Friday, January 3: Orange Bowl in Miami, FL at 8:00 pm EST
#7 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1) vs. #12 Clemson Tigers (10-2)
A strong card for the Orange Bowl, but both teams have something to prove after dropping their last game.
Vegas line/spread: Ohio State by 2 1/2 (over/under 71.5)
The Buckeyes are a very slim favorite; the game is expected to be quite high-scoring which seems reasonable given Braxton Miller and Tajh Boyd at the helm. The over/under started at 67 1/2 and rose 4 points before gametime.
|Game-comparisons||win %||vs. Spread
According to the Strength power rating it's #7 Ohio State vs. #13 Clemson—almost exactly what the BCS rankings say. The Buckeyes are a favorite straight up, but against the spread it's too close to call. Out of 24,336 cross-comparisons, Ohio State has a 14-comparison advantage.
Strength power rating: Ohio State 40, Clemson 37 by Median rating: Ohio State 42-34
Ohio State scoring offense: #5 vs. Clemson scoring defense: #27
Ohio State scoring defense: #37 vs. Clemson scoring offense: #8
Unlike many of the higher-up bowl games, the offenses ought to rule the evening in Miami. Ohio State is no longer the defense-first team they were for many years under Jim Tressel, and while Clemson isn't the same team that gave up 70 to West Virginia a few years ago, they are definitely better on offense.
Yardage analysis: Clemson 41, Ohio State 38 per-play: Ohio State 41, Clemson 34
Yardage differential: Ohio State #11 vs. Clemson #9
Ohio State total offense: #11 vs. Clemson total defense: #34
Ohio State total defense: #43 vs. Clemson total offense: #5
By yardage comparisons, Clemson is a field goal favorite. They should have just over 500 yards of offense and Ohio State will have about 25 fewer. But in the per-play score estimate, Ohio State is the winner again with a huge rushing per-carry advantage that overwhelms Clemson's big passing advantage.
Adjustments to yardage estimate: Ohio State 46, Clemson 35
- Interceptions: Looking at interception totals you wouldn't guess a big difference, but using total pass defenses (picks + breakups) Ohio State gains a big edge here, expected to be around 2 1/2 points.
- Forced fumbles: The Tigers take back over a point based on projected forced fumbles.
- Sacks: Sacks could be important in this game as we see about 6 occurring—with Ohio State having a near 1-sack edge on average, worth about 1 1/2 points.
- Red zone%: Ohio State has the #1 red zone offense in our rankings, and that ends up being worth almost a touchdown extra.
- 3rd-down%: Ohio State gains another point here as they should do better on 3rd downs.
- Special Teams: Ohio State is #12 in the special teams ratings, and Clemson #96. That's a swing of almost 4 points.
Summary: The pendulum swings well over to Ohio State's side after adjustments, mainly due to red zone play and special teams.
When Ohio State has the ball
|Ohio State rushing offense: #2
||Clemson rushing defense: #26
Between Carlos Hyde's 1,408 yards and Braxton Miller's 1,033, not to mention Jordan Hall's 536, opposing defenses have their hands full. The three have 32 touchdowns on the year. Clemson's rushing defense corrects upward to almost top 25 quality, but that still means they might surrender about 300 yards on the ground to the Buckeyes.
|Ohio State passing offense: #100||Clemson passing defense: #59 per att: #36|
|Ohio State interceptions thrown ranking: #17||Clemson interceptions picked ranking: #9|
|Ohio State quarterback protection rank: #31||Clemson pass rush rank: #3|
Shockingly, the OSU passing game hasn't made much of a gain since last year. Miller passed for 1,860 yards with 22 TDs and 5 picks, and when he was injured Kenny Guiton added 749 yards with a solid 10:2 ratio. So at least the yards are efficient if not extravagant. Corey Brown and Devin Smith both have 655 yards. Clemson has a pretty average pass defense and OSU could have about 180 yards.
Clemson's defense goes for the ball a lot, but Ohio State has kept the picks low. Of more concern is the pass rush, where Vic Beasley has 12 sacks. Miller has been sacked 16 times vs. 231 pass attempts, which is a lot higher than their #17 ranking implies; Guiton helped by only being sacked once vs. 109 attempts.
When Clemson has the ball
|Clemson rushing offense: #36
||Ohio State rushing defense: #11
Roderick McDowell is Clemson's main ground gainer with 956 yards this year; QB Boyd adds 284 and 9 touchdowns. Ohio State has a very solid rushing defense however and should hold the Tigers to around 130 yards.
|Clemson passing offense: #11||Ohio State passing defense: #109 per att: #52|
|Clemson interceptions thrown ranking: #55||Ohio State interceptions picked ranking: #49|
|Clemson quarterback protection rank: #81||Ohio State pass rush rank: #6|
Tajh Boyd had another great year for Clemson, completing 68% for 3,473 yards and 29 touchdowns. His best targets are of course Sammy Watkins (1,237 yards, 10 TDs) and Martavis Bryant (800 yards). Ohio State's pass defense is porous, and based on their #109 adjusted ranking they could give up around 370 yards to Boyd and company.
Boyd has thrown 9 interceptions which is not excessive but not great. Their bigger concern is the fact that Boyd has been sacked 30 times, and Ohio State has 40 sacks on the year, led by Noah Spence (7.5), Ryan Shazier (7), Michael Bennett (7), and Joey Bosa (6.5). If Ohio State can rattle Boyd it could disrupt the Clemson offense and lead to a comfortable win. If not, Boyd might pass all over the Buckeyes. With Spence now likely to miss the game due to personal issues, it makes things a bit easier but there's still plenty to deal with.
Ohio State's season (12-1)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (6)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (1)
Losses (1) to losing teams (0)
- Buffalo W 40-20
- San Diego St W 42- 7
- @ California W 52-34
- Florida A&M W 76- 0
- #19 Wisconsin W 31-24
- @ Northwestern W 40-30
- Iowa W 34-24
- Penn State W 63-14
- @ Purdue W 56- 0
- @ Illinois W 60-35
- Indiana W 42-14
- @ Michigan W 42-41
- = #4 Michigan St L 24-34
Ohio State had some early questions. They beat Buffalo by 20, and then Baylor beat the Bulls 70-13. They let 1-11 Cal score 34 points on them. They beat Wisconsin by a touchdown, 31-24, and Northwestern and Iowa by 10 each (40-30 and 34-24). So even at 7-0 there were questions about the Buckeyes.
They answered most of them with a 63-14 win over Penn State and a 63-14 win at Purdue. Needing style points, they racked up 60 on Illinois but gave up 35. The nail-biting win over Michigan, 42-41 on a missed two-point PAT, opened the discussion about whether the team could go undefeated for two seasons and be jumped by a 1-loss SEC team. The point was moot when the Buckeyes fell to Michigan State 34-24 in Indianapolis, their second stinker of a defensive performance in a row, and their first loss in 25 games under Urban Meyer.
Clemson's season (10-2)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (5)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (1)
Losses (2) to losing teams (0)
- #22 Georgia W 38-35
- South Carolina St W 52-13
- @ North Carolina St W 26-14
- Wake Forest W 56- 7
- @ Syracuse W 49-14
- Boston College W 24-14
- #1 Florida St L 14-51
- @ Maryland W 40-27
- @ Virginia W 59-10
- Georgia Tech W 55-31
- The Citadel W 52- 6
- @ #9 South Carolina L 17-31
When Clemson beat Georgia 38-35 in week one it looked like the start of something great. It ended up being the Tigers' best win of the year. They zoomed to 6-0 (with a lookahead 24-14 win over Boston College) and prepared for the big showdown with undefeated Florida State. That turned into a slaughter, 51-14 at home, that threatened to derail the entire season.
But Clemson responded very well, even avoiding a letdown the next weekend against Maryland, beating the Terps 40-27. They started another winning streak, this time just four games before getting rolled by South Carolina 31-17. Though Clemson's defense isn't great, it's relatively consistent, while the team's ups and downs seem dictated by the offense.
Clemson has some defensive players who are questionable including Travis Blanks, while Ohio State is probably missing sacks leader Noah Spence, a significant loss unless he returns from "dealing with personal issues". Overall both teams are pretty healthy.
Psychology/Motivation - Some (unscientific) factors that may come into play during the game:
- Ohio State's season: +0 wins; Clemson's season: +0 wins
- Ohio State's momentum: +0 wins; Clemson's momentum: +0 wins
- Ohio State won final game: NO; Clemson won final game: NO
- Ohio State glad to be there? somewhat; Clemson glad to be there: yes
- Ohio State time zones from home: 1; Clemson time zones from home: 0;
- Ohio State coaching situation: stable; Clemson coaching situation: stable
These teams finished the season with the same record as last year—except that Ohio State took a loss at the end of this one. Ohio State takes a step down from the national championship game to the Orange Bowl, while Clemson knew since the FSU game that this was the best they were going to do, and they got it despite dropping their final game.
That final game, for both teams, is an albatross to overcome. It's a lot worse for Ohio State though.
A good matchup and a close game, you can look at the contest different ways and come up with a different winner, but in general Ohio State is the favorite for a good reason—their offense is a little better than Clemson's, and an offensive war usually favors the better offense.
A big key to the game could be quarterback pressure. Both teams are in the top ten in adjusted sacks and getting to the opposing QB on passing downs to disrupt the offense is critical. Of course, Clemson will be passing a whole lot more than Ohio State, so there is more for the Buckeyes to gain with a strong pass rush than for the Tigers.
But back to that final loss. Clemson took a huge hit against Florida State—it ruined their perfect season and shattered any illusion that they were among the very best teams. But they bounced back. They fell later to South Carolina—can they bounce back again? We can only assume they will, as the South Carolina loss was less damaging—they got into the same bowl they would have at 11-1.
Ohio State just took their first loss in two years. That's twice as hard to take as the first loss of the season. 24-0 and then, bam! 24-1. It's a new reality for them, and it destroyed everything they were working toward. Even though they're in a BCS bowl, it's hard to imagine the motivation is there, and even Urban Meyer has said it's been tough getting over the loss to Michigan State.
I don't think they'll be over it early in 2014, either. In a close game, emotion is a big factor, and can easily switch a game the other way. Clemson bounced back before and they'll do it again. Ohio State is more than good enough to win this game, but they might not have the will.
Prediction: Clemson 31, Ohio State 23
More previews, odds, and predictions: View the complete 2013-2014 bowl game schedule.