Defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and Clemson’s defense are trying not to hear or listen to all of the media attention and hype surrounding No. 3 Clemson’s game against No. 4 Louisville on Saturday night in Death Valley.
“We try to block all of the media attention out,” Watkins said on Tuesday. “We know it’s a big game. Well, every game is big to us. That’s our mentality.”
Still, with so much coverage of and buildup to the game, it’s hard to shut out all of the outside noise.
Clemson’s defense probably hasn’t been completely oblivious to the notions from some that Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson can’t be stopped and will have his way with the Tigers.
And Clemson’s defense is likely at least somewhat aware that many prognosticators are forecasting an offensive shootout and hardly mentioning the other side of the ball.
So, what does that amount to?
“It’s definitely a challenge to the defense,” Watkins said. “We’re going in with a chip on our shoulder. I know (Jackson has) been getting a lot of hype. It’s definitely a game to establish ourselves as a good defense.”
Louisville’s offense will be the biggest test of the young season for Clemson’s defense, and vice versa. Both units rank among the nation’s leaders in a host of statistical categories.
One of the biggest keys to the game for Clemson’s defense will be containing Jackson, of course, when he gets outside of the pocket. The sophomore leads the country with 12 rushing touchdowns and is fifth with 526 rushing yards.
“His speed, it’s kind of unreal,” Watkins said. “Probably will be one of the fastest guys on the field Saturday.”
The onus falls on the defensive line when it comes to slowing down Jackson. The ends will be responsible for setting the edge and not letting Jackson get outside of them, while it will be critical for the interior players such as Watkins to pressure Jackson and try to rattle him.
“We can’t really let him get into open space. It’s my job as a D-lineman to make sure we contain him and put pressure on him,” Watkins said. “Any quarterback, if we can put pressure in his face, it makes him uncomfortable. So we’re definitely trying to put pressure on him and throw him off a little bit.”
Playing disciplined defensively is always important in football. But there are some games, like this one, when it is especially important.
“You just have to play disciplined, and that’s one thing we’ve been doing the past few weeks,” Watkins said. “If we just do our job, everything else will take care of itself.”
Clemson is confident in its game plan heading into the matchup. It just has to go execute it, chip on the shoulder or not.
“People have their predictions and what not,” Watkins said, “but we just have to go out there and play how we play.”