If OSU plays a lot of cover 3, as Ross is suggesting, then a key to this game will be CJ Barnett and Vonn Bell's ability to make plays in the gray area/flats. Often, OSU has rolled Bradley Roby down there in a cover 6 alignment, to help stop the running game. But with his absence, a cover 3 strategy with those two manning those zones makes sense. They must not only be able to help in the run game, but make plays in space against Clemson's WRs in the screen game. However, Barnett has had a history of taking poor angles and/or not wrapping up on tackles, and Bell is still an unknown commodity (regardless of recruiting rankings), so they will likely be challenged early and often by Clemson.
MSU was fairly successful implementing their base Cover 4 look against OSU, allowing their safeties to get in the box and make plays in the run game. If you recall, this was the defense Meyer has tried to install since taking over, and was actually fairly successful last year as the season went on, having Bryant back there with Barnett. Unfortunately, as Ross has pointed out, that trend has gone away this year, partially due to Bryant's injury, but also because the best DB on the team in run support is Roby., not one of the safeties. This year, we have seen a fair amount on cover 3 when the ball is in the middle of the field, but have played a ton of cover 6 when the ball is on the hash, keeping Roby in the flat as an additionally run defender to the boundary.
my expectation is that OSU probably won't change this scheme very much, as the safeties are what they are at this point, and aren't suddenly going to master the nuance of Cover 4 in their senior year bowl practices. We may see a fair amount of cover 4 in middle of the field situations, to prevent Clemson from exploiting the coverage with 4 verticals, but I'd guess we'll be seeing lots of cover 6' with Roby playing a big part in stopping the run and screen games.
As for stopping Watkins and the PA pass? The front 7 HAS to step up in the run game, allowing the safeties to stay back and worry about the pass. Noah Spence needs to become a presence again, not only rushing the passer, and hopefully Bennett and Bosa continue to play at all around high levels. Allowing Barnett and Brown to not have to cheat up against the inside running game will make a big difference. The goal for OSU should be for the safeties to NOT have to be a big part of this game, either by being the ones to have to make a big play, or by getting beat.
I'd expect to see a lot of Trips (3 WRs to one side) to the Field from OSU in this game. They showed it a lot last week, although they mostly ran out of that formation as they had a numbers advantage due to Michigan's alignment, by keeping Heuerman in as a regular TE to the boundary, away from all the WRs.
Since MSU often blitzes the boundary corner, I wouldn't be shocked if OSU kept a WR to to the boundary with Heuerman lined up as one of the WRs to the field (creating a 3x1), and keeping a man there to block the boundary CB on run plays, as well as keep the defense from playing tight to the box. If OSU can run inside on MSU's DTs, as Ross pointed out, then MSU will likely look for ways to bring extra defenders into the box, and the 3x1 could negate that.
Mack is considered a sure-fire 1st round pick, shattered the NCAA career record for Forced Fumbles with 16, and was featured in SI last week: http://college-football.si.com/2013/11/19/khalil-mack-buffalo-bulls/
His great game against OSU was not an aberration, simply a coming-out party. While it's not exactly Saturday Night Prime-time, this Friday's season finale against BG will be Buffalo's 4th straight nationally televised game (All Hail #MACtion), so those in the know have had plenty of opportunities to see his talent.
If anything, I'd say there is a higher likelihood of him getting votes due to the stats and highlights he has produced with little help around him, versus someone like Mosley or Skov that play on teams stocked full of future NFL defenders.
With this alignment on the DL, coupled with different personnel, one wonders if this will be the time OSU begins to lean more heavily on the Outside Zone (aka Stretch). But, how would Inverted Veer be affected by this alignment?
This also means 4 Verts is absolutely going to be in play.
I'd also expect the TEs to have an effect on this defense, not down the seam necessarily, but as the option in the flats in the "snag" concept.
Pedro's Cantina, near AT&T Park, will be hosting an event for OSU fans the evening before the OSU/Cal game. Chimdi Chekwa will be a special guest that evening.
Pedro's Cantina (right next to Pete's Tavern)
128 King St San Francisco, CA
Still not sure if there will be anything organized on the day of the game, however.