When Clemson played Ohio State in last year’s College Football Playoff, the Tigers had to worry about the Buckeyes’ All-American defensive end Chase Young, who went onto be to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
When No. 2 Clemson faces the third-ranked Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day, as part of this year’s CFP Playoff, it has more than one guy to worry about on the defensive front.
“They are physical guys. They line up and they play football,” Clemson center Cade Stewart said.
And they get after people. Ohio State’s defense ranks second in the Big Ten against the run and seventh nationally, allowing just 96.7 yards per game.
“They are good at what they do, and they are not going to try and trick you that much,” Stewart said. “They are good at what they do. They can play physical, fast, sound football. So, that is something we really have to lock in, so we can play with these guys because they are physical and play good football.”
While the Buckeyes (6-0) are good up front, the Clemson offensive line seems to be coming together at the right time. With four new starters up front, it took the offensive line about eight games before it finally started to gel.
Clemson ran for 147 yards against Pittsburgh’s third-ranked rushing defense, which leads the ACC after allowing just 93.6 yards per game this season. The Tigers then followed that up with 238 yards on the ground against Virginia Tech and 219 yards against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game.
The Notre Dame game was even more impressive considering the Irish held Clemson to 34 rushing yards back on Nov. 7.
Last year, the Buckeyes held Clemson to 158 yards on the ground, and Stewart knows with guys like Tommy Togial, Jonathon Cooper, Zach Harrison and Haskell Garrett on the defensive front they will be just as tough to deal with this year.
“Every team has its own little flavor. It’s own little twist,” Stewart said. “And that is where the separation is in the preparation. You have to prepare for everyone’s own flavor for how they are going to attack Clemson and so we think we have a good feeling on how we are going to play them and how they are going to play us. So, we just have to go execute.”