As much credit as LSU is getting for its offensive firepower, and deservedly so, its defense has slowly gotten better with each passing week, especially in the last four games.
Since giving up 614 yards to Ole Miss on Nov. 16, including 402 yards on the ground, the Bayou Bengals have buttoned up things defensively. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda went back to the drawing board. He switched from a 3-4 base defense in the first 10 games to a 4-3 scheme and the results have worked out well.
“They have limited a lot of big plays,” Clemson right tackle Tremayne Anchrum said. “Some quarterback run stuff they have had to deal with. They’ve tried to stop that from the running back and the quarterback perspective.
“Their secondary was shaky in certain spots, but they have tightened up and have become more disciplined. From watching film from the beginning of the year, they have gotten much better for sure.”
Since moving to a 4-3 defense, LSU is allowing just 16.3 points, 270.3 total yards and 87.3 rushing yards per game. In the national semifinals, they held Oklahoma, one of the nation’s top scoring and offensive teams, to 322 total yards, including just 97 yards on the ground.
The Sooners averaged 42.1 points and 537.6 yards per game in 2019. Their 322 yards against LSU was the only time this year they failed to gain at least 433 yards.
“They are playing more together now,” Clemson center Sean Pollard said. “They just got their senior leader, their linebacker, back. He had been hurt for a couple of games. They got him back. They are just playing with more cohesion. They are more of a cohesive group and you can see it. They are more excited to make plays.
“They have started to play together really well, and they have meshed together really well. These last couple of weeks you have seen it.”
With an offense, led by Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow at quarterback, scoring at will, the emergence of LSU’s defense had made LSU a more complete team, and a more difficult team to beat.
Clemson will try to see what it can do when they face LSU in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday at the Superdome in New Orleans. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. on ESPN.
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