Earlier this month, SEC apologist said Clemson beat Alabama in last year’s national championship game because the Crimson Tide was emotionally and physically drained after such a tough season in the Southeastern Conference.
This past week, a new theme came to the front of the line … Georgia is tougher than Clemson.
During SEC Media Days, Alabama players Dylan Moses and Jerry Jeudy said in their opinion Georgia was “the hardest” and “toughest” team they faced last season, though the Tigers spanked the Crimson Tide 44-16 in the national championship game, and Alabama came back to beat Georgia, 35-28, in the SEC Championship Game.
As Dawg Nation.com reported Sunday morning, South Carolina linebacker T.J. Brunson got into the debate as well.
“I think Georgia is a more physical team,” Brunson was reported saying. “Clemson is, I wouldn’t say a finesse (team), but Georgia, when they are coming in you know what they are going to do and how they are going to do it.
“Clemson is the same way, they’re just not as physical, in my opinion. It’s not the same type of downhill game attack. It’s, I’m going to spread you out and then decide to try to gut you.”
Though Brunson would not describe Clemson as finesse, it’s clear he thinks Georgia was a more physical opponent. Yet, it was Clemson that rushed for 351 yards, averaged 6.4 yards per carry and had seven rushing touchdowns against the Gamecocks last year.
Though still good numbers, Georgia rushed for 271 yards against the Gamecocks, averaged 5.2 yards per carry and had three rushing touchdowns.
And yes, South Carolina did score 35 points and had 600 total yards against the Tigers’ defense, which was clearly their worst performance of the year for a unit that ranked 4th nationally in total defense and led the national in scoring defense.
It’s also the same defense that held Alabama to 16 points in the national championship game, 30 points below its season average in 2018.
However, what most people don’t say about the Clemson-South Carolina game is that the Gamecocks rushed for just 90 yards against the Tigers. Now that is what is considered a finesse offense.
By the way, most consider the toughness of a team based on the way it plays in the trenches. If you examine both Georgia and Clemson, it’s obvious who the tougher team was in 2018.
Clemson finished the year ranked 10th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 248.2 yards per game. The Tigers were second nationally in yards per carry, averaging 6.6 yards. Clemson led the nation with 49 rushing touchdowns.
On the defensive side, the Tigers ranked fourth nationally in rushing defense, allowing just 96.3 yards per game. Clemson also led the nation in rushing yards allowed per play, a 2.5 average. It also gave up just 8 rushing touchdowns in 15 games, which ranked second in the country.
On offense, the Bulldogs were big, strong and physical up front and they had great running backs. That is why they averaged 238.8 yards a game last season on the ground, which ranked 16th nationally. They averaged 5.9 yards per carry, ranked 7th nationally, and they had 30 rushing touchdowns which ranked 24th nationally.
But what separated Clemson from Georgia in 2018 and, in my opinion, clearly makes the Tigers the tougher team is what happened on the other side of the football for the Bulldogs.
Georgia allowed 134 rushing yards per game in 2018, which ranked 31st nationally. The Bulldogs also allowed 18 rushing touchdowns, 51st nationally, and opponents averaged 4.0 yards per carry, 49th nationally.
By the way, if Alabama is the benchmark when it comes to toughness, Clemson rushed for 135 yards against the Tide, while averaging 4.4 yards per carry and had two rushing touchdowns. On defense, Alabama ran for 148 yards, averaged 4.0 yards per carry and, for the only time all season, it did not have a rushing touchdown.
Georgia rushed for 153 yards against Alabama’s defense, but averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and scored just one rushing touchdown. On defense, the Tide ran for 157 yards, averaged 5.4 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns.
I don’t know, when I look at all of those numbers and I compare rushing offense and rushing defense, it is obvious to me who the tougher team was.
You know what also tells me who the tougher team was in 2018? That big and shiny golden trophy in the trophy case at the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson.
You know, the one the Tigers got for winning the 2018 national championship.