A high-pressure Clemson defense stands between Ohio State and a chance to play for the national championship.
If the second-ranked Buckeyes are going to win their College Football Playoff matchup with No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 28, center Josh Myers is going to have to be on his game.
While Ohio State coach Ryan Day lamented the compact schedule that had him juggling recruiting, scouting, practice and awards shows since the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game on Dec. 7, Myers has enjoyed a little extra time to study Ohio State’s next opponent.
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“I like to watch film by myself, every now and then just kind of like get really, really detailed with it,” said Myers, a sophomore from Miamisburg. “I’m looking for little things I can pick up, little tendencies, anything I can see in their defense. That’s something I do pretty much every game, and it’s nice to have more time to be able to do that for this one.”
He has a lot to look at.
Clemson is not only a talented team but one with a defensive coordinator regarded as one of the best in the country.
Brent Venables has developed that reputation by figuring out how to get the best out of his players with a variety of different defensive looks and pressures that confuse blocking schemes and confound quarterbacks.
“From the film I’ve seen, they’ve run a ton of different looks, a ton of different blitzes and I’m gonna have to be prepared for all of it,” Myers said. “So you know I’ve already started that process and watched quite a bit of film. So it’s going to put a lot of pressure on me but to be honest with you, they’re all looks that I’ve seen before. There hasn’t been a whole lot that we haven’t seen this season. We’ve had so much stuff thrown at us which is you know beneficial.”
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With Clemson No. 1 in the country in points allowed (10.6 points per game), yards allowed (244.7) and team passing efficiency defense, this might be Venables’ best job yet.
On the flip side, the Ohio State offensive line has cleared the way for the nation’s No. 5 rushing attack, but pass protection has been a problem.
The Buckeyes are 94th in the country in sacks allowed (2.38 per game) and 100th in opponents' sack rate according to FootballOutsiders.com.
The Tigers are 22nd in the nation in sacks and 10th in tackles for loss, and they achieved those ranks with only one player putting up notable individual numbers.
While All-American linebacker Isaiah Simmons had 14 tackles for loss and seven sacks, no other Tiger had more than eight or 4.5, respectively, so it’s fair to say getting into the backfield has been a group effort for Clemson this season after having four defensive linemen taken in the NFL Draft in April.
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“I think they’re really good,” Day said. “They have a lot of skill, a lot of speed. Simmons is the guy inside that kind of makes everything go. They do a great job of changing up looks, three down, four down, a lot of pressure, try to get you off schedule
“Historically over the last decade or more, Venables has been one of the best defensive coordinators in the country. They continue to do really good on defense. A lot of good players, a lot of good talent over there. The back end is as good as we’ll see. They have a lot of skill.”
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In terms of traditional stats, Clemson will be only the fifth-best pass rush Ohio State has seen (trailing Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Miami University), but the Tigers have a championship pedigree and trail only the Badgers and Buckeyes in Football Outsiders sack rate.
“You’ve got to do a great job with the scout teams, giving them a clean plan,” Day said. “You just go about the business of continuing watching film, doing a great job with the scout team, giving the guys the blitz patterns, communicating, practicing them at a high level.”
Ohio State vs. Clemson, 8 p.m., ESPN, 1410
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