As the big day inches closer, we all as fans tend to get overly anxious for any material pertaining to our team. We are a little over 11 days away from the College Football Playoff Semi Final matchup with the Clemson Tigers, and it cannot come any sooner. Last time around, I wrote about the matchups at the Quarterback and the Running Back positions. This week, I will examine the Wide Receivers and the Tight Ends. Without these three positions, the Quarterbacks and the Running Backs will have a difficult time getting things going. This matchup will be determined by both teams ability to move the ball early and often, but it will lean on the Offensive Line and their ability to protect their signal caller and control the line of scrimmage.
Clemson has four able bodied and proven Wide Receivers that could make the big plays. That is what makes Clemson’s offense so potent and dangerous, and this will be Ohio State’s biggest and most difficult challenge to contain. They all contain the perfect blend of size, skill and speed, and with that, they will square off against one of the top defenses in the nation.
Mike Williams is the biggest playmaker that the Tigers have in their arsenal. He stands at 6-3 and 225 lbs and he is a threat whenever he steps on the field. He leads all receivers on the roster with 84 total catches for 1171 yards. Williams is averaging 13.9 yards per catch and he has a total of 10 receiving touchdowns. His longest catch for a score is 50-yards. Judging by the game logs for this year, he tends to disappear during some stretches of the game, but then he makes an impactful play that turns the tide for his team. He has the speed to separate from defenders, while being an able and willing lead blocker for his teammates. He will most likely draw Ohio State’s best Defensive Back Gareon Conley, due to his game breaking ability. Gareon Conley is no slouch either, and the matchup between the two will be one of many great matchups to watch, as both teams try to advance to the Championship Game against either Alabama or Washington.
Deon Cain is another playmaker. that when given the opportunity, he can hurt you with his speed and his playmaking ability. Cain is listed as 6-1, 210 lbs, but he plays fast all the time. For this season, he has racked up 621 yards and 9 total touchdowns. He has 32 catches and he is averaging 19.4 yards per catch, and he like Williams is a big play waiting to happen. His longest catch for a score is 65-yards as he had a field day against Syracuse. He ended that game with 5 catches for 125-yards and 2 touchdowns. Cain will also get the attention from another talented defender, Marshon Lattimore, who is Ohio State’s other starting Cornerback. Another enticing matchup between two more talented NFL prospects, and a lot is on the line in this game. Each team will look for an edge, in was is easily the most exciting matchup because it is unpredictable and NFL caliber players are spread out between both teams.
Artavis Scott isn’t too far behind Cain, statistic wise as he has 592-yards receiving and 5 touchdowns catches. The statistic that separates Cain and Scott is their catch numbers as Scott more than doubled Cain’s output with 71 catches for the season. Scott is averaging 8.3 yards per catch and has a long of 28-yards. Scott is listed as 5-10, 190 lbs, but he the ability to make tough catches in between defenders. His role will vary, but he will look for his opportunities to make a play and an impact. Scott will draw the Nickel Back in Denzel Ward. Ward tends to bust plays and this matchup certainly does not favor the Buckeyes, but it certainly favors Clemson. They will look to take advantage of the inexperience and Ward’s lack of consistency. We will just have to wait and see how things develop after bowl practice concludes. This will most likely be the matchup to watch and I have a sneaky suspicion that Scott will be used on jet sweeps and gadget plays because it is apparently Ohio State’s weakness of defense.
Trevion Thompson is an under-the-radar Wide Receiver that has potential to impact the game for Clemson. He doesn’t have the eye-popping stats as the other receiver, but he will make his presence felt when given an opportunity. He is 6-2, 200 lbs and he registered 11 receptions for 108-yards for a single touchdown. He is averaging 9.8 yards per catch and he has a long of 25-yards. For some reason, I think that he will be used in the jet sweep role as well. There isn’t that much film on him, so it is unknown at this point of what Clemson has planned for him or the Ohio State Defense. I am sure they will have a lot of back-up plans and contingencies, but for now, Thompson cannot be forgotten. On Defense, he will matchup with Ward, Arnette or depending on how bad things goes, another unknown playmaker can make the best out of his opportunity.
Curtis Samuel is the engine oil for the Ohio State Offense. He is the playmaker that will most likely see double-teams throughout the duration of the game because defenses would be stupid to leave him in single coverage. Samuel is listed as being 5-11, 197 lbs, but he play much bigger than he really is. Samuel accounts for a huge percentage of the Ohio State Offense. He has caught 65 passes for 822 yards and 7 touchdowns. He is averaging 12.6 yards per catch and has a long of 79-yards. He has rushed the ball a total of 91 times for 704 yards and 8 touchdowns and he is averaging 7.4 yards per attempt with a season long of 74 yards. He is the only consistent playmaker that the Buckeyes have on its roster and he is the only player who is able to consistently beat the coverage to find soft spots in the defense. J.T. Barrett will look early and often to get him involved, but that will be a battle because the playmakers on the front seven will look to blitz a ton to disrupt the rhythm. The Clemson Defensive Backs are constantly on islands, just like the Ohio State Defensive Backs, but a lot will lean on the ability to beat the blitz and make the correct pass in rhythm and while under duress. Clemson will look to force the ball away from Samuel.
Noah Brown, the hero from the Oklahoma game will be needed during this game, especially in the red zone. Brown is 6-2, 218 lbs and he is a monster in the red zone area. He isn’t as consistent as Samuel, but he plays an integral role within the offense. He is the strongest receiver on the roster and he has shown what he is capable of. He always fights for the ball and if he is not in the correct position, he will bat the ball away as a defender to give his Quarterback another shot to make up for it. Ever since the Oklahoma game, Brown has been an afterthought as he isn’t given as many opportunities as of late. Brown has 30 catches for 385 yards and 7 touchdowns. He is averaging 12.8 yards per catch and he has a long of 37 yards. He will look to regain the Oklahoma role and re-establish himself as a playmaker for the Buckeyes. The Clemson Defensive Backs aren’t as strong as the Buckeyes, but they are crafty defenders who will take the ball away when get a chance to. Brown will be look to beat them as J.T. Barrett evades the blitz.
Dontre Wilson is just like Brown as he has also been the forgotten man within the offensive game plan. Wilson is listed as being 5-10, 195 lbs and he can be relied upon to make timely catches during crunch time. We saw this against top-tier competition and he will make a bid to complete his collegiate career as a champion. Wilson has 27 catches for 352 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is averaging 13.0 yards per game and has a long of 43. He has been hampered by injuries this season, but he is finally healthy enough to be a part of the offensive attack that Urban Meyer and his staff are planning to implement against Clemson. Wilson used to be the primary punt returner, but his mistakes took those duties away from him. Wilson will have to find other ways to impact the game and make a big play. He needs to get open and hope that the blitz doesn’t take Barrett’s eyes off of him.
K.J. Hill has been coming on as of late as he is nearly tripled his output from last season. Hill is my sleeper for this game because he has dependable hands and he has shown flashes of becoming the playmaker that Barrett needs outside of Samuel, Brown and Wilson. He will be out there to move the chains during key 3rd downs. Hill has 17 catches for 254 yards and a touchdown. He is averaging 11.2 yards per catch and he has a season long of 47 yards. He has the ability to sneak past defenders, make tough catches and most importantly block along the perimeter. His stats may not seem like something right now, but I have a feeling he will have a huge day come game day. Samuel will try to maintain the numbers that he usually gets, but Hill will be there to move the chains.
The Tight End matchup is in favor of Clemson. They have a dynamic receiving threat who is capable of breaking the doors down and making plays. The Tight End for Clemson also is a huge part of the Tigers’ Offensive attack, but don’t discount the value of Ohio State’s Tight End. Recently, he has been given opportunities to break the mold to become a part of the Buckeye Offense. It is just a matter of completing the catches and making key conversions.
Jordan Leggett stands at 6-5, 260 lbs and he is a receiving threat at Tight End. He is Clemson’s second leading receiver with 38 catches for 637 yards and 7 touchdowns. He is averaging 16.8 yards per catch and he has a season long of 56 yards. A receiving Tight End who can break open and run the open field. He is a one of the many dangerous weapons that the Tigers have in their arsenal. The Silver Bullets will look to negate his impact, but it will be a tough matchup for them as they look to shut down at least one position of concern. Leggett is having the best season of his collegiate career as he looks to move up in draft boards.
Marcus Baugh certainly hasn’t lived up to his high school rankings as he was lost in the shuffle behind Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman. He came to Ohio State from Riverside, California and he has recently found a role within the offense. Although his numbers aren’t eye-popping, he has managed to reel in 24 catches for 269 yards and 2 scores. He is averaging 11.2 yards per catch and has a season long of 29 yards. He has been dinged up lately, but he has found a role making key catches for first downs and as a blocker. He will be shifted a lot and he will be asked to block incoming Line Backers coming on blitzes. He will be leaned upon on obvious passing plays because Samuel will likely be double or triple teamed constantly throughout the contest. Baugh will work within the seams and look to gain huge chunks of yardage. He has been known to make the difficult catches and he could also hurdle over unsuspecting defenders. He is a dual threat Tight End that needs to show up during game day. He needs to get the younger teammates ready for what could be a difficult matchup that isn’t in their favor.