Sep 17, 2015; Louisville, KY, USA; Clemson Tigers running back Wayne Gallman (9) runs the ball against the Louisville Cardinals during the second half at Papa John
In three games, Clemson has given up six sacks against sub-par opponents (Wofford, Appalachian State and Louisville). Many of cited the line as being the weakest link of a Clemson team that was hyped as one of the best teams in the ACC prior to the start of the season. They haven’t allowed star quarterback Deshaun Watson to get off to his ideal start allowing opposing defenses to flush him out of the pocket and force bad passes down the field. Most notably against Louisville a couple of weeks ago, Watson struggled mightily, and the offensive line did little to support him in pass protection. Their one positive takeaway was their ability to push the ball on the ground helping the running backs accumulate over 200 yards rushing.
Going into the 2015 campaign, the Clemson line had a total of five starts among their starters outside of center Ryan Norton, who was on the preseason Rimington Trophy watch list. Their starting left tackle, Mitch Hyatt, is a true freshman, which further emphasizes the youth that this offensive line has. So, there isn’t much to go off of when scouting what this line has accomplished, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a talented bunch. Notre Dame has two first time starters on their offensive line Quentin Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, and they have turned out to be a couple of strong and effective linemen.
However, in their first true test against a top defense, I’m not sure that they’ll be able to handle the pressure as well as they did in their first two match ups against significantly less talented opponents. If Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder can hone in on calling complex blitz packages that can push Watson outside of the pocket, I think Notre Dame can halt the high-octane offense enough for the offense to outscore the Tigers.
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