Ohio State will be facing a Watson in The Fiesta Bowl, when Clemson’s Deshaun Watson will lead the 2nd-ranked Tigers against the 3rd-ranked Buckeyes in a designated College Football Playoff. As Deshaun Watson is a dangerous dual-threat quarterback, capable of hurting the Buckeyes with both his legs and his arm, it would be foolish to say that defending against Watson will be “elementary”.
Ohio State is a 3 point favorite against Clemson. To be fair, this game and match-up seems much more difficult to predict. Which Ohio State team is going to show up? The team that came out and bludgeoned ranked opponents such as Nebraska 62-3, or the team that seemed to completely go into a predictable and frustrating funk offensively, such as when the Buckeyes eeked out a one point win at East Lansing against Michigan State?
In order for the Buckeyes to take another step closer to the 2016 national championship, below are three critical areas I will be looking for when The Fiesta Bowl kicks off at 7pm EST on ESPN…
- Ohio State must throw the ball deep ~ Even if Ohio State is incomplete, Urban Meyer has to stretch the field against a Clemson defense that will crowd the line of scrimmage. By throwing deep, the Tigers will be unable to put eight or nine men in the box, thus giving the Ohio State running game a better chance of success. Will K.J. Hill get a chance to be a deep threat? Will Ohio State sometimes use Curtis Samuel as a deep threat? As long as Ohio State makes this effort, that is all I care about.
- Will Ohio State Bring Back “Tressel-ball”? ~ If you have not yet read this article by Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated about what Ohio State needs to do to win The College Football Playoff, please do so. I know that this seems like a contradiction after my first point, but once Ohio State gets Clemson to quit stacking the line of scrimmage, using Mike Weber, J.T. Barrett, and Curtis Samuel as ballcarriers to control the clock and tire out the Clemson defense would be advantageous.
The case for Ohio State to win the College Football Playoff (by @SIPeteThamel) https://t.co/I9loUyIArC pic.twitter.com/O5L5j7RQUt— Campus Rush (@CampusRush) December 21, 2016
3. Will Ohio State Continue Its Opportunistic Ways On Defense ~ Think back to how many times Malik Hooker came up with acrobatic interceptions this season. While Deshaun Watson has tremendous weapons at his disposal, in players such as WR Mike Williams, TE Jordan Leggett, WR Artavis Scott, and RB Wayne Gallman, the Buckeyes need to capitalize upon any mistakes that Watson may make. Better yet, if the Buckeyes can force Watson into a mistake, with blitzes or pass rush pressure, the opportunity to score points defensively are there.
Prediction: As written up above, this is a tough game to call. Clemson has a tremendous defensive line, full of players Ohio State recruited, going up against an offensive line that has struggled with pass protection. Even with all of Clemson’s talent, I think Ohio State has just enough to get by the Tigers in a shoot-out. I am going to say Ohio State 35, Clemson 31. #GoBucks!