Ohio State Buckeyes vs.
#3 Ohio State (11-1) vs. #2 Clemson(12-1)
Fiesta Bowl (Semi-Final)
December 31, 2016 7:00 PM - ESPN
University of Phoenix Stadium Glendale, AZ
The Drama: Win To Stay In
Ohio State and Clemson will each make their second College Football Playoff appearance in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Eve. If any place on the planet can be called Ohio Stadium 2.0 it's the Fiesta Bowl. The Buckeyes are 5-2 in Glendale and have played there six times since the 2002 National Championship going 5-1. Clemson gave Alabama everything they had and came up five points shy in last year’s national championship game. You might not find a better match-up this bowl season as both teams are equal in almost every way. It’s a New Year’s Eve showdown worthy of bringing in 2017.
The Buckeyes will win because: One Dimension
The Tiger running game is suspect and the Buckeyes can take advantage of this weakness to force Clemson to throw the ball. Mike Williams is probably the best wide receiver in the country and quarterback Deshaun Watson was a Heisman Trophy finalist so daring the Tigers to throw the ball would seem folly but cutting off the run game would allow the defensive backs to press the receivers causing mayhem and hopefully turnovers. Offensively, Ohio State will have had plenty of time to fix the late season short comings in the passing game. A strong, balanced attack heavy on the run will serve Ohio State better than a fast paced passing attack.
The Buckeyes will lose because: Quarterback Pressure
Ohio State has had great difficulties with the long ball when under pressure. Few teams can keep up with the Buckeye's running game but when it comes to throwing deep the Bucks usually come up short. Blame it all you want on the four new offensive linemen, J.T. Barrett's accuracy/arm-strength or the lack of a proven wide receiver but the fact that OSU has no deep threat allows opponents to blitz more often getting pressure on Barrett. Penn State and Michigan sacked Barrett a combined 14 times due to the lack of a reliable pass play of over 10 yards. Clemson is third in the country for sacks and tackles for loss so if the offensive coaching staff hasn't addressed this weakness in the passing game J.T. will be running for his life.
The spotlight is on: Mike Williams
The 6'3" junior wide receiver has 84 catches for 1171 yards and 10 touchdowns. Malik Hooker will clearly have his hands full.
“Water Cooler” Stat of the game: 2
Clemson's offense has given up nearly two turnovers per game while Ohio State's defense has caused an averaged of over two turnovers per game.
The Bottom line: Slobber Knocker
The last time these two teams met the Tigers defeated the Buckeyes 40-35 in the 2014 Orange Bowl. This year, with the questionable passing attack, Ohio State can't afford to get into a similar shootout with Clemson. The Bucks simply won't be able to keep up. OSU will have to dig in and play Tressel-ball where field position, ball control and clock management take precedence over a quick strike offense. Once again the Buckeye will rely on the defense to play lights out but the offense must be able to move the chains, sustain long drives and keep the Tiger defense on the field. 27 feels like the magic number OSU will need to score to beat Clemson. Anything short of that will put the Buckeyes on a plane back to Ohio.
Prediction: Clemson 37 Ohio State 23 (Final: Ohio State ?-?)