The Clemson Tigers are seeking their third national championship in four seasons, but they must navigate the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl to have a chance at the title.
One of two College Football Playoff semifinals, the Fiesta Bowl boasts a litany of marquee talent. Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Justin Fields and Chase Young are just a sampling of the superstars who will take the field in Glendale, Arizona.
But in a showdown featuring many of the sport's best players, the smallest details can make the largest difference. From statistical edges to individual matchups, both Clemson and Ohio State have specific areas to exploit. Whichever team does so more efficiently will likely advance to the national title game.
Fiesta Bowl Information
When: Saturday, Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. ET
Odds: Clemson -2 (via Caesars)
- 6.5 yards per carry (leads FBS)
- 13 takeaways, one turnover in past six games
- B.T. Potter (12-of-19 FG, 95th)
- 3.9 yards allowed per play (leads FBS)
- 81.9 red-zone touchdown rate (third)
- 31 sacks allowed (103rd)
- 13 lost fumbles (124th)
Trevor Lawrence vs. Ohio State Linebackers
Ohio State has a star-studded secondary in corners Jeff Okudah, Shaun Wade and Damon Arnette and safety Jordan Fuller. Their collective excellence only assists edge-rushing terror Chase Young, who has gathered an FBS-best 16.5 sacks.
But the Buckeyes must be aware of a relative weakness in the middle of the field. Trevor Lawrence will absolutely try to attack Ohio State's linebackers, both in coverage and on the run.
Look, if Jack Coan can do it, Lawrence certainly will.
Ohio State's linebackers parted like the Red Sea on that scamper in the Big Ten Championship Game. Lawrence is renowned for his NFL-caliber passing, but he's also showed off superb mobility, with 407 yards and seven scores as a runner in 2019.
In addition to Lawrence's running threat, Clemson may be looking for slot receiver Amari Rodgers and running back Travis Etienne to challenge the linebackers in the open field. Should the Tigers win the scrambles and yards-after-catch battles, they will earn a major advantage in Glendale.
Ohio State O-Line vs. Clemson D-Line
The opposite side of this discussion is fascinating. Clemson's blocking unit is among the best in the FBS, and Ohio State boasts one of the nation's most prolific defensive lines.
But will the Buckeyes—who rank 67th in the FBS with 71 tackles for loss allowed—be able to withstand a tenacious front?
Led by hard-hitting hybrid Isaiah Simmons, Clemson is eighth nationally with 102 stops in the backfield. Simmons has 14 tackles for loss, while linebacker Jake Venables and linemen Tyler Davis and Justin Foster have eight apiece. Fourteen players—yes, 14—have at least four takedowns for loss this season.
Meeting that challenge is both difficult and critical.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, quarterback Justin Fields can atone for some pressure with his legs. He's adept at extending plays and provides a mobile threat that must be respected on every play, evidenced by his 21 gains of 10-plus yards as a runner.
If the blockers can neutralize—or at least minimize—the impact of Clemson's front seven, Ohio State will overcome a key problem.
Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR