Written by Bart D at The Comeback.com
Clemson is eyeing a national title rematch with Alabama, but Ohio State is a huge obstacle.
Well, if the whole New Year’s Eve thing is destined to be a gas fire no matter which teams are in the late game and what the future holds (i.e., college football acknowledging the stupidity of trying to make the College Football Playoff on New Year’s Eve a “tradition”), this game would be your proof in the pudding.
Who can miss the most polarizing, talked about program in college football over the past decade and the CFB Playoff runner-up from the previous season? Hell, I guess come Saturday night, we’ll find out when Ohio State and Clemson do-si-do for the second time in three years.
Honestly, at first glance, this one could go either way. Plus, it’s on a Saturday. So we’re all going to win compared to last year, somewhat. But you’re still not convincing your girlfriend that you can’t go to a New Year’s Eve party because you’ve got to watch football without serious consequences.
Ohio State will win if …
Truthfully, it’s pretty darn simple: can Ohio State stop the run? Clemson’s lone loss was to Pitt, which is the only ACC team ranked in the top 25 in total rushing defense. Even though the Tigers scored 42 points in the last-second L, it was the lone game they failed to rush for under 120 yards (50) and picked up all of ZERO first downs on the ground. That’s an amazing statistic for scoring 42 points.
Also, the Tigers have a propensity for turning the ball over, breaking even on the season in turnover margin and having three one-possession games that saw them give up at least three turnovers. Ohio State represents the best rushing defense Clemson will have faced all season, ranked 13th in the country.
The Buckeyes will want to avoid giving up big plays. Clemson is 68th in the country in red zone offense, while the Bucks rank in the top 20 in defense in the red area. Making them drive the full length of the field will tilt the odds in Ohio State’s favor.
And J.T. Barrett will need to play one of his best games. The Ohio State passing offense is ranked 78th in the country. It’s not the part of the offense they’d rather win with versus putting it on the ground. Barrett’s accuracy will assuredly have to be better than the final two games of the season, against Michigan State and Michigan, where he was a combined 25-of-54 throwing the ball.
Clemson is too good to try and toe that line again. MSU isn’t a good offensive team, and Michigan made a cadre of self-inflicted mistakes to help the Bucks overcome them. So in short: stop Clemson’s run and throw the ball competently, and that should get it done for Ohio State.
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