Clemson Football: Orange Bowl Introduction

Alive or not, we all remember what happened the last and only time Clemson and Ohio state met on the gridiron.  Following a game-ending interception by CU’s Charlie Bauman in the 1978 Gator Bowl, legendary OSU coach Woody Hayes punched the Tiger nose guard after he was forced out on the Buckeyes’ sideline.  This marked the end of the volatile coach’s career as he was fired the next day.  Thus, Clemson’s 17-15 victory remains one of the most infamous games in college football history.

On January 3rd, Clemson and Ohio State meet again in the Orange Bowl.  Despite earning a bid to this prestigious bowl, both teams enter disappointed.  In the regular season finale, the Tigers lost to their rival South Carolina for the fifth straight year.  Meanwhile, Michigan State shocked Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, bringing the Buckeyes 24-game win streak to a sudden halt and left OSU one win short of a date with Florida State in Pasadena with the National Title on the line.

The team that refocuses best following their gut-wrenching loss will likely be crowned the 2014 Orange Bowl Champion.  You would think that both teams would be able to reenergize since both have much to prove.  All year, national pundits criticized Ohio State for their weak schedule, which sparked much debate last week regarding whether a one-loss SEC champion was more deserving of a spot in the national championship over the undefeated Buckeyes.  There’s no denying the Buckeyes subpar competition (74th in the nation based on winning %); however, it is never easy to finish 12-1 in a major conference.  A win over #12 Clemson (10-2) would at least silence critics who claim Ohio State failed to beat a marquee opponent.

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For Clemson, the game provides an opportunity to end the Tajh Boyd-Sammy Watkins era with an exclamation point.  Boyd has faced much criticism lately for doing just about everything in his career except, arguably the most important thing, beat the Gamecocks.  A win over the Buckeyes won’t make the Tiger faithful forget that fact, but it would remind them how great Boyd’s run as Clemson’s quarterback was.

The game will feature two of the most prolific offenses in the country.  Ohio State and Clemson come in ranked 7th and 12th in the nation in terms of total offense, respectively.  Both feature their share of marquee players.  OSU quarterback Braxton Miller may be the most exciting player in college football as he has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards while rushing for over 1,000.  The Clemson defense struggled to contain USC’s Connor Shaw on the ground, so they have their work cut out if they are going to stop the more explosive Miller.  Also, watch out for OSU’s ferocious running back Carlos Hyde, who has averaged over 160 yards an outing over his final eight games.

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While the Buckeyes seem ripe to run all-over Clemson, the Tigers will have a major advantage of their own.  Clemson has arguably the most explosive passing game in the nation with Boyd throwing to elite receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant.  The Tigers’ throw for 329 yards per game, good enough for 12th in the nation.  Boyd and company should be salivating to face the Buckeyes’ porous secondary.  OSU ranks 104th in the nation in pass defense.  This is especially troubling considering the Big Ten has always been known as a run-first league.

It’s too early to predict a winner, but all signs suggest points-galore when these programs meet on January 3rd.