We continue our journey through the bowl match ups involving Big Ten teams. We are now into the biggest of the big games with a look at Ohio State and Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, with the winner going on to play for the ultimate prize.
Ohio State is the first ever at-large team to make the four-team College Football Playoff. Clemson was expected to be here, but had an up and down season where it often played to the level of its competition. These are two of the most athletically gifted teams in the country as you’d expect, so there’s plenty of reasons to watch.
Here are five reasons to hit the “B” button, and watch the Playstation Fiesta Bowl:
— Uh, it’s the playoff …
There are only two games with the utmost of stakes on the line, and this would obviously be one of them. It goes without saying, but if you are interested in who wins the national championship, then you must tune into this game and the little contest between Alabama and Washington.
These are two of the best teams in the country, with nobody sitting out for sake of the NFL draft, and with no boycott or anything else silly that has been making the news rounds since the end of the regular season. It’s just two teams ready to put blood, sweat and tears on the line to advance for a shot at it all.
— The match up of two great quarterbacks?
Both J.T. Barrett and Deshaun Watson have been in the team picture for the Heisman for multiple seasons now. Both can make plays via multiple modes of transportation, and both are great leaders with a slew of wins under their belts.
And while neither got to hoist the Heisman because of either injury in previous years, or supreme feats of athletic endeavors by others, that doesn’t change the fact that these are two of the best college quarterbacks in the country.
Barrett is not as flashy, but always seems to make the right read and make those around him better. He’s crafty and tough. Watson can put a team on his back by throwing lasers or moving the chains on the ground when all else breaks down. Yes, this brand of football under center will be entertaining so set the DVR.
— The Clemson D-line versus Ohio State’s offensive-line?
This might be the match up that decides who advances to play in Tampa. Though OSU’s offensive line was a finalist for the Joe Moore Award that goes to the nation’s top offensive line, it has struggled mightily against physical and athletic fronts.
Penn State? Check. Michigan State? Double check. Michigan? Taco Charlton check, double-check, check.
Consider this one another one of those challenges. Clemson has a very athletic and quick defensive line much like those that have given the edge of Ohio State’s offensive line problems. To be blunt, Right tackle Isaiah Prince has struggle the most by allowing edge rushers to get around and to Barrett — forcing hurried passes and sacks.
Ohio State has to find a way to pass protect and keep Barrett clean to have a shot to make plays through the air. They’ll need it in this one, because a one-dimensional attack won’t get it done against the caliber of competition we’ll see with so much on the line.
— Curtis Samuel
In recent weeks, Ohio State’s talented H-back has gotten more and more involved. Call it necessity, or call it better game-planning and execution. Whatever the reason, the coaching staff has realized that Samuel has to get touches.
And while a lot of that has been out in space on jet sweeps and screens, he’s also been able to get behind defenses on multiple occasions down the field in the passing game. Frankly, he’s been THE main and really only consistent target able to get separation in the passing game.
The Buckeye offense clearly needs Barrett and Weber to have a good game, but Samuel is the game-changer that could mean the difference between winning and losing because of one key home run when it matters most.
— The Clemson wide receivers against the Ohio State secondary
Both of these teams are highly unlikely to be a victim of identity theft in this one. You dance with the one who brought you, and for Ohio State, its ball-hawking defense has been one of the main strengths of the team.
The scheme is relatively simple: Play man-to-man on the edge, rush four, and disguise the linebackers — alternating between run support and a drop in coverage. Oh, and sprinkle in the occasional blitz, but don’t go all fantastical to limit the big play.
That’s worked great so far because safety Malik Hooker has been able to roam and freelance his way to interceptions and big plays in support. However, Clemson’s wide-receivers may be the best unit OSU has faced this season.
Mike Williams is the main threat on the outside, but between tight end Jordan Leggett, and receivers Cain, Scott, McCloud and Renfro, there are multiple weapons. In fact, among them, Watson has connected for 37 touchdown passes. It is a deep and talented unit.
But here’s the rub; Watson has been charitable at times to opposing defenses, and the Buckeyes lead all of the FBS in interception return for touchdowns.
There will be plays made in the passing game, but whether it’s the offense or defense that wins the day is open to debate.