Clemson, Ohio State Coaches Tout Mutual Respect
The Clemson Tigers and the Ohio State Buckeyes have charted similar paths en route to the College Football Playoff during the 2019 season, both finishing 13-0, crushing most teams on their schedules, putting up big numbers in total yards and largely shutting down opposing offenses.
So it makes sense that Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney and Ohio State helmsman Ryan Day have a lot of mutual appreciation for what their respective teams have been able to accomplish ahead of their own date with destiny Dec. 28 in Glendale, Ariz.
No. 2 Ohio State will face No. 3 Clemson in the semifinal round of the playoffs during the night game that day, and earlier in the afternoon, No. 1 LSU will tangle with No. 4 Oklahoma to determine which two teams will advance to the title game.
Looking toward the match-up, Swinney and Day were profuse in their admiration of each other’s football programs.
Swinney said Ohio State’s success this year has been an “unbelievable accomplishment.”
“(They are) talented on both sides of the ball,” he said about the Buckeyes. “Just two great programs that I know that will have great will to win, and it's going to be an awesome environment and a great game. No doubt about it. It's a blessing to be a part of it. We're thankful. And just really looking forward to the whole experience out there.”
For his part, Day said his team was “excited” to have a chance to play in the postseason against Clemson.
“I have the utmost — and we have the utmost respect for what they've done — not only winning national championships, but then continuing that excellence,” Day said. “It's very hard when you are the top dog, and everyone is giving you the best shot to continue to do what they've done. So nothing but, again, utmost respect for those guys and looking forward to a big challenge.”
“... I thought we finished the season strong, especially the last three games,” Day added. “And we are looking forward to preparing for this game, getting out to Arizona.”
Ohio State will have to be firing on all cylinders and play mistake-free football to be able to beat the Tigers, Day said.
“We are going up against a great opponent,” he said. “I think both offensively and defensively, what Clemson has done over the past few years is incredible. They certainly have a great talent, but they are very, very well coached. So, we are going to have to have a great energy and hit that peak when we play that game that Saturday. But importantly, we have to be ready to execute at a high level, so the margin for error is tiny.”
Day said that Clemson has multiple weapons on offense to be able to rack up points quickly on opposing defenses.
“Trevor Lawrence is as good a quarterback as there is in the country, and he's been on the biggest stages and, obviously, one of the winningest quarterbacks that will go down in the history of college football when it's all said and done,” Day said. “(Travis) Etienne is as good a running back as there is in the country. And then those receivers, (Tee) Higgins and (Justyn) Ross and those guys are just dynamic on the perimeter, and they stretch you out a lot of different ways on offense, and they do a great job of it. They're sound, but they also stretch you out by making you defend the entire field.”
The Tigers bring a lot of different looks to try to confuse teams on the defensive side of the ball, Day said.
“On defense, (it’s) very, very difficult to prepare for multiple fronts (and) multiple blitzes,” he said. “I think (defensive coordinator) Brent Venables does as good as anybody in the country. Again, (he’s) very talented, but he's schematically very sound, and they get those guys to play really, really hard.”
Fielding a question about Clemson and Ohio’s State respective strengths of schedule, Day dispelled the idea that the Tigers had not competed in any big games this season.
“Well, I think both teams played in big games,” Day said. “You don't go to Ohio State or Clemson without playing in big games. That's just kind of how it goes. So, I don't think the stage will be too big for either side, and our guys, and certainly Clemson's guys, have played in this arena before. So, I don't think that will factor in.”