Point(s) To Prove

By John Turner
Dec. 27, 2019

BIG NEWS, BIG NEWS!!! Clemson makes the College Football Playoff and Alabama is nowhere to be found. I’m sure you’re heartbroken (said no one ever). The opponent in this year’s Fiesta Bowl is a familiar one in the Ohio State Buckeyes. By now, I’m sure you are sick to death of this sound bite and that sound bite. My favorite is the LSU Linebacker who claimed they are going to “dominate” the Sooners then proceeded to tell the media how they are going to do it. Hey genius, you just gave Oklahoma your game plan. SMH. Oh, and there’s LeBron James giving every Buckeye player a fancy pair of headphones. That’s a pretty cool gesture and no that isn’t an NCAA violation so don’t go there. The Tigers and Buckeyes have met 3 times before and every game was anything but boring. From Woody punching a Clemson player to Sammy Watkins setting Clemson records to the Tigers putting the O in Ohio State. Everybody has a good time at a fiesta so which team wakes up the next day hung over?

Oh, I’m sure you’ve heard all about Justin Fields and his knee. It COULD be a big deal but it could also be one big massive smoke screen. I’ll believe it when I see it. Without question, Ohio State plans on banging RB J.K. Dobbins inside and outside the tackle box. Really and truly, it will all come down to guys you’ve never heard of. Do the names Thayer Munford, Jonah Jackson, Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis or Branden Bowen ring a bell? If they do, then you read WAY too much about Ohio State football. ? Those big fellas represent the Buckeye offensive line and the two big questions are can they open holes for Dobbins and can they protect Fields? This isn’t Brent Venables first rodeo versus a mobile QB so I have no doubt he will have a plan. My guess is he will move Isaiah Simmons around in order to force Fields to stand in the pocket and throw consistently. Clemson’s secondary struggled in the first half versus Virginia’s Hasise Dubois which is a concern. The Buckeyes will move the ball up and down the field but will they score touchdowns or have to settle for field goals? Advantage Ohio State…but not by much.

Trevor Lawrence normally uses a bunch of coach speak so when he said he thought he was one of the best players in college football that told me that he’s halfway pissed about not getting invited to the Heisman Presentation. It also tells me he has a point to prove in these playoffs. He’s been on fire since the Louisville game (no picks) but there’s a Heisman candidate for the Buckeyes who is staring him down. Ladies and germs, meet Chase Young who is simply unfair. He’s 6’5” 265 lbs and can run like the wind. In watching film, there is one way to neutralize him and that is to run right at him. Sounds counter-intuitive but Wisconsin and Michigan had success doing just that. Look for the Tigers to also use a “chip” on Young with either a Tight End or Running Back. Speaking of Tight Ends, Braden Galloway is back for the Tigers which is a major upgrade in that area. Just one more weapon Trevor Lawrence can utilize. Clemson’s receivers normally have a size advantage but not in this game. Every Ohio State DB is over 6 feet and close to 200 lbs so if I’m the Buckeyes, I play a lot of bump and run then bring pressure up the middle to get to Lawrence. This means Clemson HAS to have success running the football. The Badgers and Wolverines were able to run on Ohio State so I don’t see why Clemson can’t. Like the Buckeyes, the Tigers will move the ball but I ask the same question about them. Touchdowns or field goals? Advantage Clemson…but how much?

Ah special teams. I say it every week but eventually this area is going to make or break the Tigers. The Buckeyes have an NFL level placekicker in Blake Haubeil. He’s hit all 83 of his extra points and is 10-12 on field goals with a long of 55 yards. Yes, really. Punter Drue Chrisman has only punted 40 times all season with an average of 44.1 yards with a long of 61 yards. Will Spiers has been consistent but not great while B.T. Potter continues to give me ulcers. Clemson is slightly better in returns but not enough to really make a difference. However, special teams WILL make a difference. Advantage Ohio State…BIG.

Clemson is 3-0 all-time versus Ohio State and shut out the Buckeyes 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl 3 seasons ago. By the way, that game was supposed to be close. All of these computers are churning data claiming the Buckeyes have a 54% chance of winning however the folks in Vegas have Clemson as a 2 point fav with the points sitting at 63.5. So many folks have poured hours into breaking down position battles and I really appreciate their work. Some of it is outstanding. Having said that, I keep coming back to one single word…adjustments. Clemson’s staff has done a fabulous job making them on the fly in big games. Will the moment get too big for the Buckeyes coaching staff? Both fan bases will need therapy after this one as Clemson hangs on for dear life 31-28!