Offense wins championships? CFP defenses face huge challenges

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My how occasions have modified in faculty soccer for the reason that final time Alabama and Notre Dame met.

The Crimson Tide rode the nation’s finest protection into that January 2013 nationwide championship matchup, yielding a paltry 184 yards and eight factors a recreation.

Quick-forward to the brand new actuality: Offense wins championships. Or at the very least it is carried the top-ranked TideNo. 4 Notre DameNo. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State into rivalry heading into Friday’s Faculty Soccer Playoff semifinal video games.

Alabama could have the nation’s finest offense.

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“This isn’t professional I, let’s run it up inside and play nice protection,” stated Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, whose staff will face the Crimson Tide in Arlington, Texas. “They’re nonetheless taking part in basically sound protection, however with the offenses as they’re at present, you understand, it’s very tough not to surrender some yards.

“So that you’re seeing basically sound protection. You’re nonetheless seeing the identical ideas. You’re seeing at occasions elite play in sure place teams at Alabama. After which an offense now that may rival the easiest faculty offenses within the nation.”

Solely the Tigers, who play the Buckeyes in New Orleans, have an elite protection statistically among the many playoff groups. The opposite three have been a lot ok to help these high-scoring offenses.

However ‘Bama doesn’t rank larger than twelfth nationally within the 4 main defensive statistical classes. Notre Dame is not higher than 14th and Ohio State has been stingy in opposition to the run and extra beneficiant to opposing passers.

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Then there’s Clemson, which ranks sixth in complete protection, giving up 298.5 yards a recreation.

The AP All-America groups had eight representatives from the playoffs on the first-team offense and three on protection: Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade.

The playoff groups have three of the 4 Heisman Trophy finalists.

ALABAMA

The Skinny: The Tide have veteran standouts like Surtain and linebackers Dylan Moses and Christian Harris and rising star freshmen like go rusher Will Anderson and defensive again Malachi Moore. Have been stingy at occasions however gave up yards and factors galore to Mississippi and Florida. The Tide have 21 sacks during the last 4 video games and 32 complete.

Finest Recreation: Alabama turned the primary to close out a Mike Leach staff, beating Mississippi State 41-0 and permitting simply 163 complete yards whereas forcing three turnovers.

Worst Recreation: Alabama allowed a whopping 647 complete yards in a 63-48 win over Mississippi. It was probably the most yards a Tide protection had ever surrendered and probably the most factors by an unranked staff in opposition to ‘Bama. “It humbled us rather a lot,” Surtain stated.

Finest Participant: Surtain is a shutdown cornerback who was the SEC defensive participant of the 12 months and is a Jim Thorpe Award finalist. Has 32 tackles, an interception, and 10 go breakups.

CLEMSON

The Skinny: The Tigers should not as star heavy and do not have an Isaiah Simmons-type to paved the way. That balanced method has Clemson giving up fewer factors this 12 months than final season’s group. The mushy spot could also be in go protection, the place Clemson is giving up 198 yards a recreation, about 30 yards greater than final 12 months.

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Finest participant: Linebacker James Skalski is a fierce hitter and the glue that holds the group collectively. When he missed video games in opposition to Boston Faculty and Notre Dame with an damage, Clemson allowed 75 factors and misplaced to the Irish. With Skalski again the previous three video games, the Tigers have given up simply 37 complete, together with solely 10 to Notre Dame within the ACC Championship rematch.

Worst recreation: At Notre Dame, the place the Tigers gave up 518 yards — unprecedented in opposition to a Brent Venables-led protection — and permitted the Irish an extended landing drive on the finish to tie a recreation they’d finally win in double time beyond regulation.

Finest recreation: The rematch with the Combating Irish for the ACC crown. Clemson held Notre Dame to a subject objective on two early journeys to the crimson zone, then pounded the Irish the remainder of the way in which. The Tigers gave up simply 263 yards to win their sixth consecutive league crown.

NOTRE DAME

The Skinny: Beneath third-year defensive coordinator Clark Lea, set to change into head coach at alma mater Vanderbilt, the Irish entered their remaining regular-season recreation in opposition to Syracuse with a prime 10 protection. However they’ve given up 955 yards mixed the previous two video games and tend to permit huge passing performs.

Finest participant: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. A primary-team Related Press All-American and Butkus Award winner, the 6-foot-1, 216-pound senior has 56 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, an interception, three pressured fumbles and a fumble restoration for a landing in opposition to Clemson.

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Worst recreation: The 34-10 loss to Clemson within the ACC championship recreation. The Irish struggled to defend quarterback Trevor Lawrence and operating again Travis Etienne.

Finest recreation: The 31-17 victory at North Carolina on Nov. 27. Held the prolific Tar Heels, whose offense was averaging 563.4 yards a recreation coming in, to only 78 complete yards and 0 factors within the second half.

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OHIO STATE

The Skinny: COVID-19 points and a six-game schedule could have impeded the Buckeye’s progress. However the protection did get better 10 fumbles, gather six interceptions and rack up 17 sacks in that restricted schedule.

Finest Recreation: Ohio State turned in a powerful defensive efficiency in a 22-10 win over Northwestern within the Huge Ten championship recreation. The Buckeyes allowed simply 329 yards and intercepted two passes.

Worst Recreation: Ohio State almost blew a three-touchdown lead earlier than holding on for a 42-35 win over Indiana, albeit with assist from a defensive landing late within the third quarter. Michael Penix Jr. torched the Buckeyes for 491 passing yards and 5 touchdowns.

Finest participant: All-America cornerback Shaun Wade had 21 tackles, two interceptions and three go breakups. His 36-yard interception return for a TD in opposition to Indiana proved large.

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