Highlighting the Veteran Buckeyes Looking to Get Even After Ohio State's 31-0 Loss to Clemson in 2016

By David Regimbal on December 12, 2019 at 10:20 am
Ohio State receiver Binjimen Victor
© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

On December 31, 2016, Ohio State took the field in Glendale, Arizona to face off against Clemson in a playoff showdown hosted by the Fiesta Bowl.

That Buckeye squad was led by J.T. Barrett and a defense that boasted one of the strongest secondaries in the country. They were squaring off against the high-flying Tigers and their Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback in Deshaun Watson, who had carved up teams in the regular season to the tune of 325 passing yards a game.

The defense was up to the task, limiting Watson to a season-low 259 passing yards, but the offense couldn't get anything going against a loaded Clemson defense. Turnovers and missed opportunities resulted in a 31-0 loss that was arguably the worst of Urban Meyer's coaching career.

Several Buckeyes who were on that team will take the same field in Glendale in two-and-a-half weeks for another playoff matchup against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. It's Ohio State's first playoff appearance since 2016, and it offers those players a chance to get even.

Three of the Buckeyes' top five pass-catchers are included in that group.

Binjimen Victor and K.J. Hill actually saw some action back in 2016. Victor's lone catch of the night (21 yards) was the longest passing play of the game for the Buckeyes. Hill hauled in one catch for eight yards, which extended his reception-in-a-game streak to six (that current streak now stands at 47). 

Austin Mack, a true freshman in 2016, didn't see the field that night. 

That trio of receivers will play a huge role in this year's Fiesta Bowl. They've combined for 1,383 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns, and collectively bring the leadership and experience that a young quarterback like Justin Fields can rely on.

They complement Ohio State's leading receiver in Chris Olave (799 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns) perfectly, and they need to have a big game against a Clemson defense that ranks No. 1 nationally in total defense and passing defense and third in passes intercepted.

Defensively, five starters and one key reserve were on the team who suffered that 31-0 blowout loss.

It starts up front in the trenches with Ohio State's top three defensive tackles. DaVon Hamilton, Jashon Cornell and Robert Landers have combined for 9.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss this year. They've been a solid counterpunch to the nation's best pass-rusher in Chase Young, but they need to take better advantage when Clemson double (or triple) teams Young. That was the strategy deployed by Michigan and Wisconsin in Ohio State's last two games, and the Buckeyes failed to get consistent pressure on the quarterback.

A trio of defenders in the back seven will also play a huge role. Malik Harrison was a freshman and spot-duty player as a freshman in 2016, but he leads this year's defense with 69 tackles. Jordan Fuller leads a stout secondary from his safety spot and Damon Arnette, maybe the most improved defensive back in the country, offers the back end an enormous amount of flexibility.

Most of the players listed here didn't have the opportunity to make a difference against Clemson in 2016. They'll get that chance in this year's Fiesta Bowl.

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