Monday Morning Quarterback
When you go back and watch LSU, like I have done this past week, it’s hard to imagine Clemson’s defense will be able to slow down Joe Burrow and this LSU offense.
From a statistical and analytical standpoint, my mind is telling me they can’t do it. However, knowing what I have seen from defensive coordinator Brent Venables in the past, there’s a part of me saying if there is anyone who can do it, he’s the man for the job.
Venables has not shut down every offense he has faced, but when he is given equal talent to work with and with veteran players who understand his system and schemes, his defenses always seem to slow the opposition down just enough.
Last year’s national championship game is a perfect example. No one thought Clemson could stop Alabama’s offense and when you look at the statistics they didn’t. Alabama still had 443 yards of offense. Tua Tagovailoa still threw the football for 295 yards and completed 22 of 36 passes.
However, the Crimson Tide was 1-for-4 in the red zone and the one touchdown they got came on fourth down. Tagovailoa was intercepted twice, sacked twice and hit a dozen more times. On third down, Alabama was just 4-for-13.
In the 2016 Championship Game, Venables defense did just enough to keep the Tigers close until Deshaun Watson and the offense got going. Alabama was 2-for-15 on third down in that game.
Then there was the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 28 against Ohio State. The Buckeyes’ offense moved the football up and down the field, but when it mattered most, Clemson found ways to get stops. Ohio State was 0-for-3 in the red zone when it came to touchdowns. After starting the game 4-for-7 on third down, they went 3 for their last 11, including 1-for-9 at one point.
Ohio State came into the game converting nearly 57 percent of its third downs and it still leads the nation in that category at just over 55 percent after the Fiesta Bowl.
Quarterback Justin Fields was intercepted just once all season. Against Venables’ complicated schemes, he struggled at times. Despite Clemson’s lack of pressure, they still sacked him four times and intercepted him twice. Clemson dropped two other interceptions and another interception was called back due to a pass interference penalty.
LSU’s offense is like nothing I have ever seen before. Joe Burrow is putting up numbers that make Mike Leach blush. He just seems to be a robot back there instead of a human being, so accurate and so efficient.
However, if there is one thing I have learned in the eight years I have covered Brent Venables, you never count him and his defense out. From our vantage point, things might look bleak and hopeless for Clemson. But I just have a sneaky feeling Venables has something up his sleeve for this LSU offense.
Clemson is going back to the national championship game after once again winning the Fiesta Bowl over Ohio State. Get your official national championship and Fiesta Bowl champs gear right here!