There are finally two sides to this LSU story in 2012. When the Tigers ring in the new year in Atlanta against Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, they'll do so with a more complete attack than they had for most of the season.
For the better part of the 2012 season, most of the talk surrounding LSU's football team had to do with its extremely aggressive defense. The offense was mentioned in more of a negative light because of the slow development of starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
Before the month of November, Mettenberger was averaging just 177 passing yards per game and threw seven touchdowns to four interceptions. He looked lost at times, especially when the pressure came from defenses. The skillful quarterback everyone expected to see directing the Tigers' offense was nowhere to be found. The good news for the Tigers was that the running game was still extremely stout and pushed the offense along when Mettenberger couldn't.
But after the bye week leading up to the Nov. 3 game with Alabama, Mettenberger turned into a different quarterback. After failing to go consecutive games with 200-yard passing performances, Mettenberger finished the season passing for 200-plus yards in all of LSU's final four games, including a career-high 298 in the loss to Alabama.
During that span, Mettenberger threw four touchdowns to two interceptions and completed more than 55 percent of his passes. He had failed to complete more than 48 percent of his throws in the three games prior to the Tigers' meeting with Alabama.
What this all means is that Clemson now has to worry about two solid attacks from the Bayou Bengals. This team isn't just about defense, which currently ranks eighth nationally. These Tigers have more offensive bite because of Mettenberger's improvement, and that doesn't bode well for a Clemson team that ranks 75th in total defense, giving up 411 yards per game.
Clemson has surrendered more than its current average on defense five times this season, including allowing 667 yards to Florida State and 597 to NC State. In those five games, Clemson allowed an average of 522 yards and 37 points per outing.
That's very good news for LSU -- and Mettenberger.
In nonconference games, Mettenberger completed at least half of his 15-yard passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information. On throws of 15 yards or more, he completed 66.7 percent of his passes in those games, averaged 18.6 yards per attempt, threw six 30-plus-yard passes, and tossed four touchdowns to zero interceptions.
Clemson's defense has allowed 13 touchdowns on passes thrown 15 yards or longer this season, tied for the sixth most among AQ schools, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Clemson's defense was eaten alive in last year's Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia, and now this unit will have its hands full once again with a very balanced LSU offense. Clemson not only has to worry about LSU's top-notch defense, but it now has to worry about Mettenberger and an LSU offense that has just gotten better during the latter part of the season.