College football: 5 reasons why Clemson will be tough to beat in the title game
Clemson turned on the jets in the second half en route to a 37-17 win over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl during the college football playoff semifinals. The Tigers earned a spot in the national title game against Alabama, who crushed Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.
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Here are five reasons why it will be tough to face Clemson in the championship Jan. 11.
1. Deshaun Watson can play outside the pocket. Watson’s dual-threat ability isn’t a surprise if you’ve watched Clemson this season. The quarterback rushed for 46 yards on first play of second quarter and followed up with a rushing touchdown. Watson completed his ninth game of the season with at least one touchdown pass and one touchdown run. He makes opponents pay, whether it's through the air or on the ground.
2. Clemson’s defense knows how to pressure the quarterback. There were doubts about the Clemson defense heading into the game with Oklahoma. But the Tigers mixed up their defensive pressure and forced the Sooners into critical third-down situations. Even with the loss of Shaq Lawson in the first quarter, the pass-rush forced five sacks on Baker Mayfield. The defense also came up with eight tackles for loss and two interceptions.
3. The Tigers’ run game can’t be stopped. Wayne Gallman and Watson have become a one-two punch for Clemson's rushing attack. Watson finished with 145 yards and a score on the ground while Gallman pounded through Oklahoma for 150 yards and two touchdowns. It was only the third time in the history of the Orange Bowl that a team had a pair of players both rush for more than 100 yards in the game.
4. Clemson is balanced on the offensive and defensive lines. Clemson lost several starters on both lines after 2014 but it hasn't showed this season. The offensive line continues to get better every week and created plenty of space for Watson and Gallman to work within the rushing game against the Sooners. The defensive line held the Sooners to only 67 rushing yards on two yards per carry.
5. Dabo Swinney and his staff aren’t afraid to open up the playbook. Swinney called a gutsy fake punt on 4th-and-4 in the second quarter which gave life to Clemson. Punter Andy Teasdall completed a 31-yard pass to lineman Christian Wilkins to extend the drive, which Watson capped off with the five-yard go-ahead touchdown.