It’s not exactly where Ohio State wanted to be at the end of the year, but after falling to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, the Buckeyes will have to settle for the Orange Bowl.
Clemson, meanwhile, saw its national title hopes dashed a little earlier than the Buckeyes this year. The Tigers were riding high after a season-opening win against Georgia, but a 51-14 blowout at the hands of Florida State and a season-ending loss to South Carolina all but dashed those dreams.
The last and only other time these two teams met, Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player in the 1978 Gator Bowl, which Clemson won 17-15.
Here’s everything you need to know for their meeting in the Orange Bowl:
Time: Friday, January 3, 2014 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Place: Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Radio: Ohio State Radio Network, Clemson Tigers Sports Network
All statistics come courtesy of cfbstats.com.
The Buckeyes didn’t start the season clamoring for an Orange Bowl bid. Head coach Urban Meyer will need to quickly shift the team’s mindset to get them up for playing after the team was dreaming of Pasadena all season long.
Pressure the Quarterback
Ohio State leads the nation in sacks with 40 through 13 games. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has thrown for almost 3500 yards this season, and the Buckeyes will need to put him under pressure and disrupt Clemson’s offense.
Stop the Run
Ohio State is fourth in the country in rushing offense, and a large reason for that is running back Carlos Hyde and quarterback Braxton Miller. Miller ranks just 85th in the country in passing yards per game, so the Clemson defense will need to make him one dimensional.
Get the Boyd-to-Watkins Connection Going
Boyd has one of the best receivers in the country in Sammy Watkins, and this could be their last game together. Watkins has gone over 1,000 yards receiving this season and could take advantage against a Buckeyes pass defense that ranks 108th in the nation.
Ohio State’s junior quarterback keys a Buckeyes offense that was explosive this season in the Big Ten. Miller missed nearly three full games this season, but still threw for 1860 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 1,033 yards and 10 scores. He has shown the ability to take over a game by himself and may need to do so in Miami.
Ohio State’s junior linebacker has led the Buckeyes defense all season and notched 12 total tackles in the Big Ten Championship Game, bringing his season total up to a whopping 135. He will play a key role in slowing down Clemson’s multiple offense.
Underclassmen: DL Noah Spence, RB Dontre Wilson, DL Joey Bosa
Draft Prospects: RB Carlos Hyde, CB Bradley Roby, OL Jack Mewhort
Clemson’s senior quarterback will be looking to finish his college career in style and put on one last show for NFL scouts. Boyd has amassed 3,473 passing yards and 29 touchdowns this season, adding 284 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. He keys a Clemson offense that ranked second in the ACC and could have a big day against the reeling Buckeyes.
The Tigers junior defensive end has enjoyed a breakout season in 2013. He is tied for third in the country with 12 sacks and is eighth in tackles for a loss with 19. Beasley is a projected first round draft pick by nflscout.com and could disrupt the Buckeyes offense.
Underclassmen: WR Mike Williams, DE Shaq Lawson, S Jayron Kearse
Draft Prospects: WR Sammy Watkins, WR Martavis Bryant, LB Stephone Anthony
Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell wasn’t happy with the defensive performance against Michigan State, according to cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel:
"Guys have to make plays. We have to put them in situations where they can make plays. There's no finger-pointing. You have to give them credit, too. They did a good job. The guy threw the ball in the right spots. Guys have to cover, guys have to rush, guys have to get there when we pressure. The biggest thing is we have to get better as a group."
Ohio State center Corey Linsley said the Buckeyes still want to finish the season strong, according to cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel:
"Our only option left is having a lot of fun working our butts off to win whatever game we get in," Linsley said. "It'll show our true character. We could sit there and blame this and blame that, but the only way you're going to get any production out of yourself is if you look at what you did wrong and correct it."
Orangeandwhite.com’s Kerry Capps sees potential for Clemson’s offense watching Auburn in the SEC championship:
Clemson fans who watched the game saw a lot they're familiar with: a shotgun and pistol formation mix, wideouts stretching the field horizontally, backs in motion, tight-end types anywhere and everywhere, a handful of basic rushing plays out of a variety of presentations.
They also saw blocking executed at a very high level. A lot of blocking: offensive linemen sealing off rushing lanes, with backs, tight ends and receivers chasing down linebackers and safeties in the second level.
ESPN’s Brad Edwards says that Clemson fans might not be motivated to buy tickets for the Orange Bowl after two disappointing losses, according to Scott Keepfer of GreenvilleOnline.com:
“You think about that (Clemson) fan base and how excited they were after beating Georgia to open the season,” Edwards said. “At that point they basically had two games left on their schedule in Florida State and South Carolina, and they lost both of them.
“I can understand the Clemson fan base being deflated after that, and I think that is what the Orange Bowl is worried about – that Clemson wouldn’t travel as well as they had hoped.”
Ohio State 34, Clemson 31
The Buckeyes and Tigers will put on a show in Miami, but Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller will engineer a game-winning drive to claim the 2014 Orange Bowl. Clemson will face a steep road in replacing a couple of its stars on offense next season. And while it won’t exactly be the ending the Buckeyes hoped for, this season will provide more than enough motivation for a title run next season.