Orange Bowl Preview: Clemson vs. Ohio State
Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC) vs. Ohio State (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten)
January 3, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Clemson Players to Watch:
Tajh Boyd, QB—This will be Boyd’s last game as a Clemson Tiger, and I’m sure he’ll want to leave his beloved fan base with a bang. Boyd has had an excellent career, throwing for 11,526 yards, 102 touchdowns and rushing for 25 more.
Sammy Watkins, WR—There might not be another receiver in today’s game with the same vertical ability as Watkins. He’s lightning quick and is always a threat to reach the end zone, whether it be on special teams or outside the hashes. If you’re Ohio State, you don’t want to see him in the open field.
Ohio State Players to Watch:
Braxton Miller, QB—If it weren’t for a knee injury that knocked him out for three games, we probably would have seen Miller in New York for the Heisman ceremony. He’s still progressing as a passer, but has 623 rushing yards and eight touchdowns from the ground over his last four games.
Carlos Hyde, RB—It’s hard to fathom, but even though he didn’t start until the fifth game of the season, Hyde still became Urban Meyer’s first 1,000-yard rusher. Hyde is averaging an insane 7.7 yards per carry and is ready to end his career in Columbus on a high note.
Clemson Key to Victory:
Throw the ball deep, and do it often. It’s an odd thing to say, but Ohio State has one of the worst secondary units in the collegiate, allowing 259.5 yards per game (No. 103). The Buckeyes couldn’t stop Michigan State’s Connor Cook from ripping their back seven to shreds, and have been susceptible to big pass plays all season long. Ohio State’s top pass rusher Noah Spence has been suspended for the Orange Bowl, and with Tajh Boyd’s cannon-like arm and the combination of Watkins’ and Martavis Bryant’s deep-threat abilities, Clemson should take repetitive shots downfield.
Ohio State Key to Victory:
Contain Sammy Watkins. This isn’t an easy task for anyone, as Watkins has been one of the best playmakers since the day he stepped foot on campus his freshman year. All-Big Ten cornerback Bradley Roby—if his knee allows him—will be given the challenge to keep Watkins in check. While Roby is the most talented defensive back on Ohio State’s roster and will be a high-round selection in May’s NFL draft, he’s been plagued with inconsistency and has struggled against higher-quality receivers, most notably Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis (and boy, was it bad). Clemson is undefeated (7-0) when Watkins goes for over 100 yards receiving, and there’s no doubt the Tigers will be attacking Roby’s side. It’ll be the biggest challenge of his career thus far.
Line: Ohio State (-2.5)
Prediction: I’m going to go ahead and set the over/under of plays over 20 yards at 25.5, but the only question is which side will have more than the other? Both offenses have made big play after big play all year and can light up the scoreboard, but both are only as good as their defense. Punts could be the same value as a turnover and field position should be treated like gold. I’m going to take Ohio State in this one, simply because I don’t think Clemson has the edge rushers to contain Braxton Miller and the linebackers to slow down Carlos Hyde.
Ohio State 40, Clemson 38
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