COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — In order to advance to its first national championship since 2015, Ohio State must stop Clemson’s high-powered offense.
Members of the Buckeyes’ defense spoke with the media Tuesday about trying to stifle Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers’ offense — something OSU was not able to do in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.
The Tigers are just as good on offense this year ranking third in the country in scoring (45 points a game) and 10th in total offense (507 yards a game).
Cause for Concern
Ohio State’s pass defense has been porous throughout this shortened season ranking 104th in pass yards allowed per game (260).
The Buckeyes gave up nearly 500 yards passing to Indiana, 251 yards in the second half against Penn State and 231 yards to Rutgers.
If OSU doesn’t address the ongoing issues in its secondary, Clemson will capitalize and this game could turn into a shootout, or worse, a rout. The Tigers rank third in country in pass yards per game (343) and seventh in passing touchdowns this season (29).
“We’re going to be ready” cornerback Shaun Wade said. “We’ve been getting better over the weeks . . . their receivers and our secondary is going to be even, so it just comes down to the little things.”
Trevor Lawrence, a Heisman finalist, is just outside the top 10 in total passing yards and total touchdowns, but he’d be higher if not for missing two games after testing positive for the coronavirus. Lawrence benefits from one of the top receiving corps in the country.
“Those are some of the best wide receivers in the country in our facility and these guys that we’re playing are just like them and so the ability to compete against great skill day in and day out is critical,” OSU defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said.
Ohio State’s defensive advantage
The Buckeyes are stout when it comes to stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback.
OSU ranks seventh in the country in run defense allowing 96 yards a game. The Buckeyes held Northwestern, a team that averaged more than 170 yards a game, to 105 yards on the ground.
Clemson, led by running back Travis Etienne, will try to exploit OSU’s defensive front — a feat no Big Ten team was able to accomplish.
But the Tigers are better than any team Ohio State has faced this season when it comes to running the ball. Clemson averages a 163 yards rushing and will try to establish the run to open up play fakes and expose OSU’s secondary.
Lawrence is a capable runner too when a play breaks down or a keep is called as he’s showed numerous times in the past three years, including this 67-yard touchdown run against OSU last year.
Ohio State’s 50% pressure rate is the highest in the nation with OSU pressuring opposing quarterbacks on 124 of 257 pass-rush snaps.
OSU will get pressure on Lawrence, but simply blitzing Lawrence won’t be enough. The Clemson quarterback ranks first in the country in passing grade (90.2) handling the blitz for 2019 and 2020, according to Pro Football Focus.
“It’s gonna be a big challenge. He’s a dynamic quarterback. Usually guys that big and long don’t run a lot,” defensive tackle Haskell Garrett said. “He can extend plays and if the play breaks down and there’s good coverage, he’s gonna try to get it done with his legs.”
Garrett leads the Buckeyes’ front four, which is ranked as the No. 1 defensive front out of all teams in the power five conferences, according to PFF.