"You have to give Ohio State credit for that. They were awesome. They absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage. You can't win games like this if you can't stop the run and the big plays." - Dabo Swinney
The stage was set for another disappointment. Despite last season's slugfest in the desert, many expected Clemson to cruise to victory in its rematch with Ohio State, favoring the Tigers by a touchdown.
After a quick three-and-out from Ohio State to open the game, it certainly appeared as though all the talking heads were right.But as Justin Fields and the Buckeye offense took the field inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome a second time, things looked quite different.
First off, they emerged from a huddle for the first time in years, rather than looking to the sideline for a play-call. Then, after Chris Olave motioned across the formation, the opposing defense was flustered, flipping their alignment just as the ball was snapped.
The resulting 11-yard gain was vintage Ryan Day, using the motion to identify zone coverage for his quarterbackand stretching the defense horizontally with an underneath Spacing concept. It almost looked like the 2018 vintage of the Ohio State offense with Dwayne Haskins under center.
As the evening progressed, the Buckeyes continued to vary their tempo, sometimes huddling while also snapping the ball quickly. On the final play of that second drive, the Clemson defense was chaotic, with defenders still trying to line up after the ball had been snapped.
Trey Sermon ran 32 yards untouched through that giant space between the left guard and tackle.
We just didn't want them stealing our signals, Fields said of the new pace.And that's pretty much why we huddled up a little bit more than we usually do.
But new pacingwasn't the only new wrinkle added to the Buckeye gameplan on this evening.
Having lived in fear of an injury to Fields for nearly two full seasons, Day finally unleashed his star QB in the option game. The mid-zone scheme that encompassed 95% of the OSU running game on this evening was paired with a backside keep for Fields, as well as a backside WR screen on multiple occasions, forcing the defense to choose its fate.
But even as the threat of Fields running the ball dissipated following his rib injury in the second quarter, Sermon and the OSU run game continued to devastate the opposition.
In hopes of cutting off any open gaps for Sermon, Clemson DC Brent Venables began slanting his front in the opposite direction of the running back's alignment. If Sermon was to Fields' right, then he was likely taking a handoff going to the left, and the Tigers were bent on cutting him off at the pass.
Except that this slanting was reliant on the weak safety filling the backside cutback lane, leaving tons of space for the veteran runner to use to his advantage, going back against the grain all night for huge gains.
Sometimes, Day even designed such cutbacks for his newly minted star back, just as he had in the Big Ten Championship Game. By asking tight ends Luke Farrell and Jeremy Ruckert to seal the backside edge on Crunch (aka Split-Zone or Slice) versions of the mid-zone, there was a natural hole in the backside C-gap.
Once past the line, Sermon was nearly impossible to take down, with 97 of his 193 rushing yards comingafter initial contact.
Day put the Clemson safeties in conflict all night, knowing they were asked to help defend against Sermon's legswhile also responsible for covering the pass.
To give his defense an extra body near the line to defend against the run, Venables relied heavily on 3-deep zone coverages, allowing one safety to come down into the box and act as an extra run defender. The only problem with this approach was the other safety was then left alone in the middle of the field to help defend deep posts from both Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.
As the Buckeyes showed the Crunch run with Farrell coming across the formation, only to set up in seven-man pass protection, safety Joseph Charleson (#18) was in trouble from the start. As the safety opened his hips up to the wide side of the field to help with Olave's deep post, Fields recognized he had no chance to also cover Wilson on the other side of the field and uncorked a deep ball that landed right in the sophomore wideout's outstretched hands.
The exact same concept would lead to a 45-yard touchdown toss to Jameson Williams in the fourth quarter, showing the Tigers never had an answer to containing both the Buckeye run game and the deep ball.
But the Buckeye passing game wasn't just deep, play-action. For the first time all season, we saw some other classics from the Haskins era, such as Mesh and Mesh-Pivot, giving Fields a triangle read over the middle (here hitting Jaxon Smith Njigba on the sit route at the top of the read).
Day continued to go deeper into his playbook, doing what he does best by attacking the weakness of an opponent's gameplan. As the Tigers continued to sit in 3-deep zones, the OSU head coach and offensive play-caller went to everyone's favorite counter to the coverage: 4-verticals.
With a motion from Wilson confirming zone coverage (by the Tigers not following him across the formation), Fields knew he had a simple read of the seam defender, who had quickly jumped Wilson's route. That action allowed Farrell to run completely unguarded up the middle of the field, and Fields easily threw a strike for a big gain.
The Buckeye tight ends would have a huge night, with each of the two starters catching touchdown passes (Ruckert would finish with two, including a beautiful throwback off a rollout from Fields). But the evening belonged to Fields, who finished the night 4/7 for 184 yards on targets of 20+ yards.
Even as the Tigers began pulling back from their predictable, three-deep looks, Day had answers. Going back to one of his staple concepts, known asSpreadorSaints(and often considered to be part of the Air Raid'sY-Crossfamily), Fields had been trained to attack the Quarters coverage Venables showedon occasion.
With an initial high-low read to the boundary from Williams and Ruckert, Fields quickly turned back to the middle of the field. As Wilson flattened out his post route into a dig, sucking up the two safeties, Olave simply cut inside the cornerback as the third option - winning a footrace with the flat-footed safety.
The Buckeyes stayed one step ahead of the Tigers all night, seeming to keep their opponents guessing and often unable to even get lined up properly. The absencesof veteran signal-callers like James Skalski and Nolan Turner certainly didn't help but were by no means the entire story. The Tigers looked as though they had no idea what to expect from the Buckeye passing game while simultaneously searching for ways to stop the run.
In fact, the inconsistencies of the Ohio State offense throughout this crazy seasonturned out to be a blessing in disguise. Due to the lack of a regular lineup, Day's offense often relied simply on its most basic concepts and rarely showed any of the complementary pieces that were put on display in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, Venables' defense had nearly twice as many games to show exactly what it was- a sometimes haphazard unit that tried to cover up for a lack of high-end talent by confusing the opposition and often, stealing its signals. When those tactics were taken away, this year's version of the Clemson defense proved to be little more than paper Tigers.
Now that the Buckeyes have shown what they're capable of, the true test will come in the form of Alabama's disciplined unit.
Nick Saban's defense certainly didn't look like what we expect from the Crimson Tide early in the season, surrendering 647 yards and 48 points to Ole Miss back in October. But since then, the unit has settled in, allowing over 400 yards of offense just once over the past eight games - a shootout with Florida's talented passing game in the SEC championship.
While the Alabama defense will not get caught scrambling the way Clemson's was, the Buckeyes may be catching Saban's program at the right time. Just as was the case in the 2015 CFP Semifinal featuringthese two teams, the Tide features plenty of talent but is young.
While veterans like cornerbackPatrick Surtain II and middle linebacker Dylan Moses headlinethe starting lineup, it also features four sophomoresand two freshmen. Talented as players like edge rusher Will Anderson and safety Malachi Moore may be, they've never faced a running game like the Buckeyes' and a QB like Fields at the same time.
The Tide held off the Gators' vaunted passing attack and the physical running game of Notre Dame but the Buckeyes create a unique challenge for Saban and his staff. Such will be the great dilemma for Saban:which facet of Ohio State's balanced offense must he take away?
Surtain may be capable of locking up one of Olave or Wilson, but how must the rest of the secondary align to cover the other? Or will that secondary be forced to play in the box and take away Sermon?
The chess match between the Ohio State offense and Alabama defense may be one for the ages - something few thought they'd say even a week ago.
Go here to see the original:
- How to get the most from ChessBase 16 - Chessbase News - January 20th, 2021
- What are the key factors and impact of interventions in Englands COVID-19 epidemic? - News-Medical.Net - January 20th, 2021
- Richmond Hill basketball coaches piece together scouting reports on opponents - Savannah Morning News - January 20th, 2021
- What The Biden Presidency Means For Privacy, Consumer Protection And Antitrust - AdExchanger - January 20th, 2021
- An intro to the fast-paced world of artificial intelligence - MIT News - January 20th, 2021
- Counter-UAS System Market Size, Growth Factor,Analysis And Forecast By 2027| Lockheed Martin, Thales, Boeing - NeighborWebSJ - January 20th, 2021
- Anglo Singapore International School are delighted to welcome you for a school visit. - Bangkok Post - January 20th, 2021
- A Guide to Optimizing Your Mental Health in 2021 - Dan's Papers - January 20th, 2021
- Chess Global Market : Industry Analysis and Forecast (2019-2026) by Type, Application, and Region - The Courier - January 15th, 2021
- ONTARIO: How one womans online chess school is getting young girls worldwide excited about the game - TimminsToday - January 15th, 2021
- LaFleur Won't Be Able to Fool McVay on Saturday - Zone Coverage - January 15th, 2021
- Lewis Carroll Death Anniversary: Here are Some of the Author's Greatest Works - News18 - January 15th, 2021
- Reflecting on 'The Queen's Gambit': Are women genetically hardwired to underperform men in chess? - Genetic Literacy Project - January 13th, 2021
- Chess Market: Global Strategies and Insight driven transformation 2020 2026 - SoccerNurds - January 13th, 2021
- Why Its Not Too Late to Learn New Skills - The New Yorker - January 13th, 2021
- Global Counter UAV Market 2020 Trends, Demand and Scope with Outlook, Business Strategies and Forecast 2025 - SoccerNurds - January 13th, 2021
- The Seedy Chess World of Queens Gambit Is the Shows Masterstroke - Observer - January 9th, 2021
- Chess Market Study by Global and Regional Analysis with Forecast | The House of Staunton, ChessSUA, CNCHESS - NeighborWebSJ - January 9th, 2021
- How this Ontario woman's online chess school is getting young girls worldwide excited about the game - Toronto Star - January 9th, 2021
- Americans are living 30 years longer on average and that's a big plus for businesses - Palo Alto Online - January 9th, 2021
- From Text to Tablet: How to Learn in Lockdown - Global Citizen - January 9th, 2021
- Overcoming lockdowns and uncertainty to triumph at the end of a tough year - Neos Kosmos - January 9th, 2021
- Science-backed strategies to deal with stress and anxiety - World Economic Forum - January 9th, 2021
- 'The Queen's Gambit' Is About More Than Just Chess - Study Breaks - January 6th, 2021
- Barnegat's Kasey Keshecki is our Student of the Week - wobm.com - January 6th, 2021
- Chess Market Statistical Overview 2021-2026 with Industry Insights and Growth by ChessSUA, CNCHESS, ChessBaron, Chessncrafts, Chessbazaar.com, and... - January 6th, 2021
- Global Used Construction Machinery Market Precise Scenario Covering Trends, Competitive Scenario, Business Opportunities and Growth Forecast during... - January 6th, 2021
- 2021 Could Be a Banner Year for AIIf We Solve These 4 Problems - Singularity Hub - January 6th, 2021
- Anti-UAV Defense System Market Analysis, Opportunities, Competition Scenario, Threats, Future Prospects, Trends, Applications, And Growth Forecast To... - January 6th, 2021
- Global Chess Market to 2026 Industry Perspective, Comprehensive Analysis, and Forecast - Factory Gate - January 4th, 2021
- From the shadows into the light the man who broke the UFO embargo grew up in Sarasota - Sarasota Herald-Tribune - January 4th, 2021
- Six ways to reboot your brain after a hard year of Covid-19 according to science - iNews - January 4th, 2021
- Neuroscientists explain six ways to reboot your brain after a hard year of COVID-19 - PsyPost - January 4th, 2021
- Nithiin starrer Check first glimpse will leave you intrigued about his character | WATCH - Republic World - January 4th, 2021
- Good News Stories That Actually Made Us Smile in 2020 - Newsweek - January 4th, 2021
- Irelands modern druids: There is hidden knowledge you are asked not to share - The Irish Times - January 4th, 2021
- Keep Calm and QAnon - Slate - December 31st, 2020
- Beginners by Tom Vanderbilt review it's never too late to learn - The Guardian - December 31st, 2020
- Yes, 2020 was a historically hellish year. Now for the good news | TheHill - The Hill - December 31st, 2020
- Literature alights that was once burned books | Dec. 30 - Jan. 5, 2020 - Real Change News - December 31st, 2020
- Google DeepMind unveils AI that can master chess without even knowing the rules - The Independent - December 29th, 2020
- Coronavirus: Latest updates on COVID-19 crisis around the world - Outlook India - December 29th, 2020
- Chess Market 2020 Future Growth Analysis With Focusing Key Players | The House of Staunton, ChessSUA, CNCHESS, ChessBaron - Factory Gate - December 29th, 2020
- Counter-UAV (C-UAV) Systems Market Research Report (2020-2026): Key Trends and Opportunities |Lockheed Martin, Thales, Boeing - Factory Gate - December 29th, 2020
- Kwanzaa in Louisville on heels of social justice movement - Alton Telegraph - December 29th, 2020
- The New China Challenge Stems from Beijings Old Ambitions - The National Interest - December 29th, 2020
- International Chess Market Opportunities And Forecast Analysis up to 2026 | The House of Staunton, ChessSUA, CNCHESS - The Monitor - December 29th, 2020
- WHO: Learn from COVID Pandemic, It Wont be the Last - Voice of America - December 27th, 2020
- How 'The Flight Attendant' and 'The Queen's Gambit' Are the Same - GQ - December 27th, 2020
- Online shopping is here to stay in 2021: Refinitiv - Yahoo Money - December 27th, 2020
- Many Jews refrain from learning Torah on Christmas Eve and call it Nittel Nacht. Here's my family tradition to spread light. - JTA News - Jewish... - December 26th, 2020
- Global Chess Market Demand, Revenue, Trends, Profit Analysis and Landscape Outlook to 2026|| The House of Staunton, ChessSUA, CNCHESS, ChessBaron -... - December 26th, 2020
- The kings gambit: Viswanathan Anand enters a different phase of his career - Sportstar - December 26th, 2020
- 19 Calm Coffee Places In Beirut Where You Can Focus While Working - The961 - December 26th, 2020
- DeepMinds Latest AI Can Win Games Without Knowing the Rules - Beebom - December 26th, 2020
- Chess Table Market Size By Type, By Application, By Geography, By Top Companies And Forecast To 2027 - LionLowdown - December 26th, 2020
- Impact Of Covid 19 On Counter UAV Industry 2020 Market Challenges, Business Overview And Forecast Research Study 2026 - Factory Gate - December 23rd, 2020
- Bellamy Richardson The Williams Record - The Williams record - December 23rd, 2020
- Between the sacred and the secular - New Statesman - December 23rd, 2020
- In a winter of change, Eagles are learning that Jalen Hurts is no snowflake - NJ.com - December 22nd, 2020
- PhD grad uses math to explore the brain - ASU Now - December 22nd, 2020
- OPINION: Sometimes it's good to have a team - Arkansas Online - December 22nd, 2020
- Business is continuing its cloud migration. Train to become an Azure and AWS tech professional - The Next Web - December 22nd, 2020
- Staying On Top: How Chess Masters Study The Game ... - December 20th, 2020
- Struggling local entertainment venues: Its time for the state to show it CARES - Buffalo News - December 20th, 2020
- The best series and shows on Netflix in 2020 - RNZ - December 20th, 2020
- 21 Ways to Greater Well-Being in 2021 - Newswise - December 20th, 2020
- The Best Video Games of 2020 - The New Yorker - December 18th, 2020
- Memo to Blinken: Protect the brains of State Department employees - Federal News Network - December 18th, 2020
- Chadwick Boseman Gives His Final Performance in 'Ma Raineys Black Bottom', and It's Gut-Wrenching - Glamour - December 18th, 2020
- Chess Course for High Performance: Grandmaster Package - December 17th, 2020
- Reasons to study international studies and diplomacy - Modern Diplomacy - December 17th, 2020
- Global Chess Market Demand and Opportunities 2026|| Break Down by Top Companies, Countries, Applications, Challenges, Opportunities and Forecast -... - December 16th, 2020
- What is a 'Flow State' and How Can MTBers Get Into It More Often? - Singletracks.com - December 16th, 2020
- This is why you make bad decisions on the golf course (and how to fix it) - Golf.com - December 16th, 2020
- Author Sophie Cousens talks about her book, 'This Time Next Year' - Yahoo! Voices - December 16th, 2020
- The board games market by revenue is expected to grow at a CAGR of approx. 13% during the period 20212026 - GlobeNewswire - December 16th, 2020
- The Queen's Gambit: 10 Times Beth Is The Heroine Fans Needed - Screen Rant - December 15th, 2020
- Chelmsford High School October Students of the Month - Wicked Local - December 15th, 2020
- Struggling Museums Are Increasingly Relying on the Generosity of Artists to Convince Private Donors to Bail Them Out - artnet News - December 15th, 2020