Preview: No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Clemson

By Kyle Rowland on January 3, 2014 at 9:15a
Ohio State Buckeyes #7 Ohio State 12-1, 8-0 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 8:30 PM ET - ESPN —— Sun Life Stadium Miami Gardens, FL —— [TICKETS] Clemson Tigers #12 Clemson 10-2, 7-1 ACC Roster | Schedule

The 1978 Gator Bowl has been rehashed thousands of times, and that’s just in the month-long buildup to this season’s Orange Bowl. The much lesser told story is that of Ohio State’s only venture to Miami for the postseason. It came two years prior to Woody Hayes’ infamous punch to Charlie Bauman.

Ohio State entered the final week of the 1976 regular season in familiar territory – needing a win over Michigan to advance to the Rose Bowl. But the Buckeyes suffered one of their worst defeats in decades to the Wolverines, losing 22-0. Unlike previous years, though, it wasn’t Rose Bowl or bust for the Big Ten.

The famed 10-10 tie in 1973 between the archrivals sparked sweeping changes for bowl games. Instead of sending one team from the Big Ten to Pasadena, the conference decided to open up other games to teams who didn’t win the league title. Thus, Ohio State was selected to play in the 1977 Orange Bowl.

There was considerable hype surrounding the game since it was the Buckeyes’ first bowl game that wasn’t the Rose. The opponent – 8-3 Colorado – only added to the intrigue. All that excitement was quickly hushed on the Ohio State side after the Buffaloes built an early 10-0 lead. But the Buckeyes would roar back and score 27 unanswered points to win 27-10.

Rod Gerald missed the final four regular season games with a back injury, but returned for the Orange Bowl to rush for 81 yards and a touchdown. He and kicker Tom Skladany were chosen as players of the game. 

It would be another 34 years before Ohio State returned to South Florida, when it lost to Miami at Sun Life Stadium, site of Friday night’s Orange Bowl. The Buckeyes are 2-10 all-time in the state of Florida, with eight consecutive losses.

Opponent Breakdown

The game may or may not be decided by Clemson’s passing game and Ohio State’s secondary, but it’s certainly the match up that will receive the most attention. Under head coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris, the Tigers have developed into one of the highest scoring teams in the country.

It helps when you have Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins at your disposal. The quarterback-wide receiver combination has totaled 4,710 yards through the air and 39 touchdowns. Clemson ranks 12th nationally in passing yards with 329 per game. Watkins has caught 10 passes of 30 yards or more, which adds up to almost one each game. Twice this season, he’s hauled in a pass that exceeded 90 yards, making the Tiger offense the lone unit in the country to accomplish such a feat.

You know Boyd has been dreaming about playing this Ohio State secondary.

But it isn’t all Watkins, all the time. Clemson had a school-record 13 different receivers catch a touchdown pass this season. Martavis Bryant (39 catches, 800 yards, five touchdowns) and Adam Humphries (41 catches, 483 yards, two touchdowns) are also attention-getters. Without Bradley Roby, they could receive more care than usual.

Boyd isn’t a true dual-threat per se, though he has tallied 273 yards rushing on 134 carries. The rest of the Tiger rushing attack is average. As a team, they’re in the middle of the country – 62nd – when it comes to yards per game with 172.7. Senior running back Roderick McDowell needs 44 yards in the Orange Bowl to reach the magic number of 1,000. He’s chewing up more than five yards per carry. 

“They’re very good at what they do,” Meyer said. “It’s not just covering, but it’s getting them on the ground because the skilled positions at Clemson are as good as anybody in America.”

Just as Ohio State’s defense contains holes (i.e. pass defense, Noah Spence), so does Clemson’s defensive unit. Stopping the run is the biggest stain, as the Tigers allow more than 150 yards per game. They rank 49th in that category but rise to 17th in scoring defense (21 points) and 23rd in total defense (351 yards).

Pass defense was solid for 10 games. The two where major issues surfaced happened to be losses to Florida State and South Carolina. Against the Seminoles, Clemson gave up 444 yards and three passing touchdowns to Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Through 12 games, the Tigers sit inside the top 15 in passing yards allowed (197.8) and rank eighth in third-down conversions (32 percent).

Another problem in losses was Clemson’s propensity at turning the ball over, which it did a combined 10 times in two losses this season. In their 10 wins, the Tigers were plus-13 in turnover margin.

“That ball is 12 ounces of gold, man. When you put it on the ground, it affects everything,” Swinney said. “It affects momentum. It affects field position. It’s sometimes very hard to overcome.”

One note of interest, Boyd’s backup is Dublin Coffman graduate Cole Stoudt. In eight games this season, Stoudt has only thrown 12 incomplete passes. He’s 47 of 59 with 415 yards passing, five touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Buckeye Breakdown


Ohio State’s one-time strength and program hallmark – defense – remains a constant talking point. Can they get to Boyd without Spence? Can anyone cover Watkins with Roby out? The questions will be answered, and the results could be negative.

The Buckeyes are already surrendering 362 yards of offense per game, including 259.5 through the air. That number put them at 105th in the nation. The past two games featured the low point. Of course, that could change after Friday’s Orange Bowl.

If you go back four games, Ohio State’s allowed a combined 1,363 yards passing and 11 touchdowns. The Buckeyes have only intercepted three passes as opposing quarterbacks completed 63.6 percent of their passes during that same stretch.

“Pass defense, we didn’t rate very high, but we won a bunch of games,” Meyer said. “We weren’t up to standard and it hasn't been up to standard for a while. So you have to look at scheme, you have to look at development, you have to look at personnel. That's what I'm doing right now. It's certainly not what we expect. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Luke Fickell. He's a very unselfish coach, a very good coach and we're going to get this thing fixed.”

Can the holes be plugged before the Orange Bowl? Coaches had four weeks to prepare, but the Silver Bullets also lost two of its best defenders. A coach left, too, and Meyer said the search occupies a lot of his time, adding that a home-run hire is needed.

Fickell’s doing the best he can in a situation that isn’t necessarily ripe for positive results. Ohio State will start six players on defense that did not start in the season-opening win over Buffalo. But the ups and downs still show more high moments when you dig through the stats. The Buckeyes rank 21st in scoring defense and 30th in total defense, numbers that most head coaches and defensive coordinators would be satisfied with.

But the vibe around the Orange Bowl almost screams exhibition due to the abundance of confusion and mystery surrounding Ohio State.

“It’s a chance to go compete. Whether it’s checkers or ping pong,  we’re going to try to win the game,” Meyer said. “Our job every time we keep score is to win. It’s the mentality we try to create within our program. Whether it’s the Orange Bowl, whether it’s the eighth game of the season, we’re trying to win a game.”

How it Plays Out

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The obstacles in Ohio State’s way for the Orange Bowl are many and significant. But the coaching edge could be the Buckeyes’ biggest advantage. A loss in the Big Ten Championship Game doesn’t change the fact that Meyer is one of the top big-game coaches in football. One of his many accomplishments is an unblemished BCS record – 4-0.

It’s clear offenses – or is it defenses? – will steal the show. Miller and Boyd can light up the scoreboard as much as any quarterbacks in the country. The two complementary pieces – Carlos Hyde and Watkins – are possibly the best at their positions, making it a don’t-go-to-the-restroom type of game. Get up at your own peril.

In evenly matched games, turnovers often decide the winner and loser. One look at that stat gives Ohio State an overwhelming advantage over Clemson. The Tigers losses in recent years have all related to turnovers. But it’s not just that; good teams are the ones forcing the turnovers. Spence or no Spence, Ohio State can be opportunistic. One hit on Boyd could be all the Buckeyes need.



Comments Show All Comments

BuckeyeChief's picture

 On the way to the commissary to buy wings and candy buckeye ingrediants! 

"2014 National with it!!!"

Defiance J's picture

Don't forget the beverages.

BierStube's picture


"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

Posterchild's picture

This matchup scares the living shit out of me.
OSU 52
Clemson 49

SavannahBuck's picture

Agreed. I hate to say it, but i'm switching your score. I hope the defense proves me wrong. Nothing would make me happier than to eat crow tomorrow, but I don't see this defense getting more than 2 or 3 stops against Clemson.

Posterchild's picture

This is going to be an ugly game. I'm holding out hope that our offense can prevail in a shootout. Our defense will look horrific, there's just is no way around it. Our offense is good enough, and balanced enough to win this game in spite of our defense. I think Meyer would rather keep the defense off the field by running the ball with Hyde 25+ times, so the game will likely be lower scoring. But then again, our defense has surprised us in games past, albeit not against anyone near as good offensively as Clemson.

jamesrbrown322's picture

Right there with you...OSU needs to score early. Hoping Brax plays his heart out! Clemson will load box to stop Hyde. The game all comes down to two things: Can Brax complete enough intermediate passes to keep Clemson honest on D, and can the OSU DBs contain Clemson's receivers?
I am hoping the answers are both yes to the above questions. I am seeing a monster game from Bosa, Barnett, and Shazier (including his first INT), being enough...hopefully.
Anyone know the prevailing spread on the game currenty?

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

NitroBuck's picture

Can you imagine the howling from SEC country if:
1.  The Buckeyes beat Clemson?
2.  FSU beats Auburn?
3.  MSU and OSU finish at #2 & #3 in the final polls?
Let's get the party started tonight!
Go Bucks!

Ferio.  Tego.

jamesrbrown322's picture

Dear Lord, let us all hope this happens...
To which SEC will say, yea but we did go 2-1 against the BigTen, and "well, our teams only care about national championships, so bowls are meaningless. Did we mention that in the most meaningful games, bowls, OSU has never officially beaten an SEC team?"
Ahh..selective arguments, classic in SEC Country.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

Barnsey69's picture

Checked out my hall-pass, and I am ready to have a testosteroned fueled evening that will include a lot of bourbon and our final BCS victory...
Go Bucks!

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

OSUBias's picture

Since none of the BCS games have gone according to expectations, I'm predicting a 24-19 win. Low scoring, defense rules the day, sloppy offense on both sides, turnovers. That would be in keeping with the theme of the last few BCS games, plus I'd enjoy it.

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

Buckeye1004's picture

I know this sounds crazy but:
I think the young guys do well replacing Spence and our secondary
I think Hyde and Miller gash the Clemson defense all night long
I think Miller goes 300/ 3 TD,  with 100yds Rushing and 1 TD
I think Hyde get 150/2 TD's. 
Ohio State 48
Clemson 17
I can't explain it, but it's a GUT thing!  Go Buckeyes!

OSUBias's picture

I'm sending you a celebratory bottle of booze if your gut is remotely accurate

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

MichaelJ721984's picture

My gut is saying the same... Can I have some booze too?!?!?

Michigan sucks.

OSUFlash's picture

We couldn't stop a predictable Michigan or MSU team when we were at full strength. I see it more like Boyd slices us up early and often on the way to a 45 - 27 victory. The fire Fickell (or insert any name you want) threads continue for weeks to come.
It's gonna be a tossing, turning and sleepless night for us fans tonight. Hopefully mirror lake is frozen solid.


OSUBias's picture

Ah, hello buzz kill. You arrived early in the day today.

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

OSUFlash's picture

:) You're welcome.


chicago12's picture

So far only underdogs have won the BCS games this year. It's time to change that. We are favored by 3 points. I will take it. I don't know why, I am going with my gut feeling  and say we will win by more than 10 points today. Our defense somehow will play better than Clemson's defense.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

I'll say that the defense will have a stretch or two where they do play well, and that'll be enough.
OSU 45, Clemson 34

Class of 2010.

Furious George 27's picture

Brown is not listed as a starter... So that is already an improvement on the defense.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

okiebuck's picture

Cannot underestimate the value of the bowl practices for the Buckeyes. Last night was a prime example; the difference in Oklahoma QB, Trevor Knight was night and day. I'm optimistic that our defense will be better tonight then it ha been in a while. Go Bucks!!

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

CincyBuckeye04's picture

Totally agree with this. There's a reason bowl practices are brought up by the coaches alot as being beneficial. I think they find a way to fix the scheme and taylor it to the Clemson Offense. They will get some seasoning for the D-backs that will have been tested constantly in practice by one of the most dynamic offenses in the country. Cautiously optimistic about this game.

bdegroff's picture

I do hope Reeves and Grant have learned to turn their heads and look for the ball while it is in flight. I don't understand what the DB coach is teaching them to do while in man coverage. But, running down the field with your hands in the air is not proper man coverage technique. A proper back pedal would be a good start. Turning your hips towards the receiver would be a nice way to follow. Then watching the receivers head/eyes looking for the ball, then the DB following suit and making a play on the ball. I would like to see that happen. 
Playing man coverage against Watkins worries me. I do not believe Reeves or Grant has the speed to keep up with Watkins. Playing zone opens up to many holes in the defense allowing Boyd to carve up the D.
I believe there are positives. Lots of reps, healing time, and adjustments have been made. They've had 4 weeks to figure this out. Losing Spence sucks. However, there is a reason Meyer recruits the way he does on the D-line. For situations like this. Hopefully Washington, Bennet, and Bosa can get solid pressure on Boyd. I think you spy Boyd with either Shazier, or you send heavy pressure up the middle and keep contain with the D-ends. Allowing Boyd to break contain will kill the Bucks.
Offensively, Hyde needs more than 18 carries... Miller will have to prove he can throw the ball. I am hoping he is given the run/pass option. Not the "wing it 40 yards down field" passing option. Read the D, if they're crashing the box, throw it to the receiver that stayed on the line, allowing him to make a defender miss and getting 6 - 8 yards. I remember seeing the Bucks do this a lot during the season. Allowing Miller to get in a groove. It should be used this evening. Oh, and the Bucks should use Wilson much more on O. Game changing speed should always be utilized. Oh, tight ends would also be a welcome change.
In the end, I am very skeptical. I am hoping for a really good game. I choose not to make a guess at what the score will be. I am hoping the defense shows up and plays a respectable game. I hope to watch Hyde get 25+ carries, and hope Miller is not allowed to throw it anymore than 20 yards down field.

st pete bch buckeye's picture

Clemson turns It over 6 times like they did vs south carolina this game gets real ugly.  

wyatt's picture

105th in the nation? 

ATXbucknut's picture
Jason Gruber's picture

I can't wait to see this kid in Scarlet and Grey!!!

"You win with people." Woody Hayes

"If winning isn't everything, why do we keep score?" Vince Lombardi

"¯\_(ツ)_/¯" Joey Bosa

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

I have all the faith in the world for Urban's ability to win games through game planning and motivation of players!  I see a very pissed off Buckeye team who are even more annoyed at hearing how overrated they are and will lose to Clemson!  I see both Braxton and El Guapo having monumental games and the defense steps up  to make some vital stops - Buckeyes win in the end. 

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

allbucksallthetime's picture

Bowl practices and games give a team one last chance to define their legacy and set a course for next year.  It's also the perfect time for a budding 'star' on "D" to emerge.  Go Bucks!

jamesrbrown322's picture

I keep thinking that perhaps the DBs will accept the challenge and rise to the occasion on a big stage. Maybe Vonn Bell's coming out party...could be Mike Doss 2.0!

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

Dougger's picture

it seems every time people expect points, the game becomes a defensive one. I hope Miller exposes them with his legs and has a nice long ball going, and Hyde just owns the clock. I will not be useful at work this evening. Lets go bucks.

I like football

Jason Gruber's picture

This is an early situation I dream of:
We win the toss and defer. Touchback. Defense rises to the occasion and comes up with a three and out, including a sack by Bosa. Decent punt returned 10 yards to the 40. Play action pass to Philly for a huge gain. El Guapo finishes it off with a quick score. We go up 7-0 early. Hit them in the mouth. Kickoff returned to the 37. First snap, Boyd drops back, sacked by Shazier causes a fumble. Buckeyes ball. Xbrax runs for 6. Extra point puts us up 14-0 and Clemson wilts under the pressure. Buckeyes win in a shootout from there 48-35.

"You win with people." Woody Hayes

"If winning isn't everything, why do we keep score?" Vince Lombardi

"¯\_(ツ)_/¯" Joey Bosa

Drew's picture

Great write up, Kyle.
I too believe this is coming down to the Turnover Battle.
These are 2 very good teams. Clemson's D and SpTeams are underrated. And both their Lines. This is a NC caliber team as is OSU. Great matchup. 
We will be improved. I have no doubt. Great stuff in pass and run on Offense
Defense won't be a miracle improvement - but enough to win IF we win the TO Battle.
SpTeams will be something to watch from both teams! We need to win the big play battle there as well.
I figured 48-31 but who knows. Pull away with Turnovers in the 2nd Half. We need at least 4-2 TO win.
Could be a classic!
1.More passing balance to set up huge running
1. Withers leaving so hopefully Fickell defense - more unity/direction.
2. This leads to simplified more effective schemes that aren't so transparent and/or discombobulated.
3. A month to iron out the fundamentals in a more unified, simple philosophy (hopefully) so to be aggressive.
4. We need to hold on to the TURNOVERS. We are Due!
Should be big plays on both sides. We need to make more!
TIME TO SEE IT! I think we will.
This game is a Toss Up where anything can happen. Blowouts for either side or a Classic with last second heroics from either Boyd or Miller. Whoever wins needs to win the..
TURNOVER BATTLE (plus the Big Play Battle)
Either 9-4 or 3-1 it doesn't matter. Swinney's preponderance on this phase of the game could lead to continued mistakes by his team. Meyer's philosophy is better, imo. What do you do AFTER a TO. The Response is Everything!
We will turn it over , but create more. Clemson is a great team - better than MSU, imo. We are due for a big TO game.
Close 1st Half. We score late then under pressure Clemson turns it over in 2nd Half and we pull away on big plays.
I really have no idea though, haha. 

Drew's picture

I wanna see SwingGate brought back on the Extra Point team. The 2 pt conversion could be crucial!