The #2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #3 Clemson Tigers is the big matchup everyone can’t wait to see on December 28th at 8 pm. Ohio State and Clemson have a history in the playoff era, and the last game did not end well for the Buckeyes. It was a shutout and a butt whooping as Urban Meyer had never experienced before. This year should be different as the teams are more evenly matched than they were the last time. This College Football Playoff preview will examine all the ins and outs of how either side can win this game.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney
Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney has been here before. He has made Clemson a powerhouse program, and they are competing for the National Championship every year now. They have won two of the last three titles and are going for their third in four years. Swinney has led this young Tigers team to another flawless season, but the one thing that is still unknown is how good are they really? They have yet to be tested by a big-time opponent this year.
The only real scare Clemson faced this year was against UNC, where they stopped a two-point conversion to win the game on the final play of the game. The ACC was very weak this year. The Tigers only faced two ranked teams. That was an early game against Texas A&M and the ACC Championship game against Virginia. Coach Swinney was able to keep his team motivated and blowout every opponent they faced.
Head Coach Ryan Day
Rookie Head Coach Ryan Day was taking over for an icon in the coaching world of college football, Urban Meyer. This Ohio State team may be one of the best all-time, and a lot of that credit goes to Day. He has kept this team motivated and focused all year long. They have come out every week and just dismantled most of their opponents. They faced adversity a few times, but some of it was self-inflicted, see the Penn State game.
The Justin Fields knee injury played a role in the start of the Big 10 Championship game, but they overcame that slow start and scored 27 unanswered points in the second half and beat the Badgers 34-21. Ryan Day will have his hands full matching up against Dabo because of the significant game experience he has. Coach Day has remained calm and focused on the field, even when the offense has struggled at times. This game will be Coach Day’s most significant test yet as he is facing the defending National Champions.
Tigers offense vs Buckeyes defense
The Clemson offense, which is led by Sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been a juggernaut ever since the close game against UNC. Trevor struggled with turnovers earlier in the year but has since turned it around and leads an offense scoring 46 points per game. Lawrence is having a terrific year with 3172 yards passing, 34 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
Travis Etienne leads the ground game with his explosiveness and homerun ability. He has rushed for 1500 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. The Tigers leading receiver is Tee Higgins with 13 touchdowns and 1082 yards. Clemson can hit the big play, an aspect of the game the Buckeyes will have to control.
The Buckeyes defense is only giving up 12 points per game. That places them in the top five for all of college football. They also boast two of the best defensive players in the country at their positions.
Chase Young has been one of the most dominant forces on defense this year. He broke the season record for sacks this year and was named a Heisman Trophy finalist.
The other key piece to this defense is a possible first-round pick, cornerback Jeff Okudah. Okudah is a physical, man to man type corner. He should have won the Jim Thorpe Award but was somehow beat out by Grant Delpit of LSU.
This game will be a battle of wills, and whoever wins the line of scrimmage should win this game.
Buckeyes offense vs Clemson defense
How is Justin Fields’ knee? The rest has done him good, but we will not honestly know until the game gets going.
The Buckeyes offense needs Fields to be as healthy as possible as his threat of running is critical. If Fields can be a run threat, this opens up J.K. Dobbins to blow past linebackers and gain chunk yards. With this being Field’s first year starting, he has been impressive with 40 touchdowns and only one interception.
Dobbins has been just as lethal this year with his 20 touchdowns and 1829 yards rushing. Besides the offensive line as a strength this year, the wide receiving corps is where the experience is.
Chris Olave leads this talented group with 799 yards and 11 touchdowns. You can’t forget about K.J. Hill, who became the leader in receptions for the school in the Michigan game.
This young, Clemson defense will have their hands full. The defensive line will need to create pressure as the offensive line of Ohio State has been giving up sacks. The Tigers defense has been very stingy with only giving up ten points per game. The ACC had a down year as it comes to having any team who could legitimately threaten Clemson.
Tyler Davis leads the defensive line with four and a half sacks and 37 tackles. In the secondary, Safety Tanner Muse is the leader in interceptions with four. Leading tackler Isaiah Simmons is the playmaker with a team-leading six sacks and 93 total tackles. Ohio State will need to account for Simmons as he is making all the big plays for this defense.
This game is about redemption for Ohio State and defending its championship for Clemson. Who will come out on top of this epic playoff game? And to think, this is only the Semifinal game. If there is any team that can beat or contend with Clemson, it is the Ohio State Buckeyes.
They have the defense to stop the running game and the best defensive end in college football. Clemson is an unproven team on defense, and Ryan Day and this offense will challenge them. Just because this Clemson has yet to face a team like the Buckeyes this year does not mean they will roll over and play dead. Dabo Swinney is one of the best coaches in the country and will have his team prepared for the moment. This contest has all the making of one of the best college football playoff games we have seen.
Prediction: Ohio State 38 Clemson 27
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