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Orgeron believes "phenomenal" game plan led Clemson to 2019 Championship

January 9, 2020

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If you followed the build-up to the 2020 National Championship game, you certainly haven't missed all of the conversations surrounding Clemson's defense, led by Brent Venables, in a chess match against Joe Brady and LSU offense, featuring Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow.

The majority of people talking about this contest, continue to believe that this particular matchup will decide the outcome. Everything you hear seems to revolve around if Clemson's defense can slow down LSU's unbelievable offense.

And while it's undoubtedly a big deal, what could end up being the bigger deal is how Dave Aranda's LSU defense fairs against the Clemson Tiger offense in New Orleans.

LSU enters the game with the No. 1 rated scoring offense in the country, averaging 48.9 ppg, and Clemson's defense comes into the game as the top-rated scoring defense limiting teams to just 11.5 ppg. 

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Head coach of the SEC Champion Tigers, Ed Orgeron, knows what his staff is up against in preparing for Brent Venables’ stout defense.

"I thought his game plan in last year's game against Alabama was phenomenal. The things he did gave the quarterback problems,” Orgeron said. “With disguising his coverages, they had some interceptions. I thought his defense played phenomenally.”

Seeing that type of performance on a big stage from Clemson defense isn’t new. The Tigers held a Notre Dame offense that was averaging 6.2 yards a play and 33.8 points per game to just a field goal in the Cotton Bowl. The Tigers followed that performance with a dominating 44-16 win over an Alabama offense that had scored 47.4 points per game.

Ohio State entered the Fiesta Bowl, averaging 6.9 yards a play and 46.9 points a game. Clemson’s defense stymied the Buckeye offense after giving up an early 16-0 lead. The Tigers offense then outscored Ohio State 29-7 over a two-and-a-half quarter stretch to finish the contest.

“His defenses rise in big-time games. He's calling a good game and he's gonna have a game plan that we are going to figure out. It's gonna be a chess match, but I like our guys too,” Orgeron noted.

“His defenses rise in big-time games. He's calling a good game, and he's gonna have a game plan that we are going to figure out. It's gonna be a chess match, but I like our guys too,” Orgeron noted.

The Tigers will undoubtedly watch plenty of tape from Auburn’s game against LSU earlier this season. Former Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele held the Bayou Bengals to just 23 points.

"I know Kevin Steele did a good job. It's just a copycat game. The things that defenses did well against us, I'm sure we'll going to see some of it,” Orgeron said. “The thing that offensively did well against us, I'm sure we will see some of that."

All that being said, perhaps the matchup that will tell the story is the inverse — Clemson’s offense vs. LSU’s defense.

Clemson enters as the 4th highest-scoring offense in America. Outside of one hiccup in Chapel Hill, the Tigers' offense hasn't shown any signs of slowing down averaging 45.3 ppg.

To simply look at this matchup and believe that Clemson's going to be measured by what happens solely on defense would be a narrow-minded approach to this game.

The Tigers offense, cannot be forgotten. Clemson features skill position players on par with the best programs in the country. Trevor Lawrence will most likely be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft one season from now. To think that everything in New Orleans hinges on Brent Venables, and the Clemson Tiger defense would be a huge mistake. 

While LSU scored under 28 points just once this season, they gave up 28 or more points in six games. 

Week Opponent (Ranking) Score
Sept. 7 at Texas (9) 45-38
Sept. 21 at Vanderbilt 66-38
Oct. 12 vs. Florida (7) 42-28
Nov. 9 at Alabama (3) 46-41
Nov. 16 at Ole Miss 58-37
Dec. 28 vs. Oklahoma (4) 63-28

LSU’s defense seems to be vulnerable, getting back their sack leader, Michael Divinity is a shot in the arm, but yielding 21.6 ppg has to mean something. 

Looking further at the numbers, ranked opponents averaged 27.5 points per game against the Bayou Bengals, and the only team they’ve played that averaged more points per game this season than Clemson was Alabama. 

In fact, in their matchup with Alabama, LSU was outscored by the Crimson Tide 28-13 in the second half. So it would seem the LSU defense could end up being the storyline, one way or the other.

While you have to tip your cap to Aranda's group for the final four games of the season, it's hard to imagine that anybody believes that LSU has faced an offense with the balance that Clemson brings to New Orleans. 

Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and company have a great chance to make similar plays to the ones we saw in the Fiesta Bowl against an Ohio State defense that’s better than the one LSU will put on the field this coming Monday.

In sports, as in life, there are no absolutes. At the end of the day, there may be more justification for believing that the key to success in this game for Clemson is Brent Venables’ defense. Still, anyone who forgets about Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott’s offense is making a huge mistake.

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Orgeron believes "phenomenal" game plan led Clemson to 2019 Championship

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