Monday Morning Quarterback
One of the key matchups in the 83rd Cotton Bowl Classic on Dec. 29 will be Clemson’s defensive front going against Notre Dame’s offensive line.
The Irish have always had a history of having a talented offensive front and that is no different this year. Notre Dame is averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has done a decent job of keeping quarterback Ian Book upright. The offensive line has allowed just 19 sacks in 12 games.
However, to help the Irish knock off Clemson in the College Football Playoff, the offensive line will have to do better than that. They will be going up against arguably the best defensive line in college football.
Clemson (13-0) leads the nation in yards per carry at 2.4. It ranks second in sacks (46) and second in tackles for loss (121).
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for our young men to be in this situation,” Notre Dame offensive line coach Jeff Quinn said. “That’s exactly what they want. I understood very clear as the first game unfolded, I understood the expectations they had for each other relative to this season. That’s why being in this position is what we worked for. That’s what you train for and what it’s all about.
“We haven’t accomplished anything to this point other than getting to this spot. We have to do that against a great defense and team like Clemson.”
The Tigers are led up front by All-Americans Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawrence, as well as senior defensive end Austin Bryant. The defensive front has allowed Clemson to rank fourth nationally at stopping the run, allowing just 92.9 yards per game.
Overall, the Tigers rank fourth in the country in total yards allowed at 276.7.
“It’s an excellent defense. It’s one of the best,” Quinn said. “You can statistically say it’s as good as any defense you can face. We saw a lot of great defenses, and we see one every day. That’s the beauty of our football program.
“We have great football players, great schemes and great coaches. We face a great defense every day, and you have to be at your best every day to deliver when this opportunity presents itself.”
Quinn says the biggest challenge his group faces is trying to win their individual matchups, especially in the middle where they must fight off defensive tackles Wilkins and Lawrence.
“That’s what we are going to have to do for four quarters. One guy can’t make a mistake. We all have to be on the same page to accomplish all the goals we have set forth,” he said. “Clemson’s two interior defensive linemen are big, strong, physical and get off blocks quickly. The ends are talented, and they have linebackers.”