Ohio State-Clemson Fiesta Bowl Preview


The Buckeyes are the first team in college football playoff history to not win their division or the conference championship, but still qualify for a playoff spot. They are a strong team but also has one of the youngest active players on the roster compared to Clemson, Alabama, and Washington. The underclassmen were challenged this season and handled it with teamwork and confidence. Urban Meyer is no stranger to coaching young, highly recruited players to be ready for big games, including at Oklahoma, at Wisconsin, at Penn State, at Michigan State, and against Michigan. The reason for the Buckeyes to return to the playoffs was quarterback J.T. Barrett. He led his team this far two years ago before his season-ending injury against Michigan. This will be Barrett's first game on the biggest stage of his career and the Buckeyes hope to go for their second national championship of the college football playoffs.


J.T. Barrett leads the Buckeyes to victory thanks to his playmaking ability and extending drives. Running back Mike Weber and halfback Curtis Samuel use their versatility to expose and confuse Clemson’s defense. The offensive line is too strong and strategical for Clemson’s front seven to penetrate them all game long. Ohio State’s defense gives Deshaun Watson fits and makes him uncomfortable for the rest of the game. Ohio State’s young coverage led by Malik Hooker shadows Clemson’s receivers and forces Watson to turn the ball over and keep the passing yards to a minimum.


Youth is Ohio State's achilles’ heel and Clemson exposes them for it. J.T. Barrett is forced to extend plays through the air and nothing goes his way in the end. Mike Weber has nothing going for him and special teams are the only thing that's keeping the Buckeyes in the game. Curtis Samuel is unable to get past Clemson’s coverage and Barrett must find other receivers to back him up. Ohio State’s defense can’t stop Deshaun Watson from running the ball and a series of receivers will be too much for the defensive backs to cover.


Clemson knows what’s at stake. They came up short of winning the national championship against Alabama and are hungry for a return. Clemson had an ugly start to the season, and it took a loss to Pittsburgh to wake them up. They still succeeded in returning to the playoffs at #2 and without Dabo Sweeney spending a penny on pizza for the Clemson program. Clemson has plenty of athletes back on offense and has key players returning on defense. Defensive linemen’s Christian Wilkins, Carlos Watkins, and Dexter Lawrence will challenge Ohio State’s strong offensive line. Quarterback Deshaun Watson will no doubt be the focus of this game and must play well like he did in the second half of the season. Will Clemson play like the 2015 team that seemed unstoppable or a 2016 team that has struggled for most of the regular season?


Deshaun Watson exposed Ohio State’s young defense and had his way by targeting his reliable receivers and running the ball himself when possible. Clemson’s offensive line matures and out muscles Ohio State’s defensive line. Running back Wayne Gallman has the game of his life and Clemson’s offensive line is credited for opening lanes for him. Clemson’s receivers are too good and too athletic for Ohio State’s young coverage to handle. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables dials up pressure to keep J.T. Barrett from throwing the ball accurately and set his front seven around to keep him from running the ball. Clemson forces Barrett to play in the pocket and defensive backs Jadar Johnson and Cordrea Tankersley hovers around the receivers and forces him to turn the ball over.


Clemson continues to struggle with gameplay consistency this season and mistakes mess up their momentum. Deshaun Watson is not consistent with his throws and can’t get the running game going and relies on Wayne Gallman for help. Wayne Gallman has some success on the run but it won’t do much to help Clemson’s offense without the passing game. Clemson’s defensive backs are no match for Ohio State’s athletic receivers and J.T. Barrett takes advantage of Clemson’s defense that doesn’t have enough experience and also succeeds in running the ball effectively. Clemson never gives up when the game is on the line, but they come up short.