Ohio State squares off against Clemson in a match up of BCS at-large selections in the Orange Bowl on Friday night. It’s expected that both sides will produce their fair share of points and yards. It’s unlikely that those tuning in will see the defensive ineptitude of the Chik-Fil-A or Fiesta bowls, but neither will anyone confuse this with a defensive slug-fest. Both teams have explosive offenses with experienced quarterbacks surrounded by talented play makers. On the other side of the ball both defenses have the ability to make big plays, but have also struggled at times throughout the season. This game will come down to which defense can come up with a stop or two in the second half.
And as a reminder, Orange Bowl tickets remain available if you’re looking to go to the game.
Ohio State On Offense
Clemson comes into this game ranked 3rd in the ACC in total defense and scoring defense. They also have one of the more dynamic defensive ends in the country in Vic Beasley. Beasley totaled 12 sacks (conference leading) on the year along with 19 tackles for loss. Beasley is a disruptive force that the Ohio State will have to account for on every snap. The strength of Clemson’s defense is in their pass defense. They allowed less than 200 yards per game over the season and forced nearly a 2-1 ratio of interceptions to touchdowns. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, the offense does not revolve around the pass.
Clemson’s rush defense finished 8th in the ACC this year at just over 150 yards per game. Their rush defense isn’t terrible, but it certainly isn’t anything the Buckeyes should worry about. Everyone knows the impressive rushing stats Ohio State put up this year under Myer’s “power spread” attack. The Buckeyes have rushed for over 300 yards per game this year and are led by the dynamic duo of Carlos Hyde, who brings the thunder and Braxton Miller, who brings the lightning. The rushing attack is a nightmare for any defense, but it all starts with slowing down Hyde. When Hyde gets rolling he is a bear to bring down and it causes the defense to leave their gaps in attempt to help tackle the powerful back. The gaps allow Braxton to pull the ball and gash the defense for big yards.
In order for Ohio State to be successful against Clemson they will need to lead with the run as they have done most of the year. It is important for Tom Herman to remember that Hyde, not Miller is the key to running game. In the B1G title game, Herman seemed to forget this as Hyde didn’t get anywhere near as many carries as he should have. Once Ohio State has established the run, it is important for Braxton to hit on his play-action passes, as the receivers will be open, they always are. It will be up to Miller to be decisive and accurate when the opportunities present themselves.
Even though the Buckeyes are a dominant running team, Clemson is still a top 15 team and it’s nearly impossible to run through a defense all game long without some balance. The quick hitting passes to Philly Brown, Evan Spence, and Jeff Heuerman need to be part of the game plan. I also would like to see Dontre Wilson on the field a little more often. The threat of his speed forces defenses to respect his placement and actions on the field, even if it is just as a decoy.
By the end of the game Ohio State shouldn’t have any problems putting up points on Clemson and I expect them to score in the low 40′s. Hopefully, it’ll be enough to win the game, but that will be up to the defense.
Ohio State On Defense
Ohio State’s defense has not been good this year. Unlike Meyer’s first season when the defense steadily improved over the course of the season, it has done the opposite this year. In addition to the sad performance of the Silver BBs, there will be some newcomers to the starting line up Friday Night.
Bradley Roby is out with a bone bruise to his knee and Noah Spence has been suspended for three games for taking improper dietary supplements. In addition to Roby and Spence’s replancements, Vonn Bell, the heralded 5-Star recruit is reportedly starting at safety in place of Corey “Pitt” Brown. Bell has seen limited action this year, mainly on special teams and in mop up duty, but it goes to show how displeased Meyer and Fickell are with their safety play that they would start him against one of the more dangerous passing attacks Ohio State has seen all year.
Clemson’s offense runs through senior QB Tajh Boyd. Clemson led the ACC in passing this past season and they should be chomping at the bit to get at this Ohio State secondary. Sammy Watkins is Boyd’s favorite target, for obvious reasons. Watkins is big, he is F-A-S-T, and he has very good hands. He can easily turn an eight-yard curl route into a 70 yard touchdown if the Buckeyes don’t stay disciplined with their spacing and tackling.
When Clemson gets in the red zone, Ohio State also needs to be aware of Boyd’s running ability. While Boyd didn’t even eclipse 300 yards rushing, he did have nine rushing touchdowns. Clemson’s offense can get bogged down in the red zone as they were 6th in the ACC in red zone scoring. Opponents that recognize that Clemson likes to use Boyd on designed QB runs in the red zone have done a decent job at holding them to field goals. In this game, if Ohio State can hold Clemson to field goals it is definitely a win for them.
Expect another long game of Ohio State fans cursing at the defense for not living up to expectations as Clemson should have no problem matching the Buckeyes score for score. The one hope for the Buckeyes to slow down Clemson is for the defensive line and Shazier to get pressure on Boyd and force him into some turnovers. He has been prone to turning the ball over against aggressive defenses, but it will be up the corners and safeties to stay disciplined or else Boyd will throw for 400+ yards.
This should be an incredibly entertaining game, and when the scoreboard reaches 0:00 I believe Meyer will improve on his 4-0 BCS bowl record. The loss of Spence and Roby hurts, but the Buckeyes are deep on the defensive line and the month of practice will hopefully have cured some of the mental errors the secondary committed at the end of the year. The Buckeyes make just enough stops and Clemson isn’t able to slow down the Miller/Hyde train as they roll to a 42-38 victory in the Orange Bowl.