CLEMSON, S.C. — It only happened once this season and it took a feverish offensive output from Ole Miss and five Alabama turnovers for the Crimson Tide to fall. Recent history aside, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney matter-of-factly gave two things that had to happen Monday if the Tigers hope to beat Alabama and win a national title.
Call this the Heisman Trophy battle … Part 2.
Swinney complimented Alabama’s versatility, and specifically praised the offensive prowess of wide receivers Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart along with quarterback Jake Coker. But Alabama’s Heisman-winning running back has a target on his back.
“So they’re just very balanced,” said Swinney on Tuesday. “I mean, they force you to — if you don’t stop the run, you have zero chance. Absolutely zero, because they’re going to commit to it, obviously.”
With 2,061 yards, Derrick Henry leads the country in rushing. Slowing him is an absolute must, according to Clemson’s coach. But stopping Henry isn’t the only thing the Tigers have to do.
Offensively, Clemson’s Heisman finalist has to continue to step up. Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson has rushed for at least 100 yards in five of Clemson’s last six games. Swinney was asked if Watson could find similar success on the ground against Alabama’s behemoth front-seven.
“I hope so, said Swinney. “It’s going to be — we’re going to find out. … We probably won’t win if he [doesn’t] play well. You don’t win championships without your best players showing up and getting clocked in and performing. That’s for sure. He’s been there all year long. I know this: Nobody is going to prepare harder. Nobody is going to play with more will to win than No. 4.”