The huge day is almost upon us and I am nearly complete with my preview series of the Ohio State versus Clemson matchup in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl. It was a blast getting back into the swing of things, but sadly, the College Football Season is drawing to a close. The thought of life without College Football makes me cringe, and the anticipation when awaiting the beginning of a new season will seem to drag on. Now I am certainly not chalking this contest up as a sure loss, just like the Penn State defeat, anything can happen, so I will stick to that until this next game is completed. The beauty of College Football is anyone can take down the big bad giant, at any given moment. The passion is unmatched and you could see it in each individual players eyes and in the way that they carry themselves on the field. Ohio State is already being counted out by everyone who is paid to talk about it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way than that. The Buckeyes thrive when playing the underdog role. Ohio State is favored by a mere field goal, but they are already being counted out before the game even begins. We will see what they do when the opening kickoff commences.
Each team has strengths and advantages in certain areas. Clemson has a dominant and stout Defensive Line that loves to get to the opposing Quarterbacks. Both teams, in my opinion, are equal when comparing the Line Backing Core’s, as they are both rangy, athletic, sure-tacklers, who can play from sideline to sideline. Ohio State has an advantage at Defensive Back and their defenders have shown a knack for making clutch plays during crunch time. The Silver Bullets have 19 total interceptions for the season, 3 of which were takeaways from Line Backers, so the Scarlet Curtain accounted for 16 of the 19 interceptions for the season, and 6 of the 7 interceptions for scores for the defense. They have the ability to flip the field and score on that end as well because they have 7 pick six’s for the season. Clemson’s Defensive Backs aren’t terrible either, as a defense they have 18 total interceptions, with 2 being taken back for scores. 14 of them were due to the Defensive Backs on their roster, 4 of their interceptions were from their Line Backers and their backs took both picks to the house. I will give the Buckeyes the slight edge, due to the production of their unit and their ability to turn the tide in the ball game, but for now, I will go over each key player.
Ryan Carter, CB:
Ryan Carter is a Redshirt Junior who will be most likely be matched up against Noah Brown during this contest. Clemson tends to blitz, a lot, and that leaves their Cornerbacks on islands with opposing pass catchers. Carter is listed as being 5-9, 180 lbs and he comes from Grayson, Georgia. Carter has 28 tackles for the season, with 18 of those tackles being solo tackles. He also has one interception, one sack and he has 5.5 tackles for loss for the season so far. Carter will be charged with locking down the outside receivers. Size is always a concern, but he plays up to his competition as he has tallied 7 total pass break-ups to date. He will contend with unproven and young receivers this game, who routinely struggle to get separation from defenders. The blitzing and the constant pressure will be leaned upon to prevent big splash plays from occurring as Carter will be tasked to shut his man down.
Cordrea Tankersley, CB:
Cordrea Tankersley is one of the Senior leader’s of the Defensive Backs as he looks to finish out his career at Clemson with another shot at the Championship, and hopefully against Alabama. They have to go through the Buckeyes prior to that, and with the media counting them in the Championship Game already, why not share the same mindset. Right? Tankersley is second on the team in interceptions with 3. He has made 43 tackles and 32 of them were solo tackles. He leads his team with 10 pass break ups and he has 6 tackles for losses. He will be shadowing Curtis Samuel for the majority of the game. His leadership will be needed as that, by no means is an easy assignment. He will need to be ready for whatever the Buckeyes throw at him because in the Pitt loss, he was not playing up to his ability and the team suffered their first and only defeat of the year.
Van Smith, FS:
Van Smith is the starting Free Safety for this Clemson squad replacing T.J. Green, who now plays in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts. He has big shoes to fill, but he has filled the void. Smith is listed as being 5-11, 195 lbs and he has grown up this past season. He leads the Defensive Backs in tackles with 87 and 59 of them were of the solo variety. He has 5 tackles for loss and 2 forced fumbles and pass break ups. He will be roaming the backfield with reckless abandon, to attempt to make plays on the inexperienced receivers that Ohio State has on their roster. Smith plays aggressively and tends to over pursue, but more often than not, he makes the play. He is rangy as he looks toward this matchup against the Buckeyes.
Jadar Johnson, SS:
Jadar Johnson is the starter at Strong Safety and he replaced Jayron Kearse after he left for the pros. Johnson is listed as 6-0, 210 lbs and he is the hammer on the defense and the other Senior on the roster. Johnson leads his team with 5 interceptions for the season and is second in tackles with 49 and 34 solo tackles. He has 1.5 tackles for loss with 7 pass break ups. He is the leader on the back end and he has a ton of confidence prior to this game as he has been talking about J.T. Barrett during media days. Although he is correct about Barrett’s lack of statistics in the throwing department, he cannot discount the fact that he is just as capable as the “better” Quarterbacks that he has faced this season. Lamar Jackson is a beast and I know this, and that is why I am not completely disagreeing with him, but to throw a Buckeye under the bus prior to the game? Think Oklahoma. But this should be a fun matchup to see how Barrett responds to the chatter. If he is able to find the time to make the correct throw, watch out.
Gareon Conley, CB:
Gareon Conley, from Massillon, Ohio was on the cusp of becoming a hated rival for the Buckeyes, but a last minute offer turned him toward the Scarlet and Gray, and the rest is history. Conley turned out to be a suitable replacement for Eli Apple after he left for the New York Giants. Conley is 6-0, 195 lbs and he is the one of the older members of this secondary being in his Junior season. Conley has 3 interceptions this season, 20 total tackles, 16 solo tackles and 8 pass break ups. He takes on the opposing offenses best receiver, which will be Mike Williams, who is a projected First Round lock in the upcoming draft. This will be one of the most anticipated matchups in this game as Williams is projected to go in the first round and Conley is floating around in the Late First Round to Second Round. With a good showing, I could see him shoot up draft boards prior to the combine, but that is assuming that he shuts down Williams during the game. Conley will looks to advance against a loaded receiving corps that can score at will.
Marshon Lattimore, CB:
Marshon Lattimore has finally beat the injuries to live up to the expectations from when he first set foot onto the campus. After lingering injuries prevented him from playing, he broke into the College Football scene after 2 years of waiting. It has been a sight to see as he is second on the team in total interceptions with 4 for the season. He brought one to the house against Tulsa to break the game wide-open for the Buckeyes. He could have had two, but a penalty erased one from existence, but he shows the playmaking ability with his speed and man to man skills, which will be needed against a loaded offense that Clemson possesses. Lattimore is also a sure tackler with 38 and 27 solo tackles. He has 9 pass break ups as he and Conley are usually placed on islands during games and they will look to shut down whoever they both face.
Damon Webb, FS:
Damon Webb, a player plucked from Michigan is the starting Free Safety at Ohio State who is replacing Vonn Bell. Webb is the smallest member of the secondary, but he plays with a lot of heart and fire. At 5-10, 195 lbs the Junior will look to shut down this talented Clemson Offense. Webb has 53 tackles for the season with 29 solo tackles and he has 2 tackles for a loss with an interception for a score and 3 pass break ups. He will be tasked with stopping the Tight End and the Slot Receivers during the game. Ward has the ability to tackle, but he often relies on big hits to dislodge the ball away from the receivers and he will need to wrap up this game. Coverage will be key as the Clemson Offense can put up points in a variety of ways. Discipline will be key in this matchup as he will face the most potent offense this season.
Malik Hooker, SS:
Malik Hooker is the star of this Ohio State Defense as he leads the team in interceptions with 6 and 3 of those went for touchdowns. Hooker, a Redshirt Sophomore will look to make plays against a dangerous offense that Clemson will attempt to unleash. Hooker will be one of the obstacles in their way, because he has shown his ability to make key, timely plays in the clutch. Hooker nearly left the Buckeyes after being unable to obtain a starting position, but family and the coaching staff made it happen and look what they have unleashed. Hooker was a three star recruit out of New Castle, Pennsylvania coming out of high school and he is one player where stars did not matter. Hooker is 6-2, 205 lbs and he is a threat on the field. He is the ball hawk of the secondary and he can do it all from sideline to sideline. Hooker has 67 tackles, 38 solo, 5 for loss, he has half a sack and 5 pass break ups. His stats aren’t gaudy in those categories, but he can hurt you in a variety of ways. He will hover around the field to make plays. Hopefully he could add to his stats at the end of the game.
Special Teams is important when fighting for field position. Both teams will look to unleash their respective Special Teams members when needed to flip the field and kick field goals and extra points. They, like everyone else, needs to bring their A Game and as we inch closer, their kicks and punts will play a role during this contest.
Greg Huegel, K:
Greg Huegel will be the primary kicker for the contest. Huegel is a Redshirt Sophomore who stands at 5-11, 195 lbs. He will be the primary kickoff man as well. He has 86 kickoffs for the season and 36 of them were touchbacks. He has kicked 17 field goals this season, making 13 of them for a 76.5% field goal success rate. For extra points, Huegel is 62 of 64 for a 96.9% success rate. This will be key in this game as every point matters and is of great importance.
Andy Teasdall, P:
Andy Teasdall is a Redshirt Senior who is looking to cap off his Clemson career on top of the College Football mountain, but he will need two wins to do it. The first battle to the top will be against Ohio State and he will be asked to pin the Ohio State Offense deep within their territory to unleash the hounds. Teasdall has 48 total punts for 1808 yards and he is averaging 37.67 yards per punt and 150.7 yards per game. Teasdall will try to pin J.T. Barrett deep the entire game to give his defense a chance to make plays.
Tyler Durbin, K:
Tyler Durbin, a former walk-on, earned his starting gig after Sean Nuernberger was injured. He has been quite the asset, but his most recent performance against Michigan before coming up clutch to force overtime was a much needed confidence booster for him. For the season Durbin is 17 for 19 with his two misses and last make coming in the overtime thriller in Columbus. Durbin hit 89.5% of his field goals and 63 out of 65 of his extra point attempts, which sits at 96.9%. Durbin is also in charge of kickoffs and out of 92 kickoffs this season, 35 of them were touchbacks for a total of 38.04%. He like the Clemson kicker, will be used to score whenever called upon to extend the lead or earn points to pull a little closer. Coach Meyer has been alongside him whenever he practices kicking field goals and he will need ice in his veins to keep up with this Clemson Offense.
Cameron Johnston, P:
Camerson Johnston is a Senior Punter from Australia who is also looking to cap off his Buckeye career on top of the College Football mountain, but Clemson will be a tough task with the Athletes that they have at every position. Ohio State has the same quality and quantity of athletes, but it makes it very hard to choose who would win. Johnston will be looked at to flip the field on Special Teams with his patented rugby style kick. He has been effective when utilized for punts. He has punted the ball 49 times for 2266 yards and he is averaging 46.24 per punt and 188.8 yards per game which is absurd. He has one rushing attempt, that if properly blocked, would’ve been enough for a fourth down conversion, but it was not meant to be. He will be needed to give the Buckeyes a chance on defense.