Orange Bowl 2014: Top Playmakers to Watch in Clemson vs. Ohio State

Dilan AmesCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2014

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 30:  Sammy Watkins #2 of the Clemson Tigers listens to music as he warms up before their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The 2014 Orange Bowl will pit  Clemson's pass-happy offense against Ohio State's gritty defense in what could prove to be the most entertaining bowl game of the season. This game will also feature some of the best draft prospects in the country, but none more notable than Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.

Watkins' ability to gain yards after the catch and his overall athleticism are what made him one of the hottest receivers in the country, and he will be an integral part of Clemson's game plan versus the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes, who narrowly missed out on a trip to the BCS National Championship, will attempt to wrap up their impressive 2013 campaign with a victory but could run into some problems against Watkins and co.  


Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

As one of the most highly touted receivers in this upcoming draft, Sammy Watkins has played lights out for Clemson all season long. He's totaled 85 receptions for 1,237 yards along with 10 touchdowns.

Watkins has been Tajh Boyd's favorite target thiseason and has been the Tigers' leading receiver by a lot; he has at least twice as many catches as anyone else on the team. In fact, the difference between Watkins' season stats and Martavis Bryant's (Clemson'second leading receiver) is greater than Bryant'season totals.

The Buckeyes defense will be down three defensive starters in this game, including star corner Bradley Roby. This sets Watkins up for a huge day, and it could give more nightmares to Ohio State players.


Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

Although Watkins is the brightest star on Clemson's roster, Boyd isn't far behind. His compact build along with his athleticism is what makes him so effective in the Tigers offense, and hiskills will be on display in the school's 13th straight bowl game.

Boyd's thrown for 3,473 yards with 29 touchdowns and just nine interceptions thiseason. His 102 career passing touchdowns is the most of any ACC quarterback ever.

Boyd will also be benefiting from the absence of Roby in the lineup and could be in for a bigger day than most expect. This will be one of his final chances to prove himself as a top quarterback in this coming draft, and things are set up for him to have a nice game.


Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

As the Buckeyes' best tackler, Ryan Shazier will be leading the defensive charge come Friday night. Especially with pass-rusher Noah Spence out, his presence will be especially needed against Clemson's offense.

H/t Luke Zimmerman,

Teams have had the most success against Boyd and the Tigers when they heavily rush the passer to disrupt his connection with Watkins, and Shazier will be a key in that game plan should OSU go that route.

As a first-team All-American, Shazier has tallied 123 tackles (22 of which were for a loss) and seven sacks. His impact will be felt when the Buckeyes take the field, and this game's outcome could fall squarely on his and the defense'shoulders.


Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

Carlos Hyde has been one of the most impressive runners in the country thiseason, totaling 1,408 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's been a consistent battering ram for the Buckeyes, and his 7.7 yards-per-carry average is fifth best in the NCAA.

Hyde's power running style will be key in breaking down Clemson's defense and opening things up for Braxton Miller and OSU's passing attack.

Clemson's defense has allowed an average of 159 rushing yards per game thiseason, foreshadowing a big dose of Hyde, courtesy of Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.

This game will mean a lot for both teams heading into next season, with the winner carrying much momentum in 2014. It'll be a close game, but Ohio State's running game and resiliency on defense should carry the Buckeyes to victory over the Tigers.