Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers have some rare insight into the championship game between Alabama and Clemson. The Tigers were the only team in the country to play both teams.
Auburn lost to both, but the Tigers did have some success slowing both teams. Clemson scored a season-low 19 points against Auburn, while Jalen Hurts threw two rare interceptions in the Iron Bowl.
ESPN caught up with Malzahn, who is in Tampa, Fla., for the championship game. And he said the key to slowing the Tigers was stopping the Clemson ground game.
“We really tried to stop the run,” Malzahn said. “We looked and every time they were successful running, they rolled people. We tried to stop the ball and make them beat us through the air.”
Auburn held Clemson to 3.43 yards per carry, its second-lowest output of the season. Clemson’s worst rushing game of the season came against Pittsburgh, which was Clemson’s only loss of the season.
Alabama has the No. 1 rushing defense in the country, giving up an average of 62 yards per game.
As for stopping the Crimson Tide offense, Malzahn stressed throwing different coverages at freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Malzahn also thought the loss of Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin would be a big challenge to Hurts and the Crimson Tide.
“He’s one of the best coordinators in college football,” Malzahn said about Kiffin. “They’ve got a freshman quarterback and a new guy calling plays in just seven days. I think that’ll be a real challenge.”
For what it’s worth, Malzahn picked Clemson to beat the Crimson Tide. Alabama fans quickly booed him for the selection.
Kickoff is at 8 p.m. ET. Alabama and Clemson met in the national title game last year, with Alabama winning 45-40.