As No. 3 Clemson football, one of the nation’s top offensive teams, prepares to battle No. 2 Ohio State in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl on December 28 in Glendale, the offense will be looking to score at a high rate.
Across the line from them, though, is a Buckeye defense that boasts some of the most talent in all the NCAA.
“There’s not really a weak link, so it’s a challenge,” said Tiger quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
“We haven’t seen a defense this good this year.”
That unit is spearheaded by one of college football’s most effective defensive lines, led by Buckeye defensive end Chase Young. Young has recorded an FBS-high 16.5 sacks this season and is projected to be near the top of the first round in the 2020 NFL draft.
Those positioned directly in front of players like Young will be the Clemson line. Tiger guard John Simpson said his unit relishes the opportunity to showcase its talent.
“Going up against a defensive line like that for an offensive lineman is always going to be big. You get to prove yourself and show the world you can handle it,” Simpson said.
Clemson offensive Tony Elliott called the trench matchup a “strength-on-strength” battle but warned his players against getting too caught up in personal battles.
He recognized that many of his players aspire to play professionally some day, and recognize the Fiesta Bowl as a chance to show off their skill on a major platform, which can cause some nerves. But while he is entrusting the line to dominate several one-on-one matchups, the goal is to move the ball and not be overflowing with adrenaline.
“I just want the guys to focus on playing their best game,” Elliott said.
“Because at the end of the day, emotion’s not going to win this game.”
It is going to take blocking and execution from not just the linemen, but every other position on the field, to have success moving the ball.
And while a tough matchup is looming, the experienced offensive players for Clemson believe they need to just continue on the same path they have taken to being defending National Champions and boasting an carrying on their season in 2019.
“If we play our game we’ll be fine,” said Simpson. "If we try to too much we’ll hurt ourselves a little bit.”