Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers are back in the College Football Playoff for the second straight year after defeating Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game on Saturday 42-35.
Deshaun Watson bolstered his Heisman candidacy, going 23-of-34 for 288 yards and three touchdowns through the air while adding 85 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns with his legs.
While we have seen Watson showcase his ability to run more over the last several games, center Jay Guillermo and the offensive line have given him and running back Wayne Gallman more room to run.
That was not an easy task against a Bud Foster-led Virginia Tech defense surrendering under 150 rushing yards per game.
“Being able to come out and run the football, that was big against a really good defense” Guillermo said on Sunday.
That running ability is one of the major reasons the Tigers have finished so strongly down the stretch on their way to the College Football Playoff.
Guillermo said it is still hard to believe they are back in the playoff.
“I haven’t really had a whole lot of time to sit back and reflect,” he said.
He has plenty of time to think about it before the Tigers face off against Ohio State on Dec. 31 at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., the same location where they came within six points of winning the national championship.
“I’m glad we get another opportunity to go out to Arizona, a place where we didn’t come out with what we wanted last time, and hopefully we will this time,” said Guillermo. “I know it’s a really long haul for our fans, but they traveled well last time and they’ll travel even better this time, so I’m pretty excited.”
The Clemson faithful are hoping for another visit to the national championship, but the path will not be easy against an 11-1 Buckeye squad led by head coach Urban Meyer, who has plenty of experience wining championships.
While Ohio State presents a formidable task, Guillermo sees a lot of Clemson in Ohio State.
“Good football team” he said, “I watched pretty much the entire Michigan game, and they’re a really good blue-collar team that’s very similar to us.”
Both teams have a star quarterback that is surrounded by some of the best skill players in the country to go along with young, strong defenses that are good at getting to the quarterback.
Regardless of the opponent, Guillermo said the pain of having lost last year in the championship has fueled Clemson’s run back to the playoff.
“All the hardship we took last year not being able to come out with the national championship” he said “that close loss fueled us this whole year.”