College football fans looking for another offensive showdown similar to the Fiesta Bowl between Baylor and UCF, look no further than the Orange Bowl. When the Ohio State Buckeyes and Clemson Tigers meet on Friday night at 8:30 p.m. EST, it will pit two of the best offensive teams this season against one another.
The Buckeyes and Tigers have made names for themselves but in completely different fashions.
For Ohio State, pounding the ball with the No. 3 rushing offense in the country had it one game away from the BCS National Championship.
Clemson, on the other hand, is averaging 329.3 passing yards per game and finished 11th in the country through the air along with averaging the ninth-most points on the year.
With both teams set to take the stage on Friday night, here are the players to watch in the Orange Bowl for both sides.
Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, QB and WR, Clemson
One of the best tandems in college football, Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins have carried the Tigers all season during their third straight 10-win season. Simply put, when Boyd goes down field, Watkins is normally the one coming away with a memorable catch.
During his final practice in a Clemson uniform, Boyd spoke about his time and how he and Watkins have turned around the culture during their tenure:
Boyd's career at Clemson has been one thing, but the senior has enjoyed another great season this year. The senior needs just 27 yards passing for his third straight season with over 3,500 and needs one more touchdown for his third season with 30 passing touchdowns.
Though his last game against South Carolina was one of the worst of his career, the four games prior to that were outstanding. Boyd put together a four-game stretch in which he averaged 327.25 passing yards per game and had a total of 16 total touchdowns (13 passing, three rushing) and three interceptions.
One statistic to remember with Boyd: When he throws two interceptions in a game this season, his team has gone 1-2. During games in which he's thrown one interception or less, the Tigers have gone 9-0.
As for his favorite target, Watkins has certainly lived up to the hype he was given before the season started. The junior receiver finished the regular season with 85 receptions for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The junior has also been outstanding after the catch. In yards after the catch, Watkins leads all other automatic qualifying schools with 836, according to ESPN's Sharon Katz. On the other side is an Ohio State defense that is allowing 144 yards after the catch per game.
Considering the fact that the two are facing off with an Ohio State defense that has been atrocious against the pass, this will definitely be a tandem to watch. The Buckeyes rank 103rd in the country in passing yards allowed (259.5) and just lost to the Michigan State Spartans after sophomore quarterback Connor Cook threw for 304 yards in the Big Ten Championship Game.
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, a former Buckeye football player, made things pretty clear when he was asked about who would contain Watkins and teammate Martavis Bryant:
Watkins has been one of the most dynamic receivers in college football this season and will look to finish off what could be his final season with Clemson with a huge game in the Orange Bowl.
Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, QB and RB, Ohio State
When talking about tremendous tandems in college football this season, Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde are near the top of the list. While Nick Marshall and Tre Mason might be more in the spotlight currently, Miller and Hyde have carried—literally and figuratively—the Buckeyes to the Orange Bowl.
In fact, Bill Bender of Sporting News added the statistics of both tandems, and the two appear to be closer than many might think:
Miller, much like Boyd, can get the job done with both his arms and leg, but Miller is much more effective in the ground game while Boyd is better through the air.
The junior quarterback hasn't decided whether or not he'll be back for another season, according to SportsCenter's official Twitter account:
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller says he'll make a decision on the NFL by the end of the week. Buckeyes face Clemson this Friday in Orange Bowl.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 2, 2014
As for his pro prospects, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that he will be watched by a certain executive that just so happens to own the No. 1 draft pick:
Texans GM Rick Smith will be watching QBs such as Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty, Blake Bortles, Braxton Miller this week in event any turn pro.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 29, 2013
Miller has rushed for over 1,000 yards and passed for over 1,800 yards with a total of 32 touchdowns this season, but he fell well short of expectations early in the season to be a Heisman finalist. If it is his last game as a Buckeye, Miller will be looking to go out on top against a porous rushing defense.
Who will win the Orange Bowl?
This is where Carlos Hyde comes in. The senior tailback has burst onto the scene after being suspended for the first three games of the season. The senior got off to a slow start in his first two games back but has been the Buckeyes' catalyst over their last eight games.
The senior has not dropped below 110 yards in his final eight games and has 14 touchdowns during that stretch thanks to five multi-touchdown games.
With the Buckeyes' rushing tandem facing a Tigers defense that ranks 50th in the country with 152.6 yards allowed per game, there should be plenty of carries to go around for both Miller and Hyde. In a game with two explosive offenses, either defense's ability to stop the other team's offense will be crucial.