Record: 11-1 (8-1 Big Ten)
Offensive Ranking: 21
Defensive Ranking: 5
All-Americans (Based off of AP):
Pat Elflein – Center (1st team), Curtis Samuel – All-Purpose (1st team), Malik Hooker – Safety (1st team), Billy Price – Guard (2nd team), Raekwon McMillan – Linebacker (2nd team), Cameron Johnston (2nd team)
Biggest Wins of Season:
@ Oklahoma Sooners 45-24
@ Wisconsin Badgers 30-23 OT
vs. Michigan Wolverines 27-30 OT
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Clemson Tigers
Fiesta Bowl – National Championship Semi-final
University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, AZ)
7:00 pm ET – December 31st, 2016
Record: 12-1 (9-1 ACC)
Offensive Ranking: 13
Defensive Ranking: 8
All-Americans (Based off of AP):
Deshaun Watson – Quarterback (2nd team), Carlos Watkins – Defensive Line (2nd team), Christian Wilkins – Defense Line (3rd team), Ben Boulware – Linebacker (3rd team), Cordrea Tankersley – Corner (3rd team)
Biggest Wins of Season:
@ Auburn Tigers 19-13
vs. Louisville Cardinals 42-36
@ Virginia Tech Hokies 42-35
Ohio State’s Difference Making Players
Quarterback – #16
J.T. Barrett has finally received his shot at leading his Buckeyes into the College Football Playoff. After a gruesome ankle injury that ended his 2014 season, the Buckeyes went on to win the first college football playoff ever, with then backup Cardale Jones. Barrett needs to rise to the occasion and find yet another way to win games. He has struggled to throw the ball this year and does not have the elusive quickness that propelled him in 2014 but he is still one of the best in college football and must play like it on New Years Eve.
Running Back/Wide Receiver – #4
At the beginning of the season, Urban Meyer told the press that Curtis Samuel was one of the best players on the Buckeyes’ roster and he proved it this season. The Buckeyes’ X-factor is the closest thing to Percy Harvin that Meyer has seen since…well…Percy Harvin. He has provided a lift to Ohio State’s offense time and time again. Samuel can play any skill position on offense and Ohio State must find creative ways to get the ball in his hands.
Safety – #24
Malik Hooker has not only filled the hole left behind by Vonn Bell, but built on what was a great secondary a year ago. The first year starter and now 1st team All-American has recorded six interceptions this year and returned three of them to the house. The Clemson offense is one of the best and has one of the best receivers in the nation, Mike Williams. Malik will have the tough task of slowing down the Tiger offense and attempting to force Watson into a mistake.
Clemson’s Must Stop Players
Wide Receiver – #7
Mike Williams has nearly doubled his receiving yards from his previous two seasons this year and has been Watson’s surefire receiver in the end zone. After missing much of the 2015 season with a neck injury, Williams has bounced back to be one of the deadliest receivers in the FBS this year. The Buckeyes’ secondary is better than anything Clemson has seen this year and should be a good matchup against Clemson’s high powered aerial attack.
Defensive Line – #94
The senior from Mooresboro, NC has been the heart of Clemson’s defensive line this year. He remembers what was like to suffer through a loss to Alabama last year and is back for revenge but must get through the Buckeyes first. Recording 8.5 sacks this season, expect him in the backfield heavily on New Years Eve. The Buckeyes must at least contain Carlos Watkins, as well as the rest of the Clemson defensive line, if they want to see another bowl game in 2017.
Defensive Line – #42
Christian Wilkins emerged as one of the best defensive lineman in the nation this year as a sophomore and has been a big part of the Clemson defense. Sitting at 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds, Wilkins has surprising speed and can contribute in both the pass and rush defense. Although his 3.5 sacks does not wow statisticians, he is able to use his versatility to disrupt passing lanes while still making tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The Buckeyes will have to get the ball out quick to slow down Clemson’s elite front seven.
Keys to a Buckeyes’ Win
Establish Quick Passing Game
J.T. Barrett has struggled to throw the ball in the second half of the season and everyone and their grandma knows it. Meyer must establish some sort of comfort in the pocket for his quarterback and that starts with quick one step hitch passes out of gun. Expect Ohio State to run the ball heavily until it doesn’t work and run play action/read off of Clemson’s defensive line.
Win Turnover Battle
The Buckeyes’ offense in the second half of the season was incomparable to that of Clemson’s. The Buckeyes cannot afford to put their defense on the field due to careless mistakes. Ohio State has the ability to slow down Deshaun Watson and company but needs to steal possessions from their offense and not give the Tigers the ball right back.
Control Time of Possession
If their has been one thing that Ohio State has excelled at this year it would be their ability to bend and not break; Ohio State has managed to win every close game this season with the exception of one (special teams lapses against Penn St.). If the Buckeyes can control the time of possession and keep Deshaun Watson on the sidelines, they will have their best opportunity to steal a win away from Clemson.
Even "The Tiger" wants to be a Buckeye. #BeatClemson #GoBucks @11W @CollegeGameDay @espn @HOMAGE @elflein65 @EzekielElliott pic.twitter.com/Wi17s7SvWN
— Corey Greenblat (@corey_greenblat) December 27, 2016
GAME PREVIEW ANALYSIS
As most college students sit at home during winter break, Ohio State and Clemson will be gearing up for the biggest game of the season; the winner will receive a chance to square off for a national championship against the winner of Alabama vs. Washington (so…Alabama). The path that both teams took to get here however are unique.
Back in week 8, Ohio State walked off of the field as Penn State’s ‘white out’ ran across the field. Ohio State had just lost to the Nittany Lions and it appeared as if one of the best teams in the nation would be robbed of a college football playoff birth for a second straight season. The same happened for Clemson as they watched a Pittsburgh field goal go through the uprights with no time remaining, handing the Tigers a 43 – 42 loss in week 10. Both teams escaped close victories this season and many critics were questioning the actual strength of their roster.
Here we sit in week 14 as the Buckeyes gear up to travel to Glendale, Arizona to take on their newfound enemy, Clemson. Urban Meyer is looking for his fourth national championship appearance and second in scarlet and grey. With his generals, Raekwon McMillan and J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes are stout on both sides of the ball but has shown that they are still the young roster that many people labeled them at the beginning of the season. After escaping their rival game in overtime by a Curtis Samuel touchdown run, Ohio State has had a month to ready themselves for battle.
On the opposite sideline, Swinney is filled with energy and expects his team to live through him headed out of the University of Phoenix locker room this coming Saturday. Clemson was written off time and time again this season and after their loss to Pittsburgh, they were on the outside looking in. With some help, they are back in the College Football Playoff for a second straight year. Backed by a stout defensive front and All-American Deshaun Watson, Swinney only has to worry about the preparation that Meyer and his team have gone through.
Expect an all-out battle in Glendale on New Years Eve and if the party you are at wants to watch the ball drop before the final whistle blows, steal the remote because its going to be a good one.
Dabo Swinney vs. Urban Meyer
2014 Orange Bowl (Ohio State (12-1) vs. Clemson (10-2)
Final: 40 – 35 (Clemson)
Head coach Urban Meyer has only faced Dabo’s Clemson Tigers one time in his coaching career, and Clemson got the upper hand. Swinney is the only tally in the bowl loss column for Urban since joining the Ohio State program in 2012. With the steaks even higher, Meyer is looking to one up his opponent, advancing his team to the national championship on January 9th.
Coach’s Resumes (as Head Coach):
3 National Championships (Two w/ Florida, One w/ Ohio State): 2006, 2008, 2014
Coach of the Year 2004 (Utah)
Sports Illustrated Coach of the Decade 2009
First Ever College Football Playoff National Champion
ACC Coach of the Year 2015
Coach of the Year 2015
3 ACC Championships: 2009, 2016, 2016
College Football Playoff Birth 2015, 2016
As I prepare to take my team out west for the College Football Playoff, remember it was exactly one month ago when this happened. pic.twitter.com/szAjj5OV1T
— Fake Urban Meyer (@FakeUrban) December 26, 2016