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Quarterback battle takes center stage at Orange Bowl

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MIAMI, Fla. - While the Sooners and the Tigers are two different teams, they have one thing in common: outstanding quarterbacks.

By the end of the year, both teams' quarterbacks were being talked about as contenders for the Heisman Trophy.

Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield was not a finalist for the trophy but is now a first-team All-American.

Clemson is led by Heisman trophy finalist Deshaun Watson.

If not contained, either quarterback could wreak havoc on the opponent's defense.

"We've got do a great job on the quarterback run game, then contain him. When he pulls the ball down and he's trying to throw it, he can make some great plays when he pulls the ball down to run as well. So we've got to do a great job staying in front of him," OU head coach Bob Stoops said

"You know, Mayfield he's a tough guy. He's not a very big guy, but he is strong, especially with his lower body, really difficult to tackle. You see a lot of people that you think have him, but they don't have him," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.

This season, Mayfield has completed 243 out of 354 pass attempts with only five interceptions.

In all, he’s passed for 3,389 yards and 35 touchdowns, earning him an average of 282 yards per game.

"We can't let him hit us with the ball fade. We've just got to make sure we contain the ball at all times. The kid is fast, unbelievable when you watch him on film. We've got to be on edge every time," said Shaq Lawson, defensive end for Clemson.

On the other hand, the sophomore quarterback at Clemson led his team to an undefeated record this season.

"He's one of the top players in the country. He played for an undefeated team this year. To keep him contained, everybody has got to do their job. We've got to make more plays on him than he makes on us," said Dominique Alexander, OU linebacker.

This season, Deshaun Watson passed for 3,512 yards, scoring 30 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.

"I would definitely say that he's in his own lane. He's really shown that he's in his own lane. He's great at what he does, especially at that sophomore level. The closest guy to him is Baker. I feel like Baker is a little different, but this guy, Deshaun Watson, he's like a running back at the quarterback position," said Charles Tapper, OU defensive end. "We've been stopping the run almost every game, so if he tries to run the ball we're going to apply the pressure and get after him and hit him up a little bit, make him reconsider running the ball."

"It's on them. They're going to have to scheme and try to contain me, but I've still got a job to do. Either way, if I'm outside the pocket or in the pocket, I've got to do my job. We just have to see what happens, and they have their strategy and we have ours," Watson said. "I feel like I'm dangerous either way. I would say, I didn't throw 3,500 yards for no reason, and they weren't always outside the pocket."

The quarterbacks have not been able to escape the comparisons leading up to the Orange Bowl.

"Any time you have a guy who can run and pass, it makes it tough. You look at our quarterback, Baker, that's what makes him so dangerous because you can't keep him in the pocket. If he gets out of the pocket, he can extend the play so much. He can make a big play happen, and that's what he's able to do with his feet and his arm," said Alexander.

"They have a great quarterback and we have a great quarterback. The games come down to players making plays, and their players got to make plays and our players got to make plays," said Kevin Dodd, Clemson defensive end.

"I think Deshaun is really the only one that compares to each other. Both of them are explosive, great players. You can pick your poison with either one of them. You can't go wrong. I just feel like Deshaun makes our team better, and he makes their team better, and you can win with either one of them," Tankersley said.

The battle of the quarterbacks will take center stage at the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. (ET.)

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