TEAMS: Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC) vs. Ohio State (12-1, 8-1 Big Ten)
TIME: January 3rd, 8:30 p.m. EST
This year’s edition of the Discover Orange Bowl features the Clemson Tigers and the Ohio State Buckeyes, two teams with high-powered offenses and electric quarterbacks. Clemson averages 40.2 points per game while Ohio State scores 46.3 points per game. Even though both teams began the season with national title aspirations, this is still a matchup that can make for a very entertaining football game.
Clemson has had a fantastic season. Their two losses were both to top 10 teams (Florida State and South Carolina). On offense, Clemson is led by dynamic quarterback Tajh Boyd and explosive wide receiver Sammy Watkins. If Boyd didn’t play in the same conference as Jameis Winston, he probably would’ve been named ACC Player of the Year for the second year in a row. This season, Boyd has 3,473 passing yards, 38 touchdowns (nine rushing) and nine interceptions. Watkins, who many believe will be one of the first wide receivers taken in the NFL Draft, has 1,237 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. With Ohio State’s top cornerback Bradley Roby unlikely to play in this game due to a knee injury, Watkins could exploit the Buckeyes’ suspect pass defense and have a big game. In the run game, Roderick McDowell has 956 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Tigers.
Clemson’s defense has given up 21.1 points per game this year, which is good for third best in the ACC. Junior defensive end Vic Beasley is a stud. The All-ACC first-team selection has racked up 19 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, six pass breakups and four forced fumbles. The Tiger linebacker corps is headlined by senior Spencer Shuey (89 tackles) and junior Stephone Anthony (78 tackles). The secondary has three players with at least three interceptions in Bashaud Breeland (four INT’s), Jayron Kearse (three INT’s) and Darius Robinson (three INT’s).
Ohio State came into the 2013 season as a heavy favorite to play for the national championship. After completing their second straight undefeated regular season under Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game and instead wound up in the Orange Bowl.
The Buckeyes boast the fourth highest-scoring offense in the country and the third best rushing attack with 317.5 rushing yards per game. The two guys that spearhead this ground game are senior running back Carlos Hyde (1,408 rush yards, 14 TD’s) and junior quarterback Braxton Miller (1,033 rush yards, 10 TD’s). One could argue that Miller is the best dual-threat quarterback in the nation, as he also has 1,860 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and five interceptions. His top targets are senior Corey “Philly” Brown (655 rec. yards, 10 TD’s) and junior Devin Smith (655 rec. yards, eight TD’s). This Ohio State offense can beat a defense a number of ways and it will be a huge challenge for Clemson’s offense to defend.
Defensively, the Buckeyes have struggled often this season. They had to replace nearly their entire starting front seven from last season and that was definitely exposed at times. Ohio State’s unquestioned leader on defense is junior linebacker Ryan Shazier. Shazier put up huge numbers this season with 135 tackles (23.5 tackles for loss), seven sacks, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles. Ohio State took a big hit when Noah Spence, their best pass rusher (7.5 sacks), was suspended for this game. With Spence out, junior Michael Bennett (seven sacks) and true freshman Joey Bosa (6.5 sacks) will anchor the defensive line. And with Roby most likely out, the Buckeye secondary will lean on senior C.J. Barnett (three INT’s) and junior Doran Grant (three INT’s).
Similar to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, a lot of people are questioning how motivated Ohio State will be to play in this game. Regardless, there should be some offensive fireworks in this one. Boyd will have a huge final game as a Tiger and Miller/Hyde will probably top 300 combined yards on the ground. Beasley and Shazier are the leaders and big time playmakers for their respective defense, so whichever one of those guys can make that game-changing play in the fourth quarter, that’s who’s going to win.
Score: Clemson 38 Ohio State 42