ATLANTA - Bowl week is finally here for LSU as the Tigers arrived here at the Hilton in downtown Atlanta on Wednesday in what will be their home for the next six days.
Wednesday was busy for the Tigers as LSU departed from Baton Rouge, making the one-hour and 15-minute flight to Atlanta, where the team arrived shortly after noon. Following a team meeting and lunch, the Tigers then moved on to the Georgia Dome for the first of what will be four practices this week leading up to Monday's game against 14th-ranked Clemson.
LSU and Clemson meet for just the third time on Monday, Dec. 31 at 6:30 p.m. CST in the Georgia Dome. The game will be televised on ESPN. LSU leads the series 2-0 with Clemson, winning 7-0 in the 1959 Sugar Bowl and 10-7 in the 1996 Peach Bowl.
"We are excited to be here," LSU coach Les Miles said upon the team's arrival on Wednesday afternoon. "Atlanta is a great place. It's a destination for our guys. I know that they are looking forward to setting up shop here in Atlanta and getting prepared to play a very talented Clemson team."
Wednesday's practice was the first one for the Tigers here in Atlanta, but it came after eight workouts in Baton Rouge before LSU took a few days off for Christmas. LSU will practice 12 times with a walk-thru during bowl season, something that Miles said goes a long way in developing the younger players.
"In some instances, our bowl season is, by the number of practices, maybe even a little longer than our spring practice," Miles said. "These extra bowl practices give us a chance to look at some of our younger players and improve and develop depth on the football team. I think bowl practices are a real benefit to your team as it allows individuals the chance for continued development while also preparing for an opponent."
LSU will be tested by a Clemson offense that features an All-America quarterback in Tahj Boyd, a 1,000-yard rusher in Andre Ellington, and a pair of wide receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins, who combined for 126 receptions and nearly 2,000 receiving yards.
"Our defense will be presented with a great challenge," Miles said of the Clemson offense. "They have an outstanding quarterback, a tremendous running back and some very good receivers. Our defense has really done a nice job of preparing for this game. We are going to have play well on offense and special teams so that we don't give them the short side of the field."
As a unit, Clemson is averaging over 42 points and 519 total yards per game. On the other hand, LSUs defense is among the best in the nation in yards allowed (8th at 292.2), rush defense (9th at 101.8) and interceptions (10th with 18). LSU is allowing just 16.9 points per game, a figure that ranks No. 11 in the country.
After practice on Wednesday, LSU players took part in the first of many bowl outings this week with a trip to Dave & Busters, a restaurant filled with arcade games, bowling, pool and many other activities for the players.
On Thursday, LSU players, along with Miles, will start the day visiting the Scottish Rite Children's Hospital followed by practice at the Georgia Dome at 1:30 p.m. LSU will cap the day with a trip to Andretti Indoor Karting where the players will get behind the wheel of some of the fastest go karts around.