National Championship Preview
By Al Curtiss
Using the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game as a barometer, It’s Sports Magazine looks at 5 keys that would help predict how well Clemson will fare in the National Championships Playoffs.
- QB Efficiency – Trevor Lawrenceneeds both aquick release and accuracy.If Lawrence is quick and accurate (I didn’t say short throws),it’s a good sign moving forward. Lawrence was not accurate early, but was money when throwing slants down near the red zone. There was not much creativity in the Clemson passing offense, and they didn’t need it, so Lawrence still has much to prove in the first game.
- D-line Speed – Clemson was the fastest Dline I saw in person last yearand thought that would get them the win against Bama in 17. They need to be even faster off the ball this year and remain lane sound on pass rush.There is no questioning the Clemson’s D-line speed. Just ask the Pitt O tackles who got flagged with too many false starts trying to protect the edge. Pitt only had 8 yards passing the entire game, and much of that is credited to the D line.
- Travis Etienne Tough Yards – Does he run behind his pads and fall forward when 3 yards is needed? His quickness and open field ability isamazing, but bowl time requires 3rd down conversions.Debate Over – Etienne’s opening 75 yard run confirmed his quickness, but it was the tough runs between the tackles that opened a lot of eyes. The young man did a great job of gaining tough yards between the tackles and that bodes well for the Tigers.
- Linebacker Fill – Pitt will try to run theball,so this will be a good preview of how the Clemson linebackers step up and seal any crease in the D-line.This was the only glaring problem for Clemson, as Pitt gained 190 yards between the tackles. Most of that real estate was straight ahead runs netted the Panthers at least plus 5, while anything ran outsides was mostly for negative yardage. Clemson will have to secure the middle, and stuff the run to win the title.
- Receiver Roulette – Keep a close eye on Clemson’s formations as they try to isolate either one of the big 3 receivers or bring them all to the same side, either way it creates nightmares for secondary coaches and Clemson will be testing the waters for future games.Clemson used a lot of trips formations, but really didn’t show much in terms of route creativity, as the majority of throws were slants and fades.