Ohio State vs. Clemson Preview
Intro – The 13-0 Buckeyes meet the 13-0 Clemson Tigers in the Valley of the Sun. Both teams have been dominant during the course of the season and both did have their lapses, Clemson early in the year vs. North Carolina and the Bucks struggled in the Big Ten Championship game versus Wisconsin (in the first half anyway).. Both teams are stacked with talent and are both pretty deep at the critical positions. I know it is cliché but this game will be won in the trenches. OSU has a slight edge and I mean slight! Two greatThe coaches pitted against each other in, Ryan Day is in his first year as the Head Coach at Ohio State, and Dabo Swinney who took over for Tommy Bowden midway through the 2008 season and now are the defending Champs. We know that both teams will have to get out of their comfort zone a little to win this game but restbe assured, it should come down to the final whistle.
Buckeye Offense – This record breaking unit for the BuckeyesBuckeye has withstood whatever the D’s have thrown at them. We can look at the numbers but they are staggering and can go out the window in this one. Justin Fields should be good to go as he has thrown for almost 3000 yards, 40 TDs and 67% completion clip with only 1 INT. JK had a monster year with 1829 yards from scrimmage and 200 in the pass game. Fields and Teague addthrow in another 1000 yards rushing. This all leads us to the healthy O Line. What I see if a group that is usually very big and talented, but this year they are playing with a “nasty” and the receivers are a huge help downfield. Last week, KJ Hill set the all-time career receptions mark beating David Boston and my guy Cris Carter. The receivers are all having good years and Hill, Olave and Victor have been the beneficiaries but, per our past, one guy a little down the list could be the GO-TO guy in the end be it Wilson, Mack, Ferrell, Ruckert or McCall. Justin needs to be on his game with the Clemson pass defense picking off 17 passes.
Keys: Don’t fix it if it isn’t broke. Rely on the O Line to pick up at least 3 yards. Keep the fundamentals in check. 3rd down conversions, field position, penalties, turnovers. Notice I didn’t say “time of possession” but with these two they can score at will and in seconds. Control the box and make the real time adjustments to what the Tigers are giving you. They probably have a trick play or two and just for the record, JK is left handed. He also needs to rush for 150 and hold on to the ball.
Buckeye Defense – This unit has been on a mission and of course it starts with The Beast Chase Young. The Tigers have talent all over the field so not chasing shadows will be important. Trevor Lawrence is huge. He has thrown for almost 4000 yards, 34 TDs and a 68% completion rate but 10 INTs and rushed for 400 yds and 7 TDs. He is a load; 6’6” 220 lbs and a great athlete. If they get to him, an arm tackle won’t do. Stick to your keys. The Tigers are known for throwing short passes to a receiver at full speed and picks up big yardage. They will start with the short quick passes to help the pass Pro and then try some shots deep if they see the safeties start to creep up. Adapting on the go will be important and Dabo will definitely have some tricks up his sleeve.
Keys – Patience will be the Bucks creed for the game. Wait for the play to develop before you act. Sure tackling all over the field is critical. The top two receivers are 6’4” 200+ are great athletes and have speed. RB Entienne is a load at 225 and big speed. No stupid late hits or trash talk. If you can’t get to Lawrence, be in his face and make sure he knows you are close. This will be the biggest challenge this D has faced all year.
Ohio State Special teams – It could all come down to this unit. Haubeil has missed 2 FGs but also made one from 55. P Christman has be consistent at 44 yds per and the coverage has been good. The weather won’t be an issue and expect some looks at some trickery but has to be there. I’m not going to say anything about our return game so hopefully I haven’t already put a hex on it. Stay Clean, no penalties, mishaps or blocks.
Clemson Offense – WOW! I have seen the Tigers on a number of occasions and they still have a lot of unleashed potential. It starts with Lawrence. When he is on, he gets rid of the ball in rhythm and on target. He keeps a wide base in the pocket and is soo big that he can withstand the first wave and still deliver a strike. Very impressive for a Soph. RB Entienne is low to the ground and very strong with a great burst. He is not afraid of contact and will deliver a lick on the side lines. Dixon will spell him with his 600 yds rushing. The OL is big and athletic but have had some depth issues as the next level is a step down. The receivers are almost unheralded but just because of the wealth of talent. Ross, Higgins, Overton and Ngata are all over 6’4” and around 200lbs, they are fast and very athletic. The DBs will have their hands full so expect and POI or two on 50/50 balls. The Tigers convert 47% on 3rd down but have had some issues with TOs.
Keys – Expect the Tigers to stick to what they know. Feed Entienne and get the short passing game going then open it up. TOs versus the Bucks will loom large and any score by the Bucks on D would be a game changer. They are a little penalty prone so if they don’t clean that up, they could struggle in 3rd and long consistently. Use the talent and huge receiver corps with short dumps and 50/50 balls. They feel they can win most of those and if not, get a PI. OC Tony Elliott will make some changes to help with the pass rush.
Clemson Defense – The Tigers have been known for an aggressive defense. This year is no different. LB Isaiah Simmons is their beast. 93 tackles. 14 TFLs, 7 sacks, 2 INTs and he is all over the field. LB Skalski is second on the team in tackles and this means that they DL is holding their own at the LOS. The DL are big space eaters and let the LBs and DBs to make the tackles. The D has 38 sacks and 17 INTs but what they do in the interior is squeeze the pocket making the QB roll out into the waiting arms of the secondary. S Tanner Muse leads the team with 4 INTs and both Kendrick and Wallace have taken them back to the house.
Keys – For the Tigers, they need to keep an eye on Fields. Three weeks of enhanced rehab on his MCL should be enough to make him aand problem. The Bucks will try to hit the edge with speed but should keep the middle in mind. Clemson needs to keep the penalties down and keep the Bucks on their toes. Protecting Lawrence is the biggest key because if he gets rattled, the timing and rhythm gets thrown off leading to mistakes. DC Brent Venables is known as a master defensive mind. His son plays DB in a reserve role (Swinney’s son is a WR). I think VenablesthinkVenables will put pressure on Justin and keep a SPY on him on third downs. They also need to tackle well and take chances as they are presented.
Clemson Special teams – This is where is can get a little dicey for Clemson. K Potter has missed 7 FGs with a long of 51. If he is not ON 3 points could be the difference and his lack of accuracy could make him take that one extra beat on a longer try that may get blocked. P Spiers has been consistent at 42 yds per with no blocked. He has not punted that often and the BucksBuck have blocked a couple.
Final Comments – This should turn out to be a drop dead barn burner. Both teams are very talented, deep, fast, big and very well coached. As I said, it all starts with the LOS for both teams. They both know they need to play a clean game but once in between the lines, it moves very fast. In the end, it will come down to one play, one injury, one turnover or one miss step. These teams are so evenly matched, it will be a long tug of war. The weather will be great, the fans will show up for both and the victor will go on the Game. I know many of you wanted to see the LSU match up first but if we can get past Clemson, stay healthy, meeting LSU with Joey would be Epic and a TV ratings dream.
Strap it up and let’s get it on!
Overall –Prediction – Ohio State 24 - 17 Clemson
Our condolences go out to the Ohioans stuck in Death Valley:
# 65 OG Matt Bockhorst – Cincinnati
#79 OL Jackson Carman – Fairfield
Pick the player you think will be the KEY to the Game (either side), email back to me and if you are correct (Game MVP) I’ll think of something cool for a trophy! Good Luck
- Check out the Central Ohio Chapter of the NFL Alumni Annual Golf Classic at FIRESTONE CC, August 10th, 2020
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