I've died before.
Three years ago, I made a 3,000-mile round trip drive to watch the Buckeyes get drubbed in the desert by Dabo. Tonight, he's the one that gets flayed.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't have this particular game circled after Clemson forced me into surrender cobra position for three hours as I watched J.T. Barrett flee from a tetrad of unblocked gooch gropers.
But truth be told, this ain't about revenge. It's about taking what's ours – Clemson's just in the way.
For months, I've watched this Buckeye squad take whatever unfortunate team happens to be on the docket and flatten it like a cockroach under a steamroller. Ranked, unranked, home, or away – it doesn't matter.
And yet, Ohio State somehow enters this game as an underdog everyone seems to have written off. A team with half of the top-six Heisman vote-getters and five wins over ranked teams by an average 23 points each should not be able to sincerely play the disrespect card, but that's where we're at.
Somehow, the public and media alike have latched onto a team that was a two-point conversion away from losing to North Carolina because they looked good against Wofford, NC State and Wake Forest.
Clemson ain't ready. They can spew that coachspeak about practicing against the best every week, but that only works if you're actually better than the team you're playing, and there ain't a single position group where I'd confidently take the Clemson player.
The Tigers are in trouble. And the best part is, nobody's going to know about it until the Buckeyes are already making flight plans to new Orleans.
Word of the Day: Exequy.
THAT 11W PREGAME DRIP. You've got some hours to kill. We'll help.
- Details about the megacast for tonight's game.
- Five things to know about Clemson.
- Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence will duel in the desert.
- There are no unexpected injuries or unavailable players.
- Justin Fields says he's 80-85% healthy and will wear a small brace.
- Ohio State has a historically difficult path to a championship.
- More than a dozen Buckeyes have a chance for revenge.
- Brent Venebals thinks this is the most talented offense Clemson has faced.
- Urban Meyer thinks Justin Fields is one of the best and is coached by the best.
- For both teams, this will be the fastest team they've faced this season.
- Justin Fields will have to make careful decisions about when to run.
- A look at which team has the edge at each position grouping.
- The run game could be key in an Ohio State victory.
- Ohio State's defensive line must bring the pressure on Trevor Lawrence.
- Film Study: How Ohio State can slow down the best offensive its faced in years.
- Film Study: The key to Clemson's redesigned defense and how they use Isaiah Simmons.
- Jonah Jackson called it a "blessing" to play in his first bowl game after four years at Rutgers.
- Jeff Hafley told Boston College fans "he has to go win a national championship."
- Some players outside the headlines that could trouble the Buckeyes tonight.
- Dabo Swinney's fight to get folks to think Clemson is the underdog.
- The Buckeyes spend some time with children in need.
- Columbus's babies are ready to beat Clemson.
“MOST CRITICAL PLAYER.” Somehow, the No. 2 corner in the 2017 class has flown extremely under the radar his entire career, even while getting first-round publicity as a starter for a College Football Playoff team.
Shit, the only publicity he's getting this week is from Jonathan Vilma talking about how Clemson's going to beat him every single play.
It's incredible and tells on folks for not actually watching the games they're paid to talk about because for two years he's been by far the most versatile and probably the most important player in the Buckeye secondary.
“I think Shaun might be the best, most critical player in our defense,” (Jeff) Okudah said Tuesday. “I was telling Damon the other day when Shaun’s not out there, it just feels different."
Wade returned last year and gradually worked his way into the lineup. He showed glimpses of his ability, but it wasn’t until this season that he really blossomed, even though playing in the slot isn’t his natural position.
“I prefer to be on outside,” Wade said, “but I’ve got to do what I have to do to help this team. I’m probably the best inside player we have this year so they have me inside. My main thing is, I like to win, no matter what. So if I have to play safety, I’ll play safety. If I have to play corner, I’ll play corner.”
However he’s used, Wade has been a difference-maker. Against Penn State, he was primarily responsible for holding star receiver K.J. Hamler in check.
“What makes him so good is just that his IQ so high,” Okudah said. “He always knows what he’s supposed to do. With me and Shaun, we don’t have to do a lot of talking on the field because we understand each other. We really have a lot of chemistry in the whole secondary.”
Again, it's insane that you don't even have to manufacture disrespect for a former five-star prospect and potential day one or day two pick in the NFL Draft.
That's fine though. They'll be plenty of respect earned tonight.
UNSTOPPABLE FORCE VS. IMMOVABLE OBJECT. I'm sure you've heard all about the "strength on strength" matchups all week (because they're everywhere in this game).
But when it comes to Ohio State's man coverage vs. Clemson's passing attack versus man coverage, "strength on strength" doesn't really do it justice.
Oh St vs. Clemson, meanwhile, is gonna be dynamite for like 113 different reasons. One of them: OSU plays great man defense, and Clemson positively torches man defense.— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) December 27, 2019
OSU D in man: 36% comp rate, 4.0 yds/db, 13.4 QBR
Lawrence vs man: 57% comp rate, 9.2 yds/db, 91.7 QBR
This gets even wilder on blitz downs.— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) December 27, 2019
OSU man D (3rd-and-5+): 29% comp rate, 1.7 yds/db, 2.2 QBR!
Lawrence: 56%, 9.1 yds/db, 99.9 QBR
Recall how Clemson really only torched Bama on 3rd downs LY. OSU is MUCH better than '18 Bama was in these situations.— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) December 27, 2019
Of course, Clemson's better at rushing this year, and OSU's slightly more vulnerable vs. run than pass. So maybe there aren't as many 3rd downs, period.
That's all absolutely wild, but I don't remember the last time a big game has actually come down to the strength-on-strength matchup. Usually those things just kind of cancel each other out and the other matchups end up deciding the game.
So, my focus moves to the trenches, where Ohio State has an All-American on both sides of the ball. I like my chances.
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