Wednesday, December 30, 2015
MORE ON RIDER PROSPECT BAKER MAYFIELD
Clemson's Deshaun Watkins is used to lighting up the scoreboard. Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield (whose CFL rights belong to the Saskatchewan Roughriders) has shredded one helpless defence after another.
"People love seeing high-powered offences and guys slinging the ball around,'' said Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware, sounding a bit gloomy as he looked ahead to Thursday's national semifinal game. "The viewers want to see Deshaun throw for 600 yards and Mayfield throw for 600 yards.''
While no one is ready to bury the ol' adage that defence wins championships, it needs a bit of tweaking with these teams.
Clemson (13-0) gave up more than 30 points in its last two games, but Watson & Co. made sure it didn't ruin the perfect season.
Oklahoma (11-1) followed a similar path to the College Football Playoff. The Sooners gave up at least 20 points in eight games, more than 30 a couple of times. It cost them only once - an upset loss to Texas.
Despite all those shaky performances, neither defence is lacking bravado.
"I know what we've got,'' Oklahoma outside linebacker Eric Striker said Tuesday during media day at Sun Life Stadium. "We know what it takes to win the game. One thing about the media: They've got to talk, they've got to come up with stuff.''
The media has nothing to do with the national statistics, which have Oklahoma outside the top 20 in all four major defensive categories. The Sooners are tied for 22nd in points allowed (20.8 per game).
Clemson has been stingy when it comes to defending the pass, but a bit leaky against the run. The Tigers are giving 20.2 points a game, tied for 18th nationally.
Ohio State won the championship a year ago despite giving up 22.0 points per contest, ranking 26th nationally. Cam Newton-led Auburn finished No. 1 in 2010 while surrendering an average of 24.1 points, which placed a mediocre 53rd in the national rankings.
Mayfield and the Sooners are just as daunting. The junior quarterback has passed for 3,389 yards with 35 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He, too, can take off and run, which led Boulware to describe him as "kind of Manzielesque'' - a nod to former Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel. Three Oklahoma receivers have hauled in more than 40 passes, while Samaje Perine has rushed for 1,291 yards and 15 TDs.
Hard to see this being a defensive struggle.
That's not to say it won't come down to a big defensive play.
"Whenever you've got two great offences,'' said Clemson linebacker B.J. Goodson, "it's always gonna be about who's making big stops in big moments.''