CFB Playoffs: #2 Ohio St. vs. #3 Clemson
Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! Happy Kwanzaa! Whichever holiday you celebrate, we can all come together and rejoice in College Football Playoff season. The playoffs are finally upon us and let us rejoice and be glad. Grad School’s Cole West did a preview of the 1st semifinal game which can be found here: https://www.gradschoolsports.net/2019/12/24/college-football-playoffs-1-lsu-vs-4-ou-preview/
I will be previewing the primetime matchup between the Clemson Tigers and The Ohio State Buckeyes. Neither team is short of playoff appearances with the Buckeyes making their 3rd playoff appearance, winning it all 2014. Meanwhile, the Tigers will be playing in their record-tying 5th CFB playoff and will hoping to win back to back championships and their 3rd title in the last 4 years. Let’s dive into the matchups in this highly anticipated affair which has Clemson narrowly favored by 2.5 points
This Clemson offense is very similar to last year’s team and is once again led by QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne. After some early season troubles, Lawrence has really rebounded in the 2nd half of the season and enters the game with the 7th best QBR in the nation. Lawrence has homerun targets in receivers Tee Higgins, who comes into the game with over 1,000 receiving yards, and Justyn Ross, the 13th best receiver in the ACC. Etienne has been magnificent on the ground for the Tigers as they have the 9th best rushing attack in all of college football. The Tigers offensive line has been stellar all season as well as they are 5th in the country in sacks allowed. Overall, this offense has been absolutely phenomenal and is clicking on all cylinders heading into the semifinal.
Ohio State Defense:
Two words: Chase Young. Lining up to defend against Lawrence and Co. will be arguably the best player in all of college football and a prospective number one pick in next year’s draft. Young is 1st in the country in both tackles for loss and sacks, and 2nd in forced fumbles. While Young has been a force to be reckoned with, this OSU defense is incredibly well-rounded. Statistically, they have the 2nd best passing defense and 7th best rushing defense in the nation. LB Malik Harrison has also enjoyed a great season and will team with Young to put pressure on the Tigers offense.
Ohio State Offense:
Offensively, the Buckeyes have a 3-headed monster in QB Justin Fields, RB J.K. Dobbins, and WR Chris Olave that Columbus has not seen since the 06 season. They have arguably the best offensive line in college football and the unit was a semi-finalist for the Joe Moore award. Playing in the very competitive Big 10, this offense has been battle-tested against some of the better defensive units in the nation. However, they have not faced a defense like the Tigers and could face some challenges moving the ball on Saturday.
Statistically, the Tigers have the best defense in all of college football. They are at the top in both total defense and passing defense, 5th in turnover margin, and have the 9th best rushing defense. Brent Venables is a defensive mastermind and has one of the best defensive players in all of football in LB Isiah Simmons. The All-American Simmons has been remarkable this year and is an absolute unit at 6’4, 230 lbs. The Tigers also have one of the best scoring defenses in the country. Therefore, pressuring OSU QB Justin Fields and forcing him to make miscues could give Clemson the advantage it needs on Saturday.
Now the last time these 2 teams met in the 2016 semifinal, Clemson manhandled the Buckeyes 31-0 en route to their title win over Alabama. I, along with the rest of the country, expect a much closer game this year.
Who wins this game? I honestly think this is a coin flip game. Clemson has steamrolled their competition this year. However, there is an argument to be made that the teams they played don’t deserve to be properly identified as “competition.” Throughout the season, analysts have been underestimating this Tigers group however, everyone knows head coach Dabo Swinney will use that as fuel to have his team properly prepared and motivated for Saturday.
On the other hand, Ohio State has also dominated their competition and have played one of the more challenging schedules in the country. Ryan Day has done a great job in his 1st year as head coach and there were many around the country who believed OSU deserved the number one overall seed in the playoff.
I will have an official prediction on Friday when I release my Picks from God, however as of publishing I like the Buckeyes to prevail.