more than 400 yards in six games.
LSU coach Les Miles said his defense must mix its strategies against Boyd.
"There has to be a point in time where you keep him in the pocket and you play coverage and there's an opportunity to rush the passer with four guys," Miles said. "I think anytime a quarterback can pull it down and go get yards, there's an added responsibility to those guys that are rushing the ball, rushing the passer. And so, again, it's something that you have to do with more than one strategy. You must rush the passer. You must contain him when you step back and let him throw it and to have coverage."
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