Saturday Spotlight- Fiesta Bowl
(3) Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1) at (2) Clemson Tigers (12-1)
Ohio State: For a good chunk of the year, we heard about the youth and the inexperience of this team and that was expected to happen. Let’s list everyone they lost from the team that was fresh off a national title. Braxton Miller is one. Ezekiel Elliott is off to a great start in the NFL, Joey Bosa is doing well and the same can be said for Eli Apple. Everyone that I just listed had some important roles to their 2015 team. They had a lot of youth this year, but when you have a coach as great as Urban Meyer, he will work with what he has around him and make the best decisions to help the team. J.T. Barrett has put together a fantastic season for the Buckeyes. We may all think he’s a running quarterback and he is, but he’s more than capable of throwing the ball down the field as he finished the regular season with 24 touchdown passes. The numbers sound good when you read them but the biggest concern is throwing the down. They don’t have any big play targets to get down the field unless you consider Curtis Samuel to be that top target. Outside of Samuel, they don’t have a true number two threat to complement him. On defense, they didn’t miss a beat after returning only three starters this fall. Greg Schiano was a great hire for them and he guided them to a season where they were ranked third nationally in total defense. They know all about big games and tonight is a huge game against a Clemson team with the itch to get back to the National Title game.
Clemson: As many of you know, I haven’t necessarily been sold on them from the get go this year and I have my reasons as to why I’m not. First, they simply didn’t look as strong this year as they did the year before and they really struggled to put teams away and as it always does, it caught up to them and we saw that when they were upset by Pittsburgh in November and two, Dabo Swinney was a little too cnservative in certain game situations and how it didn’t cost them more than one loss is mind-boggling. Their offense is still explosive and they received a huge boost when Mike Williams returned from a neck injury suffered in 2015. Let’s not also forget they still have one of the best players in the country in Deshaun Watson and they go as far as he takes them. Despite looking a little down at times, Clemson won the ACC title for the second straight year and here they are once again in the CFP this time as the two seed. From a defensive standpoint, the Tigers are still one of the best in the country. They may give up large chunks of yards here and there and over 30 points, but when they have to make a stop, they get one and they’ll bend, but they won’t break. Tonight, I expect to see them play with a very big chip on their shoulder as they will play in Arizona for the first time since falling short to Alabama in the title game in January.
Ohio State Player To Watch: Marcus Baugh– He can easily be that second option for Barrett in the passing game and he’s an x-factor in the passing game. Tight Ends as we all know create the most mismatches over the entire field and with Samuel expected to see a lot of different looks, Baugh will be targeted quite often.
Clemson Player To Watch: Dexter Lawrence– He’s a phenomenal run stopper that fights in the trenches to bring down the ballcarrier and he along with the rest of the Clemson defense will be in for a test as they try to stop Mike Weber.
Prediction: When the playoff match ups were announced, this was the battle that many of us were intrigued by the most. This has the makings to be an instant classic and this could be a game that comes down to the final two minutes or so. I like Ohio State in this one. Ohio State 38 Clemson 30