Who: The #2 Clemson Tigers versus The #3 Ohio State Buckeyes
What: College Football Playoff Semi Final, Playstation Fiesta Bowl
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
When: 7 p.m. ET on December 31, 2016
Game Day is here and with hours in between kickoff, I will ease my anxiety with doing one last article before the recap. In roughly 9 hours, the game will begin and I will take the time to talk about the matchups within the game because there are many juicy matchups between each unit for both teams. The magnifying glass will be placed on each of those units, regardless of which team wins out, in the end, this game will be used to analyze talent on both teams that are potential NFL Draft prospects if they declare either after or before the game. This game is viewed as the game to watch because the last team both of these teams met in the Orange Bowl two years ago, it was a shootout. This year looks to follow suit with a potent offense versus a stellar defense. Clemson’s Offense is lethal and Ohio State’s Defense is suffocating and this is guaranteed to impress no matter who wins and who loses.
Friends Turned Foes:
Urban Meyer and Dabo Swinney share a bond as they both grew as coaches. Coach Meyer has the edge with multiple championships and one of them came at the expense of his current team when he coached up at Florida. Coach Swinney on the other hand built Clemson into the monster that they are currently, and he is looking for another shot to prove his worth as a coach and as a team. Coach Swinney was playful during media day as he playfully mentioned Meyer’s book, constantly mentioning excerpts when given the chance. Coach Meyer on the other hand was dialed in and seemed distant and focused on the task at hand. Clemson dished Meyer one of the 5 losses during his tenure at Ohio State. He gave Meyer his first consecutive loss streak, after Meyer and the Buckeyes fell short in the Big Ten Championship Game. Is Meyer plotting his revenge? Will he have something in store for them? The doubters, who are assuming that Clemson will move on with little to no challenge from the Buckeyes? The mental chess match between Meyer and Swinney began when the Playoff field was announced. This is one of the friends turned foes battles.
J.T. Barrett versus Deshaun Watson will be the other friend versus foe matchup to focus your attention on. Barrett and Watson were good friends when they both served as counselors for an elite passing Camp. Their relationship has blossomed since as they shared the “see you in Arizona” pleasantries when discovering that their teams will go up against one another. This will be Watson’s pass-happy attack versus Barrett’s run heavy offense. Both Quarterbacks aren’t talking and both don’t have to with the body of work that they have created with their respective teams. Both teams will play fast and hard, both teams will be prepared for the kitchen sink at each other, both teams will ride the wave with their Quarterback. Both players are proven winners and they will look to display their value on the field.
The battle in the trenches will be another factor in the game. Ohio State has three new starters on the Offensive Line with Junior Jamarco Jones, True Freshman Michael Jordan and Sophomore Isaiah Prince, who has been the chink in the Slobs’ armor at Right Tackle. Prince will be the crux of if Ohio State is productive on offense and Jordan will also be tested early and often. Prince will face star Defensive Lineman and former Ohio State target, Christian Wilkins and Jordan faces another beast lineman and another former target, Dexter Lawrence. Wilkins is a quick twitch lineman, who flashes the speed and burst to blow past linemen and Lawrence has the bulk and outweighs all the Slobs at 340 lbs. He will be used to take double-teams to free up his companions. He is also a bully in the interior and the leaders for the Slobs will be tested and busy the entire game. Pat Elflein and Billy Price will look to stop the bleeding attempting to keep Barrett upright and untouched. It is easier said than done with the talent on Clemson’s D-Line.
Clemson’s has a stout Offensive Line and they are beyond beefed up as they average 310 lbs on every position with their Right Guard being the heaviest at 340 lbs. The Rushmen will face their toughest challenge of the year trying to reach Deshaun Watson in the backfield. Clemson boasts a Left Tackle and former Ohio State targer, Mitch Hyatt who has allowed one sack in his tenure at Clemson. This matchup will be another factor as the battle in the trenches looks to become another tough, but exciting matchup for both teams. The trench wars will be one of the highlights and the main attraction of the game due to Ohio State’s inability to protect the line line of scrimmage. With Prince struggling mightily, will he finally earn his star in College Football circles? Or will he fail once again? You will never know until the first couple of drives but it very intriguing and my heart hurts just thinking about what could go wrong and what could potentially happen.
Explosive Offense VS Stingy Defense:
Ohio State has one of the best secondaries in College Football and they will be needed to stop Clemson’s explosive offense. Ohio State has playmakers at every level on the defense and Clemson does too, but players like Malik Hooker is a scoring threat with Conley and Lattimore locking down their receivers. The explosive offense will be a problem as well because Clemson, like Ohio State has playmakers on offense, who can break the game wide open for Watson. This matchup focuses on WR’s Mike Williams, Artavis Scott, Hunter Renfrow, TE Jordan Leggett and RB Wayne Gallman matching up against Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore, Damon Arenette, Denzel Ward, Damon Webb and Malik Hooker. This will be another exciting matchup between a suffocating defense versus and crazy good offense. If this doesn’t get you as excited and paranoid as I currently am, you might be dead. Get a pulse because this could be the matchup that could decide who advances to the big dance. Ohio State collects athlete’s and playmakers, who add a different element to the defense. Their secondary is one of the best in taking the ball away and turning it into points. The Buckeyes have 7 TD’s for points and Hooker has 3 of them. Turnover’s will be key in this contest that could go either way.
Clemson initially opened up as a three point underdog, even as the higher seed. They feel slighted and they should because their playmakers will look to do some damage on the vaunted Ohio State Secondary who is known to shift the momentum during close games. Mike Williams is a dog and a playmaker who can also shift games in their favor. The rest of the playmakers who start and a few of their key reserves would also do the same. It is just a matter of protecting the ball and their Quarterback. It is a strength versus strength battle with both teams as they both look to advance forward. This will not be a cakewalk for either team. Ohio State’s Secondary will be one of the best that they have seen so far this season and likewise with Clemson’s Offense. Clemson will be the best offense that they have faced this season because the depth and talent at every position. This will be crazy to see both squads fighting to advance into the Championship Game. Talent versus talent for the glory.
The Ohio State Offense will lean on Curtis Samuel and the rest of Zone 6 to produce. Zone 6 has struggled mightily to get separation during games and that is one reason why J.T. Barrett’s production has been lacking a reliable and consistent receiving threat outside of Samuel. This will be an interesting factor and the pundits are expecting Clemson to put this one out of reach early, with no one giving the Buckeyes a shot with their lack of a passing threat. It is true that he hasn’t been required to throw it downfield, but when the running is so effective, why change what works. The Clemson Defense will key in on this fact as they look to shut down Ohio State’s run game early. The production for Mike Weber and friends, and Samuel will be needed to pull this one out. One of the Zone 6 members or a couple of them need to show their talent in order to win out. Binjimen Victor, K.J. Hill, Dontre Wilson, Parris Campbell and Marcus Baugh will be needed, badly.
On the other end, the Clemson Secondary will be leaned on to keep the Buckeyes contained. If Gallman struggles, then it’ll be a defensive battle and both teams are pretty good on offense and defense, it is just a matter of opportunity to make plays. That is all you could ask for. Both teams will look to cancel each other out and this will be the epic battle of the century. The strengths and weaknesses are obvious and well documented and it is up to every unit to produce or make play when needed to. This will be a crazy game filled with many momentum swings and it will be a good one. Everyone will be glued to their seats as we watch how the game unfolds. Are we in store for a blowout or another overtime dance with another well-coached contender. Who knows, but we will find out in a couple of hours.
So to conclude, this will be a fight from beginning to end. Both teams will swing for the fences for a chance at the title. Everything will be left out on the field after this one. One team will advance and the other will face their end to a magical season. For my prediction, I have Ohio State advancing after a hard fought victory. It will come down to the wire, whether in overtime or at the ending seconds of the game. This will be a defensive struggle with both teams struggling to get things going. Barrett does it again, 31-34 Buckeyes. The a member of the Ohio State Defense will turn the tide on a turnover. I don’t know who it’ll be and Clemson will be paying attention to where Hooker is lurking, essentially avoiding him. My guess is McMillan or Baker wreak havoc and Nick Bosa has a game in the Rushmen Package. A shootout will happen. Go Bucks!!!