Tigers to Face Massive Offensive Line Against Ohio State

12:52 PM, Dec 26, 2013   |    comments
Clemson Tigers tight end Stanton Seckinger (middle) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown. (Joshua S. Kelly-US PRESSWIRE)
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Greenville, SC (Mandrallius Robinson, Greenville Online)-Ohio State junior Braxton Miller is not a typical quarterback. He is a prototypical running back.

Miller stands at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds but seldom stands still.

He is speedy and elusive in the open field. He is sturdy and explosive in the trenches.

He has rushed for 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns on 153 carries this season. Three of those 10 touchdowns covered at least 35 yards.

"We haven't seen a guy like him. He's a running back. He's a legit 4.4 guy," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said, citing Miller's time in the 40-yard dash.

Yet, Miller cannot flash that 4.4 without a boost from a few 300s.

The average weight along Ohio State's starting offensive line is 310.2 pounds, nearly 30 pounds heavier than the average weight along Clemson's defensive front.

Ohio State center Corey Linsley stands at 6-foot-3, 297 pounds. Remarkably, he is the shortest and lightest among the Buckeyes' starting linemen. Each guard and tackle is at least 6-foot-5 and 308 pounds.

Behind those burly Buckeyes, Ohio State has averaged 317.5 rushing yards per game this season, the third highest rate in the Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Ohio State is the only FBS team that has averaged at least seven yards per carry.

Miller and Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde have combined for 2,441 yards. Only 30 FBS teams have managed a larger total.

Hyde leads the Big Ten Conference with 140.8 rushing yards per game. Miller is one of only four FBS quarterbacks who have averaged more than 90 per game.

"It's a school that's always attracted high level elite offensive linemen," Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said, "and you're seeing it right now with a veteran group of guys that can both move and can knock you off the ball and bloody your nose.

"They play with toughness. I admire them for that, running downhill and in crucial, crunch-time situations they're not trying to trick you. They're trying to out-power you and out-physical you. They've been really successful doing that."

Size does matter, but it certainly is not the lone component of dominance. The average weight of Wake Forest's line is 307 pounds, yet Wake is ranked 116th in the FBS in rushing.

This season, Clemson faced massive, physical offensive lines against Boston College (302.4 pounds), Florida State (317.4) and South Carolina (322.4). Clemson averaged nine tackles for loss and 3.3 sacks through those games.

Clemson leads the FBS with 9.4 tackles for loss per game. Conversely, Ohio State has allowed merely 3.5 tackles for loss per game, the third-lowest rate in the FBS.

"They're very sound up front," Venables said. "They're very physical. They've got athletic ability to handle movement and change of direction. You just don't see a ton of guys coming free.

"We're going to have to play really well physically, first and foremost. Probably our biggest challenge physically of the year, because they're physical on the perimeter and the quarterback's a physical runner. He's big and super fast."

To avoid seeing that 4.4 streaking down the sideline, Clemson must corral Miller in the backfield, during those brief moments when he is standing still.

To do so, the Tigers also must penetrate Ohio State's colossal front.

"These guys are by far the biggest I've seen on tape," Clemson defensive tackle DeShawn Williams said. "It's just one of those games where we know what's going to come. We just have to anchor down, play a physical ball game and just love it."

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