Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Ohio State—Everything You Need to Know
Tajh Boyd and Braxton Miller square off in this matchup of two of the nation’s top offenses.
DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL: No. 12 Clemson (10-2) vs. No. 7 Ohio State (12-1)
[Friday, Jan. 3 at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN]
How They Got Here
With Auburn’s stunning upset of Alabama, Ohio State was poised to play in the BCS National Championship Game. But then they ran into the buzz saw that is the Michigan State defense and lost in the Big Ten title game. Likewise, Clemson had national title hopes before being crushed by Florida State in mid-October. The Tigers then won four in a row before a season-ending loss to archrival South Carolina. The Orange Bowl snatched both Ohio State and Clemson as at-large BCS picks.
When Clemson Has the Ball
Clemson’s potent offense starts with quarterback Tajh Boyd, who was second only to Heisman winner Jameis Winston in most offensive categories in the ACC. The three-year starter finished his senior season with 3,473 passing yards and 38 touchdowns (9 rushing). Under his leadership, Clemson now ranks 11th nationally in both total offense and scoring offense and eighth in scoring (40.2 points per game). This week, he’ll face a Buckeye defense that has struggled against the pass. In its last four games, Ohio State has allowed its opponents to complete nearly 64 percent of its passes for almost 341 yards per game and 11 total TDs. The Buckeyes now rank 105th nationally in pass defense and that figure is unlikely to improve against the Tigers’ high-powered aerial attack.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
Ohio State boasts an equally potent offense but prefers to get the job done on the ground. The Buckeyes rank third nationally in both rushing offense and average 46.3 points game (behind just Baylor and Florida State). Quarterback Braxton Miller leads Ohio State’s pounding ground game. The Big Ten Player of the Year has rushed for over a thousand yards and 10 touchdowns on the season while also passing for 1,860 yards and 22 scores. Buckeye running back Carlos Hyde led the Big Ten with an average of 140.8 rushing yards per game and rushed for 14 touchdowns. They’ll be tested by a Clemson defense that ranks just 52nd in rush defense but has held five of its last seven opponents to 140 or fewer yards on the ground.
What to Know
The Buckeyes defense will go into this tough battle shorthanded, as sophomore defensive end Noah Spence, who led the team in sacks, has been suspended for a violation of team rules. Tajh Boyd’s 102 career touchdowns are tied for 15th-most in FBS history. This is the first time that the two teams have met since the 1978 Gator Bowl when Woody Hayes’ infamous punch of a Clemson player led to the shocking end of his legendary career.
What to Watch For
If you’re looking for a shootout, this could be the game for you as two of the nation’s best offenses face defenses that have particular problems against their opponents’ strengths. One key will be the early performance of Tajh Boyd. Despite his big numbers, he struggled in some of Clemson’s biggest games (one touchdown and four interceptions in losses to Florida State and South Carolina). If he can get in a groove and gain some confidence, the receiving weapons at his disposal—including second-team All-American Sammy Watkins—could pose big problems for the Buckeyes. But if the Tigers’ defense cannot slow down Ohio State’s run game, the Buckeyes should be able to post some big numbers and keep Boyd on the sideline. Look for this to be a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair.