I am a football junkie and college football watching occupies quite a bit of my free time. If you are like me, you are excited to watch the Buckeyes play Clemson soon. The purpose of this post is to share my evaluation of Clemson’s players and what I believe is a realistic outcome of the upcoming game.
Frequently, you will hear college football “experts” give you an opinion about the outcome of games. Most of the stuff these guys say is just plain bad. Most “experts” do not study film. They generally speak in clichés like, “You need to stop the big plays.” Well, no kidding.
If you would like an honest opinion about any upcoming game, my suggestion would be to listen to someone who watches film from both teams. And better yet, listen to someone who can break down the film from both teams. A great example would be Kyle Jones of ElevenWarriors.com. That guy knows his stuff and his opinions are based on what he sees on film.
Below is my opinion of Clemson's personnel. I based this opinion after watching as many Clemson football games as possible and I attempted to objectively evaluate their personnel. But let’s remember, this is Clemson and Ohio State. All players on both teams are good and, for what it is worth, no one pays me for my opinion. If you are still interested, below is my rating system.
- Elite Players: Players that will be chosen on first day of NFL draft…possible top picks.
- Good Players: Players that have a good chance to be drafted in NFL.
- Average Players: Players that may get signed as an undrafted free agent in NFL.
- Weakest Players: Players that will not play in NFL.
- Elite Players: #16 QB - Trevor Lawrence, #5 WR - Tee Higgins, #8 WR - Justyn Ross, #9 RB - Travis Etienne
- Good Players: #3 WR - Amari Rogers, #79 LT - Jackson Carmen
- Average Players: #74 LG - John Simpson, #73 RT - Tremayne Anchrum
- Weakest Players: #76 OC – Sean Pollard, #59 RG - Gage Cervenka, #25 TE - J.C. Chalk
- Elite Players: #11 LB - Isiah Simmons, #8 CB - A.J. Terrell
- Good Players: #3 DE - Xavier Thomas, #10 CB - Derion Kendrick, #13 DT - Tyler Davis
- Average Players: #12 SS - K'Von Wallace, #47 MLB - James Skalski, #34 DE - Logan Rudolph, #47 WLB - Chad Smith, #44 DT - Nyles Pinckney
- Weakest Player: #19 FS - Tanner Muse
What is a realistic result of the game? Consider that there are approximately 12 offensive possessions in every football game for each team. If you score a TD on every possession, you will score 84 points. We know that doesn’t happen very often. So how much can we expect Clemson and Ohio State to score?
When looking at Clemson’s best players on offense, it is plain to see the best players are the QB and receivers. The good news is that Clemson cannot hand the ball off to Etienne 35 times and expect to win the game by knocking Ohio State around. Clemson’s offensive line is not good enough. The bad news is Clemson is going to throw the ball, with success, against Ohio State’s defense. There is no doubt. Clemson has top NFL talent at the QB and WR positions. NFL defenders cannot stop NFL QBs and WRs. We cannot expect Ohio State to shut down Clemson’s offense.
Instead, you should expect something like the first half of the Michigan game when Shea Patterson was 14 of 19 with 250 yards passing. Except Trevor Lawrence and cast will probably be able to generate these results for the entire game…Lawrence is that good. Lawrence will probably complete 28 of 38 passes for 400 yards or so. Clemson will run Etienne about 15 times and Lawrence will keep the ball on a QB read and/or scramble another 6-10 times. These types of stats will lead to 6 or 7 possessions resulting in a score. This may sound like really bad news, but it is not all bad news, just realistic. The real question is what type of scores result from these possessions.
For instance, say Clemson scores 7 TDs on their scoring possessions. The Tigers will probably win the game. But if Ohio State can limit a few of these scoring possessions to field goals, then Ohio State’s chances of winning the game drastically increase.
As an example, let’s look at the first half of this year’s Michigan game. Michigan had six first half possessions. Michigan scored on three of them…two TDs and one FG for a total of 16 points. The Buckeyes led 28-16 at halftime. You may remember that the FG came on a possession where Donavon Peoples-Jones dropped a potential TD pass on third down and Michigan settled for a FG. Also, remember that Shea Patterson fumbled the snap on another possession in the red zone. The fumble was recovered by Ohio State. If both of those possessions end in TDs for the Wolverines, the score of the game is 28-28 at the half and the game has a totally different feel. Now on to Ohio State’s offense.
When looking at Ohio State’s best players on offense, it is my opinion that the best players put their hands in the dirt. I also believe that Justin Fields and Ohio State’s receivers are not good enough to beat Clemson by passing the ball 40+ times. Hence, Ohio State is going to hand the ball off to J.K. Dobbins about 35 times. Since most of Clemson’s run defenders are average at best, it is my belief that Dobbins will exceed 200 yards rushing. I also expect Fields will be an effective play action passer. He should finish the game being 18 of 25 for an additional 250 yards or so. Fields should also be an effective runner with zone reads and the occasional scramble. Realistically, the Buckeyes should produce 6 or 7 scoring drives. Sound familiar? It should be. These two teams are very evenly matched.
It would be too easy to say this game will come down to turnovers. Although stealing a possession with a pick six or scoop and score would be a huge advantage to either team. I believe this will be a close game and I suspect the outcome of the game will hinge on a few more subtle plays. For instance, an offensive holding penalty or a false start in the red zone which results in a FG instead of a TD. Or perhaps a stupid offside penalty on 4th and 4, on a punting play, that results in a first down and eventual TD…am I right Michigan?
I will leave you with this. Most everyone would agree that Clemson blew out Alabama in the championship game last year. The final score was 44-16. Clemson had 9 offensive possessions. They scored five TDs and one FG on those nine possessions. Clemson amassed 482 yards of offense. Lawrence was 20/32 for 347 yards. Etienne had 14 carries for 86 yards and Lawrence added six carries for 27 yards. Expect similar results this year.
In the championship game last year, Alabama totaled 443 yards of offense. They had 10 offensive possessions. Alabama scored two TDs and one FG. Alabama also had two possessions stolen by Clemson with an interception returned for a TD in the 1st quarter and another interception at the Clemson 44-yard line in the 2nd quarter. The Crimson Tide turned the ball over on downs three times in the second half at the Clemson 22-yard line, the Clemson 14-yard line and the Clemson 2-yard line. Clemson's defense made plays, Alabama's defense did not.
Moral of the story? Ohio State will have their chances to score against a defense that is less talented than Clemson’s defense of 2018. Hopefully the scores are more TDs than FGs. Ohio State’s defensive players will have plenty of opportunities to steal a possession or two and/or make play or two to change a scoring possession from a TD to a FG. Alabama was unable to make the plays when needed. Ohio State will need to make them or suffer a similar fate.