2016 Fiesta Bowl: Why Ohio State Will Beat Clemson

Sep 19, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell (left) during the second half versus the Northern Illinois Huskies at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 19, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell (left) during the second half versus the Northern Illinois Huskies at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Advantages Ohio State has over Clemson.

After defeating Virginia Tech in the ACC title game, Dabo Swinney’s Tigers (12-1) claimed the ACC title and received a bid to play in the College Football Playoff for the second straight year and face Ohio State. Led by junior dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson, who had a national championship record 478 total yards versus Alabama last season, the Tigers look to finish what they started a year ago, and to do it they’ll have to top Urban Meyers’ Buckeyes.

Speaking of the Buckeyes (11-1) their body of work is as impressive as anyone’s, and because of it, they were able make the playoff despite not winning the Big Ten title. Ohio State has wins versus eventual Big Twelve champion Oklahoma and Wisconsin on the road, and ‘That Team Up North’ at home, which was ranked No. 3 in the country at that time.

The last time these two teams met was in the 2014 Orange Bowl, and it was a high-scoring 40-35 Tigers win, as then-Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd lit up Ohio State’s suspect secondary. The game was sealed on a Braxton Miller-thrown interception with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter.

This year things are a bit different with both teams. Dabo Swinney’s squad is averaging more yards per game and more yards per play, and  Ohio State is fourth in the country in total defense, holding opponents to just 282.3 yards per game. It is also sixth in the country in turnovers gained (25), and third in interceptions (19). Offensively, Clemson is 13th in the country, averaging 505.7 yards per game, while Ohio State’s 479.5 yards per game ranks them 21st. The hidden stat is that Ohio State’s offense has had to face four of the country’s top 25 defenses (Michigan. Penn State, Wisconsin and Nebraska). Clemson’s hasn’t.

There are questions for both teams going into this game. For Clemson the question is, can the Watson-led Tigers finish the job this time around after falling to Alabama in the national championship game last season? Remember that the Tigers had the Crimson Tide on the ropes. The question for Ohio State is, what type of offense is going to show up for the Buckeyes? The team that put up 62 points against Nebraska, or the one that struggled in a near-upset to Michigan State?

When I evaluate this game, though, I think that Clemson has an advantage on offense, while Ohio State has an advantage on defense and coaching. Anyway, without further ado, here are five reasons why Ohio State will beat Clemson on Saturday.

5.) Ohio State’s Secondary

Although Ohio State’s secondary is young and there are new starters across the board (minus cornerback Gareon Conley) the Buckeyes’ secondary is tops in the country. The same could not be said for the 2013 team that got decimated by then-Clemson QB Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has been very turnover prone this year, throwing 15 interceptions in 13 games (1.15 INT’s per game). This will be the best secondary he has faced all year. The Buckeye defense has 19 interceptions in just twelve games (1.58 INT’s per game), and seven have been returned for touchdowns.

You do the math

Nov 26, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Curtis Samuel (4) scores the winning touchdown in the second overtime under pursuit from Michigan Wolverines cornerback Jourdan Lewis (26) at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 30-27 in double overtime.Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 26, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Curtis Samuel (4) scores the winning touchdown in the second overtime under pursuit from Michigan Wolverines cornerback Jourdan Lewis (26) at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 30-27 in double overtime.Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

4.) The Bucks are More Battle Tested 

Ohio State has wins versus eventual Big 12 champion Oklahoma AT Oklahoma, at Nebraska and at Wisconsin, and they also have a win at home versus ‘that team up north’. And, if not for a fluke blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown versus Penn State, the Bucks would have a win at Happy Valley versus the eventual Big Ten champs. Still, three wins versus current teams in the top ten.

The only noteworthy wins Clemson has is versus Louisville and Heisman trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson and at Florida State – teams that aren’t even in the top ten, and they have an ugly loss versus Pittsburgh.

barrett

Nov 29, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) warms up before the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

3.) The Comment Made By Clemson Defender Jadar Johnson

Remember way back when backup Oklahoma quarterback said that Ohio State had a “Basic defense” and that starting quarterback Baker Mayfield would “light them up”? You see how well that worked for the Sooners.

Clemson safety Jadar Johnson took a shot at the Buckeyes as well, only this time it was about Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett, saying, “We’ve definitely faced quarterbacks better than him”. You think that won’t motivate J.T. who’s easily one of the best dual-threat signal callers in college football?

Not only will that motivate Barrett, it will motivate what has been a rather maligned offensive line and all of Ohio State’s offense as well.

Sep 26, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5) celebrates his first quarter sack with teammate Tommy Schutt (90) versus the Western Michigan Broncos at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 38-12. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 26, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5) celebrates his first quarter sack with teammate Tommy Schutt (90) versus the Western Michigan Broncos at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 38-12. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

2.) Defense Wins Championships

The Buckeyes’ silver bullet defense is more than just a good secondary, the overall defense is ranked third in the nation, only allowing more yards per game than Michigan and Alabama. Sure, Clemson’s offense is explosive, but this is easily the best defense Clemson has faced all year, and defense is what wins championships.

Urban Meyer is putting together a major offensive line haul in the 2017 class. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Urban Meyer is putting together a major offensive line haul in the 2017 class. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

1.) Urban Meyer

There’s a reason why Urban Meyer’s 10-2 bowl record is the best of any coach who’s played in as many bowl games. He’s a master motivator, master strategist and he takes into consideration everything about preparing a football team for big games.

The only coach whose bowl record is anywhere close to Meyer’s really isn’t that close at all, and that’s Bobby Bowden who had a 21-10-1 bowl record. Aside from bowl success, since Meyer has been at Ohio State he is 16-3 versus ranked opponents. That’s quite incredible to say the very least.

The youngest team in all of college football will once again prove naysayers wrong.

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