When it comes to advice on how to beat Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Clemson, there is no better source than South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
At the SEC media days, Clowney infamously called out the Clemson signal-caller, saying that he can see the fear in his eyes when they play.
To close out this regular season, the star junior recorded one last sack on Boyd in a 31-17 win and afterward, laid out the blueprint to stopping the Clemson quarterback, which is essentially just rabid pressure.
So as the Ohio State Buckeyes look to silence Clemson's dangerous duo in the Orange Bowl, they'll likely take this advice from Clowney, per GamecocksOnline.com:
Every year we talk about the same thing when we talk about them. We watch them play other teams, nobody is really putting a lot of pressure on (Boyd). We know that we can get to him, contain him and add pressure. Once we hit him a few times he starts getting the jitters a little bit and starts throwing crazy balls. That's what he did tonight. We got the interceptions off those, and it worked out in our favor.
The stats back Clowney up, too. Clemson, which ranks No. 100 nationally in sacks allowed with 32, gave up five sacks in their 31-17 loss to South Carolina and four sacks in a 51-14 defeat to Florida State.
This is where Ryan Shazier, Noah Spence, Joey Bosa and Co. will come in for the Buckeyes. While the Ohio State defense has had its struggles this season, it hasn't been for lack of a pass rush.
OSU comes in at a tie for No. 1 in the nation with 40 total sacks.
Shazier recently lauded Clemson's athleticism, saying that OSU will look to match the Tigers as well as possible:
They’re a little bit scary with the things they can do because they have really great players. They have a lot of speed on their team, and a lot of guys can do a number of things with the ball in their hands.
We also have great players on defense, and we’ve just got to try to cover their athletes.
If that doesn't quite work, the Buckeyes can pull more advice from the Gamecocks. South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward explained how that pass rush and a tweaked coverage strategy come together to make a rough day for Boyd, which will help to nullify Clemson's offensive charge:
Well, you know, when you evaluate Tajh - Tajh is a really, really good quarterback. And the system that they use at Clemson helps him a lot because I think there's initial reads that he has that they're trying to get open to throw the ball to. We try to do a good job after the first couple series to try to take those reads away. We did it by playing a lot of zone coverages, instead of playing man.
I think it's easier to read when you play man and you know what the one-on-one situations are. And if we can make him hold the football a little bit, we feel like we have the chance to get to him. You know I think we hit him three times; we sacked him three times in the first half.
As for stopping Watkins, it'll take more than just strategy. Of course, the desired course of action would be to just prevent Boyd from putting the ball in his hands.
But even under extreme pressure, Boyd will make his plays, and he will usually be looking for Watkins.
The Buckeyes could just throw their best cover man, Bradley Roby, on the Clemson all-purpose star and hope for the best.
But even facing a lockdown corner, Watkins will find a way to break free and make plays. It'll just be a matter of how many big plays for how many yards OSU lets up.
Improved play at the safety position will help there, but the best strategy is to pressure Boyd and keep Watkins' targets at a minimum.
As talented as Watkins is, he can't win the game alone—but Boyd can from the quarterback position. So rather than wasting extra resources to stop Watkins, expect Ohio State to send the hordes after Boyd.
It worked for Florida State. It worked for South Carolina.
And if the Buckeyes can just think "Jadeveon Clowney" in the Orange Bowl, it'll work for them too.