Clemson is headed back to the National Championship for a rematch against Alabama. Last year, the two played a close game where quarterback where Tigers’ quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 73 more.
However, Alabama’s surprise onside-kick allowed the Crimson Tide to beat Clemson, 45-40.
Clemson now has another chance to redeem itself and win its second national title. But, first, the Tigers have to beat a team who has been referred to as the best team in college football all season and has a 26-game winning streak.
On Wednesday, the media spoke to a majority of the Tigers’ offensive starters, including offensive tackle Sean Pollard, offensive lineman Jay Guillermo, wide receiver Artavis Scott and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. They all reflected on last year’s National Championship game and previewed this year’s game set for Tampa, Florida on Monday night.
Here is what we heard:
Alabama had the country’s best run defense this season, allowing just 62 yards per game. Its defensive line is arguably the best defensive line in the nation. This is where Clemson’s offensive line comes into play. They have to be physical and disciplined in order to protect Watson, in hopes of allowing him to make plays against Alabama’s secondary.
Pollard reflected on what they have seen from Alabama’s defense.
“They’re a really good team. Tim Williams is fast off the ball. And (Jonathan) Allen, is one of the defensive linemen of the year,” the freshman right tackle said. “Obviously, they have really good players. They’re very physical. They’re all extremely powerful on the run. They’re built to stop the run.They know their D-line is good so they kind of rely on that.”
Guillermo similarly evaluated the Crimson Tide, saying their speed, power, and consistency make them a very special football team.
“A guy like Jonathon Allen who’s set the edge and a big 300-pound man can chase down a running back. So there’s your speed,” the senior center said. “When people try to run it up the middle, you got your guys in the inside not moving. People have not done a very good job at moving them off the ball, so there’s your power. And obviously with the consistency, game in and game out.”
Scott said he is going to embrace the opportunity to play Alabama’s defense after suffering a tough loss last year.
“I’m not over it. I’m not over it now,” the wide receiver said. “To know we had them, and came out with an L, I’m not over that. It’s a great opportunity for our team. We know what we have to do. We know we have to show up in order to beat them.”
Renfrow says having the experience of playing for a National Championship helps prepare Clemson tremendously.
“Just like against Ohio State, just having that experience down in the desert. Being able to play there before gave us an edge,” he said. “It definitely gives us good experience.”
The Tigers are coming off of a playoff semifinal victory where they shut out Ohio State, 31-0. It was the first shut out Ohio State has taken under head coach Urban Myer and the first as a program since 1993. Clemson finished with 205 rushing yards, which is more than thirty yards above their season average.
If Clemson can successfully run the ball against Alabama (and limit turnovers), the Tigers have a good chance of bringing a National Championship title back to Clemson for the first time since 1981.
—Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports