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.
5 reasons to watch Ohio State vs. USC in the Cotton Bowl
Here we go with the New Years’ Six Bowls, and we’ve got a great one in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. It’s two old, familiar foes from the Pac-12 and Big Ten with Ohio State and USC doing battle just like seasons of bowls past.
The Rose Bowl is hosting a College Football Playoff game this year, and as luck would have it in a bit of irony, the two conferences normally locked into the matchup at the foot of the San Gabriel mountains have been left out of all the fun. So why not move the game to Big D and get a Rose Bowl going in the Jerry Dome?
Anytime these two match up, nostalgia and visions of historic games are conjured up. The College Football Playoff will get a lot of eyeballs, but if you’re looking for the next best bowl, this is it.
The End of an era
It seems like Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett should be going for a doctorate degree by now, but it really is only his fifth year in the program, going the distance as a redshirt. No. 16 has set a slew of Ohio State and Big Ten records, and he’ll be looking to finish his stellar career with yet another win.
Yeah he’s been the target of a ton of criticism with some outlandish expectations that nobody could live up to, but the fact remains that he’ll go down as the best quarterback in Ohio State history, if not the Big Ten. For the Buckeyes to win, he’ll have to be at his best with his arm, but also with his ability to bail the offense out on the ground like he’s done so many times before.
Yes Buckeye fans, Barrett is a supreme competitor, but he’s quite the conductor as well. Be careful what you wish for with the changing of the guard occurring after this one.
The other side of the coin?
Let’s not forget about USC quarterback Sam Darnold. There’s a good chance he’ll be declaring for the NFL draft after this one as a sure first rounder. He does it differently than his counterpart wearing the other colors. He’ll move around in the pocket to buy time, and would rather use his quick decisions and big arm to move the ball down the field.
The Trojan offense will be going against arguably the best and most athletically gifted defensive front it has all year, and Darnold would love nothing more than to show NFL scouts that he can be the best player on a field full of high draft picks.
Far too often, turnovers have plagued his ability to really keep things cookin’ in 2017, but when he’s on, opposing defenses are often left with the notion of just trying to contain the big play potential. This is a classic battle of quarterbacks.
— College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) December 3, 2017
Ohio State feels that it should be in the College Football Playoff, but truth be known, USC also had a case to make. While it would be easy for both teams to show a lack of interest, the good money is on both of these teams coming out with intentions on showing the CFP Committee that it got things wrong.
That’s what you get when these two old rivals from different parts of the country face off.
Two SEC teams in, and not a single one from two of the most tradition rich Power Five conferences? There’s no way that sits well with anyone in the heart of this great country of ours, or out on the West Coast.
It’ll be the Pac-12 champ versus the Big Ten champ, and the winner will lay claim to the best team left out of the playoff. It’s time to show everyone who should have been in the playoff instead of a non-conference champion from an SEC that was so bad it fired what seems like half the coaches it lugged into 2017.
The Ohio State defensive line vs. the USC offense
USC totes the nation’s No. 24 offensive attack. Ohio State can lay claim to being the No. 8 ranked defense in the country. Something has to give right? When the Trojans are humming, they have a balanced attack with Darnold making plays down the field, and Ronald Jones II getting some lanes to run through on the ground.
The offensive line for USC has given up more pressures and sacks this year than 2016, yet the run blocking has been fairly consistent and productive. Meanwhile, the OSU defense laid an egg against the likes of Iowa and Oklahoma, but it has more often than not been able to make teams one-dimensional by almost completely shutting down the likes of running backs Saquon Barkley (Penn State) and Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin).
USC can’t win the game by putting it solely in Darnold’s hands, and Ohio State will have an issue pulling this one out if it can’t contain the talents of Jones on the ground.
The Buckeye running game vs. the Trojan defense
For all the talk and buzz about the two quarterbacks, barring a barrage of turnovers or special teams’ snafus, this game will be won by the team that wins the ground game. You can take that to the bank.
We’ve already talked about the USC side of things, and now it’s time to turn our attention to the nations’ 15th ranked rushing attack. Whether it be Barrett on QB keepers, or the tandem of Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins out of the backfield on hand-offs, OSU will begin and end the game plan with trying to establish things on the ground first and foremost.
Lately Ohio State has found its identity as a spread power team by wearing the opposition down, then being able to capitalize through the air. It’s been a recipe for success, and the offense has to be licking its chops getting ready to go against a Trojan defense that ranks No. 56 against the run.
The USC defense must hold up better than it has to date to have a chance Friday night.
Who: Ohio State (11-2) vs. USC (11-2)
When: 8:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 29 (ESPN)
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Urban Meyer smells conspiracy over JT Barrett injury
Urban Meyer believes a pre-game injury to JT Barrett was the work of a deliberate act.
Everyone knows that Ohio State and Michigan have a storied and heated rivalry. But, just how far does the rivalry go? According to OSU head coach Urban Meyer, it goes to the point of cameramen injuring the opposing quarterback on purpose.
Meyer unleashed on the topic in his post-game press conference.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said J.T. Barrett was injured by a camera on the sideline. “Too many damn people on the sideline. I’m so angry right now.”
— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) November 25, 2017
Meyer went on to call for an “all-out investigation” in to how it happened.
“Someone on your frickin’ sideline and now he hurts your quarterback,” Meyer said. “I’ll find out who that was.”
Here’s everything (a furious) Urban Meyer said about J.T. Barrett’s pregame knee injury. He says there’s an “all-out investigation” into finding out which cameraman is responsible. #OhioState #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/C1KsFxzYiU
— Erik Elken (@ErikFOX45Now) November 25, 2017
For his part, JT Barrett didn’t see it as malicious or something that happened on purpose to injure him.
Barrett explains injury pic.twitter.com/l9G5nfqC6a
— Ari Wasserman (@AriWasserman) November 25, 2017
Barrett also insisted he would be ready to go for the Buckeyes tilt with Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game next Saturday.
While that sentiment is nice, the reality of his injury may be a much larger determining factor in whether or not he will play.
But, OSU should have plenty of faith in freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins, as he completed 6 of 7 passes for 94 yards and three carries for 24 yards in the 31-20 win over Michigan.
With Meyer ready to go on the hunt for “who did it,” this is just another twist and turn in a long-standing feud between the two most heated rivals in the Big Ten. Stay tuned for what is likely to be a big topic all week long.
Nebraska vs. Ohio State: Can The Buckeyes Continue Their March In Lincoln?
When: Sat. Oct. 14; 7:30 pm ET
Where: Lincoln, NE; Memorial Stadium (90,000)
TV: Fox Sports 1
All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 4-1
Last Meeting: Ohio State won 62-3 last year
Line: Ohio State (-24)
Is this finally a more formidable opponent that will show us exactly what direction the compass is pointed for an improved Ohio State team? You’d have to be the most cynical of observers to disregard the development that has occurred with this Buckeye team after the rather unassuming loss at the hands of Oklahoma, but just how far has the team come?
It’s been hard to tell with games against the likes of Army, UNLV, Maryland and Rutgers, but maybe — just maybe — this is a wee-bit stiffer of a test on the road against a team with a historical pedigree like the ‘Huskers.
But let’s not kid ourselves here. Though Nebraska has its place in historical college football lore, this team has been far from that. The defense has been suspect, the offensive line a work in progress, and the decision making at quarterback questionable.
Still, this is the chance to play a game in a hostile environment at night. Wisconsin was able to pass the same test in Lincoln with flying colors, and if we want to compare the two, this could be a chance to do so with still plenty of games to play.
Of course, if Nebraska can pull off the upset, all bets are off.
1 Burning Question: Can the Buckeye passing game travel?
There’s life in the passing game for Ohio State, but the resistance has been little more than wet tissue paper against teams with no where near the depth, athletic ability and pedigree of the Bucks. And, it has been at home for all but Maryland.
So here we go with J.T Barrett and company taking that much-maligned passing game on the road, and into an environment that is sure to be a step up from what he has faced over the last four weeks.
In order for Ohio State to be a contender in the Big Ten, as well as nationally, that passing game can’t just be for the home crowd, but has to be able to be a threat against much better opponents, on the road, and in tough circumstances. This isn’t the toughest it’ll face, but it does at least provide a gauge of things past and present for this year.
2 Key Stats:
4 and 10: That’s where OSU ranks in scoring offense and scoring defense in the entire country.
Its the only team in the Big Ten that can say that, and only Alabama and Washington are in that group across this great nation of ours. For all the hand-wringing and teeth gnashing going on in Columbus, the stats are beginning to show where they have under Urban Meyer. We’ll see where it all goes once the season plays out, but Nebraska by comparison is 77th and 73rd respectfully.
Nebraska will need to find some way to turn that stat on its head if it has any designs of staying close, let alone pulling off the shocker. It’s a tall order, but it is Nebraska and there’s that chance that the ‘Huskers rise up and put some pride on the line.
57: It’s the amount of tackles for loss Ohio State’s defense has for the season — tops in the country.
Yeah we’re staying with the Ohio State defense here. The bushel of tackles for loss go hand-in-hand with the deep and talented defensive line the Buckeyes come at teams in force with. It’ll be imperative for Nebraska to put together a game plan that can get the ball out of the hands of Tanner Lee faster than the rush can get there.
With the issues on the O-line in combination with a D-line that would like to eat it for lunch, this could be a disaster in waiting. Lee already has already thrown three pick-sixes on the season. Could the watch be on for yet another? By the way, guess what team is right there with Ohio State in tackles for loss? Yep, Northern Illinois, which had two pick-sixes and beat Nebraska in Memorial Stadium.
3 Key Players:
Tanner Lee, QB (Nebraska): The quarterback for Nebraska has to play lights out. There was a ton of hype surrounding the transfer from Tulane, but so far he’s not lived up to it — in fact he’s been miles away. It’s not all been on him with the issues surrounding the O-Line, but things have to turn around if Nebraska has any designs of making a bowl this year. Yes, I said making a bowl. That is no certainty with the schedule and development of this team that is still to occur.
Devine Ozigbo, RB (Nebraska): But it can’t all be on Lee. Big Red will need a running game as well. It doesn’t have to go for 200 on the ground or anything, but there has to be at least a threat of getting chunks the old fashioned way. If we haven’t stated it already, OSU’s D-line is deep, and the only way to wear it down some is to keep the pressure on to some extent with down-hill runs. If not, the athletes will pin their ears back and target Lee time after time — after time.
Parris Campbell, WR (Ohio State): You figure OSU will get yards on the ground with Barrett, Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins doing their thing, but everyone’s still looking for consistency and staying power in the passing game. That consistency comes from the emergence of a go-to guy at wide receiver, and over the past few weeks, that guy has been Campbell more often than not. He’s third in the Big Ten in yards receiving, but he needs to limit the drops and continue to step forward as a dynamic weapon Barrett can look to when the team needs a big play in third and long situations. That should be tested against Nebraska at times.
Ohio State 42, Nebraska 20
In another year this game would be closer. Nebraska just has not shown anything it can hang its hat on this year to expect the game to be close. And against offenses in the same stratosphere as Ohio State it has given up about 40 points per contest (Oregon and Wisconsin). You can expect the same type of output here — unless the ghosts of past forge their way into the Lincoln night.
Top 25 Player in the Big Ten for 2017: No’s 15-11
It is almost time for pads to start popping and helmets to start cracking together…and that means football season is right around the corner. Here at talking10 it also means the release of our annual Big Ten Preseason Top 25 Players list.
So far, we have unveiled the first ten players for the 2017 season. We now continue our annual countdown of the best the Big Ten has to offer according to our staff.
No. 15 — L.J. Scott, RB (Michigan State)
2016 Season Stats: 994 yards rushing on 184 carries (5.4 ypc), 6 TDs rushing, 147 yards receiving, 1 TD
Best Game: vs. Ohio State (160 yards on 19 rushes (6.1 ypc), 1 TD, 2 REC for 76 yards, 1TD)
Everyone associated with Michigan State has been waiting for a breakout year from Scott. The 6-1, 231 lb. junior shunned the likes of Ohio State, Penn State, and Alabama to play for Mark Dantonio and the Spartans. He’s shown flashes of his potential, coming to play against his home school Ohio State and almost willing his team to a huge upset. However, the team needs more consistency from him.
Scott uses his blend of size and speed to run between the tackles and then break away once in the second level. He can also catch passes out of the backfield when called upon, and has shown an ability to be clutch at times.
He was voted third team All-Big Ten last year, and is listed on the Maxwell and Doak Walker award watch-lists in the preseason. Look for him to have a break-out year in 2017, and for the Spartans to rebound from a miserable 2016 campaign.
No. 14 — Wilton Speight, QB (Michigan)
2016 Season Stats: 2,538 passing yards, 204 for 331 (61.6%), 18 TDs, 7 INTs, 1 TD rushing
Best Game: vs. Maryland (362 yards passing on 19 for 24 (79.2%), 2 TDS passing, 1 TD rushing)
Speight didn’t wow anyone with his numbers last year, but that’s not what the coaching staff asked him to do. He fits the definition of steady game manager, but he is more than that, and needs to be more than that this year.
No. 3 has the size at 6-6, 243 lbs. to see over defenders, and has the arm to stand tall in the pocket and make almost any throw in the book. He is your prototypical NFL pocket passer and a perfect fit for what Jim Harbaugh likes to do on offense. He may even wear khakis on his off days.
For his efforts last year, Speight earned third team All-Big Ten, and was a semi-finalist for the Davey O’Brien Award that goes to the nation’s best quarterback.
For 2017, he is on the Davey O’Brien and Maxwell Award watch lists — that is, if he starts. According to Harbaugh, he is tied for No. 1 on the depth chart (if any of you believe that).
Wilton Speight is "tied for first" in Michigan QB battle. What's next? https://t.co/nMmOxpsIug
— Bill Bender (@BillBender92) July 26, 2017
No. 13 — Rodney Smith, RB (Minnesota)
2016 Season Stats: 1,158 yards rushing on 240 carries (4.8 ypc), 16 TDs, 23 REC for 188 yards, 8 kickoff returns for 263 yards and 1 TD
Best Game: vs. Purdue (153 yards on 24 rushes (6.4 ypc), 3 TDs, 2 rec. for 10 yards)
Minnesota may have a two-headed monster at running back with Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks, but it’s Smith that can strike quickly and leave defenders grasping at air. He did a little bit of everything for the Gophers last year, and with Brooks sidelined at times because of injury, he was the main option on the offense.
Smith has enough strength to run between the tackles, but what sets him apart is his explosiveness in the open field. He’s a little more shifty than Brooks, and he’s the one defensive coordinators game plan against when trying to contain the Gopher offense. He put up over 1,000 yards last year, and he’s ready to do even more in 2017.
He was third team All-Big Ten last year and is on the Doak Walker Award watch-list to start the 2017 season.
No. 12 — Nick Bosa, DE (Ohio State)
2016 Season Stats: played in 13 games, tallied 29 tackles, 5.0 sacks, and 7.0 TFLs
Best Game: vs. Rutgers (4 tackles, 1 sack)
Bosa came to Ohio State as a consensus five-star recruit and a ton of hype. Part of that is because of his older brother’s accomplishments, and part of it is because he is that much of a beast. While he didn’t get as much playing time as a freshman because of an injury suffered his senior year of high school, when he was in there, it was noticeable. The coaching staff began inserting him more and more as the season wore on.
He’s listed as a defensive end, but has also moved down the line during pass rush scenarios to get four speed rushers in the game. He consistently pushes his man into the backfield as a disruptive force, and should be quicker and more powerful a year removed from getting the strength all the way back in his legs.
Maybe he never quite lives up to what his older brother did, but he has all the tools to be that good — and maybe more — if he stays healthy.
He was recognized as a freshman All-American last year, and is listed on watch list for the Bednarik award given annually to the best defensive player in college football.
If you want a breakout superstar defensive performer in 2017, Bosa could be at the top of the list.
No. 11 — Mike Weber, RB (Ohio State)
2016 Season Stats: 1,096 yards rushing on 182 carries (6.0 ypc.), 9 TDs, 23 REC for 91 yards
Best Game: vs. Rutgers (144 yards on 14 carries (10.3 ypc), 1 TD, REC for 3 yards)
There aren’t too many freshman that go for over 1,000 yards in a season at Ohio State. It’s a very short list in fact. You have Robert Smith in 1990, Maurice Clarett in 2002, and now Mr. Weber last year.
Perhaps its because he’s attempting to fill the big shoes of Ezekiel Elliott, but Weber got little publicity for doing something that’s only been done two other times at a place like Ohio State.
At 5-10, 210 lbs., Weber has a low center of gravity that makes him hard to bring down with arm tackles and glancing blows. You have to wrap him up. He may not have the speed of an Elliott, but has enough in the toolbox to break through the second level of defenders.
You can expect his development to continue in his second year of full duty, and you can also expect the coaching staff to trust him with even more carries in 2017. It’s Ohio State, so the tailback will always be an important factor in moving the chains and scoring points.
He was the freshman of the year in the league for 2016, and appears on the 2017 watch lists for both the Maxwell and Doak Walker Awards.