Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney likes to remind his team that last week’s touchdowns don’t win this week’s game.
So when the top-ranked Tigers (13-0) were rewarded a second straight postseason date with No. 4 Oklahoma in the College Football Playoffs, Swinney quickly reminded his players last year’s 40-6 victory over the Sooners in the Russell Athletic Bowl does not guarantee the same success in this year’s Orange Bowl.
“It is a whole new match up and challenge. Everything is different,” Swinney said before practice on Monday. “They have a different quarterback, we have a different quarterback. They have different players in place and so do we. We are going to have to play well.”
Oklahoma (11-1) comes into the national semifinal game on a seven-game winning streak. The Big 12 Champions were manhandled by the Tigers in the Russell Athletic Bowl in 2014. Clemson’s No. 1 ranked defense held the Sooners to a season-low 275 total yards.
“That’s got nothing to do with this year. Our guys have all the respect in the world for Oklahoma,” Swinney said. “All they have to do is turn the film on. These guys know good teams and they know good players when they see them, and they have them all over the tape with Oklahoma.”
The Sooners do have athletes everywhere, and its starts with dual threat quarterback Baker Mayfield. He completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 3,389 yards in the regular season. He has thrown 35 touchdown passes to just five interceptions this year.
Like Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, he can also get it done with his legs. Mayfield rushed for 420 yards and scored seven touchdowns on the ground.
“He is the only thing that is really different,” Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware said. “They had those two incredible running backs last year, and Trevor Knight was not quite as mobile as Mayfield was this year.
“I’m pretty sure they will try to incorporate him into the running game and let him run around the pocket.”
Boulware says Mayfield is a good thrower, too, and is just as good of a passer as anyone they have faced.
“He can really do it all,” Boulware said. “He is a good player.”
Oklahoma ranks seventh nationally at 542.9 yards per game, while ranking third in scoring offense at 45.8 points per game. The Sooners are throwing for 307.9 yards and running it for 235.
“We are going to have to play our best football in order to win,” Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson said.
Though it is a little bit different, Clemson’s defense isn’t too shabby either. The Tigers rank seventh nationally in total defense (295.7) and fifth in passing defense (166.9), while also ranking among the national leaders in sacks, tackles for loss and third down defense.
“We are going to have to stay real disciplined and do our jobs the best we can do,” defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. “We don’t need to try and do too much. We don’t need to do someone else’s job. We just have to do what we are coached to do and we will be just fine.”