Behind enemy lines: Clemson

Tyler Waldrep

The Crimson White caught up with  Matthew Bridges, assistant sports editor of The Tiger Newspaper, to discuss how Alabama matches up with Clemson in the upcoming national championship.

 Q: From what you can tell, how do Clemson students and Clemson fans in general feel about playing Alabama?

A: The Clemson fan base is ecstatic to play Alabama. As the saying goes, “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.” Even though Clemson has been ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation for the past 2 months, a National Championship victory over Alabama, a program with so much success throughout its history, would be huge for our program and fan base.

Q: Is there a turning point, either this season or in the last few years, where Clemson seemed to stop playing for an ACC title and start playing for national championships?

A: I believe the National Championship vision has come to surface this year. For the past 3 years or so, Florida State has constantly stood in our way of an ACC title, and thus a National Championship. So, as Clemson beat Notre Dame and then Florida State earlier this season, I think the National Championship dream started to become more of a reality. However, as Coach Swinney has said multiple times, we have been building towards this moment for a long time.

Q: Obviously, Deshaun Watson has been huge for Clemson this season. Do you expect his third place finish for the Heisman to motivate Watson and the team? Additionally, how much do you think Clemson will rely on his legs to beat Alabama, and what kind of game do you expect him to have?

A: From watching Watson’s games and interviews the past 2 years, I can say that he is 100% a team-first player. I think he will play with a chip on his shoulder more because this is a big-stage game against a great football program, not because he finished 3rd in the Heisman race. However, I do expect his teammates to try to prove to everyone that Deshaun is the best player in the nation. Finally, Clemson has tended to take what they are given offensively. So, if Alabama is selling out to stop Deshaun on the ground, I think he can use his arm just as effectively.

Q: What other offensive players will need to step up if Clemson is going to move the ball on Alabama?

A: If Alabama tries to stop Clemson’s run game, which I think will be the game plan, then Clemson’s wide receivers will need to step up and make big plays. Charone Peake, Artavis Scott and Hunter Renfrow will be key players. Also, I expect running back Wayne Gallman to come out of the backfield and take some passes every now and then.

Q:What defensive players will need to have big games if Clemson is going to stop Alabama’s offense?

I think Mackensie Alexander, Clemson’s star cornerback, will need to shut down Calvin Ridley. Shaq Lawson, Clemson’s talented defensive end, could have a big impact if he is healthy (he sprained his MCL in the Orange Bowl). Finally, I think linebackers BJ Goodson and Ben Boulware will have to play huge roles in stopping Derrick Henry.