Fiesta Bowl 2019: Individual Matchups to Watch in Clemson vs. Ohio State

Jake RillSenior Analyst IDecember 24, 2019

Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins (5) reacts following his touchdown against Virginia duriung the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Clemson is looking for continued dominance, while Ohio State is seeking revenge.

Saturday's Fiesta Bowl, one of two College Football Playoff semifinal matchups, should be one of the most exciting games of the college football season as a pair of undefeated conference champions face off.

The Tigers, who have won two of the past three national championships, are 13-0 after winning the ACC championship. The Buckeyes are also 13-0 and won the Big Ten championship, and they're in the Playoff for the first time since the 2016 season, when they lost to Clemson 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl.

Clemson and Ohio State will kick off at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.


Top Individual Matchups

Ohio State DE Chase Young vs. Clemson's offensive line

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

The Tigers offensive line may be an experienced group, but they're going to have their hands full with Young, a Heisman Trophy finalist and a likely top pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

Young is an elite pass-rusher who has 44 tackles, 16.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles this season. And he played in only 11 matchups, missing two games due to a suspension. He immediately made an impact upon his return, though, as he had three sacks and a forced fumble in a win over Penn State on Nov. 23.

Clemson starts four seniors on its offensive line, but it may be sophomore left tackle Jackson Carman who will be tasked with trying to stop Young, who typically rushes from the right side of the defense. It's possible that senior left guard John Simpson will also help with protection on that side to try to limit Young's impact.

Carman was a third-team All-ACC selection this season. Now he has the chance to have the biggest game of his young career if he can shut down Young.


Clemson WR Tee Higgins vs. Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Both of these players are probable first-round picks for the upcoming NFL draft, so it will be fun to see who wins this matchup between a pair of top-tier college players.

Higgins has 52 receptions for 1,082 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. And his best games have been recent, as he had three receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns vs. South Carolina on Nov. 30 and nine catches for 182 yards and three touchdowns against Virginia in the ACC Championship Game earlier this month.

Okudah has 30 tackles, three interceptions, seven pass deflections and two forced fumbles this year. He hasn't had an interception since late September, but he's provided great coverage for the Buckeyes all season.

Higgins is 6'4", so he'll have the size advantage over the 6'1" Okudah. If Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence puts the ball where only Higgins can get it, that could prove to be the difference in this top matchup.


Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons vs. Multiple Ohio State players

Sean Rayford/Associated Press

Simmons does just about everything for the Tigers, and he'll likely be all over the field in the Fiesta Bowl. Sometimes he's a pass-rusher, other times he's covering slot receivers. He's a versatile defender who Ohio State will look to limit in his various roles.

A standout junior who could be selected early in the 2020 NFL draft, Simmons has set career highs in tackles (93), sacks (seven) and interceptions (two) this season. He also has six pass deflections and a forced fumble.

Ohio State ranks fifth in the country in total offense with 531 total yards per game. So, the Buckeyes have some strong players who will try to hold off Simmons up front and also try to beat him in pass coverage.

But Simmons will move around a lot and find different ways to make plays, which could lead to Ohio State trying to keep the ball where he's not.