The 2014 Discover Orange Bowl will be taking place on Friday, January 3 and will feature two high-octane offenses in Clemson and Ohio State. This is the first time that both teams have advanced to a BCS bowl game since 2011.
These teams boast two completely different offensive styles, yet both are equally effective. While Clemson likes to run a pass-heavy scheme, Ohio State continues to pound the ball with its versatile running game.
Unless these defenses begin to clamp down, we may be in store for a shootout here.
Let's take a look at the key matchups that will play a hand in determining the outcome of what will surely be a highly contested game.
Tajh Boyd vs. Ohio State's Secondary
Boyd has been impressive as Clemson's signal-caller throughout the 2013 season. He has shouldered the brunt of the workload, completing 252 of 373 attempts for 3,473 yards, 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions for a passer rating of 166.6 this year.
Clemson does have a solid running game led by Roderick McDowell; however, it is Boyd's arm that paves the way for this offense.
Boyd has one of the best receivers in the nation at his disposal. Sammy Watkins has racked up 85 receptions for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. This forms a formidable duo for Ohio State's secondary.
Tajh Boyd easily will be the best QB the #Buckeyes will have faced all season.— Tom Dienhart (@BTNTomDienhart) December 9, 2013
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, their defensive secondary is not one of their strong suits. They are ranked 102nd in the nation and are allowing an average of 259.5 passing yards per game, according to NCAA.com.
Ohio State has been able to come away with 14 interceptions this season, and it will need more during the Orange Bowl if it is to contain Boyd and Co.
Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller vs. Clemson's Run Defense
While Ohio State will have its hands full with Boyd, Clemson will be equally as troubled by the Buckeyes' ground game led by running back Carlos Hyde and quarterback Braxton Miller.
These two players have been able to absolutely light it up on the ground this season. Hyde leads the team with 1,408 yards on 183 carries—an average of 7.7 yards per carry—and 14 touchdowns. Miller has carried 153 times for 1,033 yards and 10 scores.
Both games in which Carlos Hyde had a carry for a loss (2 for -5 total) he toted the rock over 20 times for 220+ yards. #NFLDraft— Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) December 8, 2013
As a team, the Buckeyes have been able to rush for 4,128 yards and an impressive 42 touchdowns over the course of the 2013 season.
Clemson may have some trouble controlling this dynamic running game, as it is ranked 49th in the nation while giving up an average of 152.6 rushing yards per game, according to NCAA.com. Clemson has also allowed 19 rushing touchdowns to opponents this season.
One positive for Clemson here is that it is allowing opponents an average of just 3.70 yards per rush this year. Even though it has given up plenty of ground, it generally takes many attempts to gain significant yardage.
If it can continue that standard, Clemson may be able to suppress Ohio State's rushing attack.
Ohio State's Wide Receivers vs. Clemson's Secondary
Clemson's strongest suit on the defensive side of the ball this season has been the secondary. Currently, it is ranked 15th in the nation while allowing an average of just 198.3 passing yards per game, according to NCAA.com.
The secondary has been able to clamp down on opposing wide receivers all year and force quarterbacks to throw into tight windows. This has afforded the Tigers to reel in 16 interceptions this season.
Ohio State's a great offense, but that's on the ground. Third nationally in rushing, No. 93 in passing.— Aaron Brenner (@Aaron_Brenner) December 10, 2013
Miller has been impressive throwing the ball for Ohio State this year, as he has tossed 22 touchdowns against just five interceptions. However, his duo of wide receivers must find holes in Clemson's secondary to avoid costly turnovers.
Philly Brown and Devin Smith have been a great pairing for the Buckeyes this season. They are equally trusted by Miller, and it shows up in their production this season:
Having two threats at the wide receiver position will surely help Ohio State's attempt to gain ground on a strong Clemson secondary. However, both of these receivers must be in top form if they are to produce at a high level come January.