Fiesta Bowl 2019: Schedule, Top Storylines to Follow in Clemson vs. Ohio State

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 25, 2019

Clemson's Justyn Ross catches a touchdown pass during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The 2019 Fiesta Bowl possesses a matchup worthy of a championship tilt.

The Clemson Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes both enter State Farm Stadium with undefeated records and a plethora of talent on their respective rosters. 

Dabo Swinney's side carries more College Football Playoff experience, as it has appeared in three of the last four title games. 

The Big Ten champion is making its first playoff appearance since 2016, and it has played a tougher schedule than its ACC foe with three consecutive wins over Top 25 opponents. 

With the margins expected to be tight, the second national semifinal could come down to one or two plays made by the biggest stars on the gridiron. 


Top Storylines to Follow in Fiesta Bowl

Which Receiver Group Shines Most? 

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

The Tigers and Buckeyes have five players with more than 500 receiving yards. 

Clemson's duo of Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross own 107 receptions for 1,824 yards and 21 touchdowns. 

Chris Olave, K.J. Hill and Binjimen Victor of Ohio State combined for 1,875 yards on 128 catches for 27 end zone trips. 

Both sets of players will be called upon by Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields to come up with drive-extending plays and scoring actions.

A year ago in the national semifinal, Ross exploded for 148 yards on six catches for a pair of scores and he followed that up with 153 yards and a touchdown in the National Championship. Higgins also had 81 yards and a score versus the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

If they produce at a similar level, the Tigers might roll to their second straight title clash. They are facing an Ohio State defense that conceded 65 points in the last three contests. 

Conversely, Clemson allowed 47 points in November and December, with only one opponent eclipsing 14 points. 

The ACC champion could contain Olave, Hill and Victor, but they have challenged almost every secondary that have faced. 

In the Big Ten Championship Game, Olave and Hill led the Buckeyes with 12 receptions, 177 yards and a pair of scores. 

In the game before that, Garrett Wilson outshined Ohio State's top three wideouts with 118 yards on three receptions. 

If the two sets of players break free, we could be in store for a high-scoring affair, but no matter how the game goes, they will all be asked to step up in the fourth quarter. 

Which receivers make the most important plays could end up deciding which team moves on to the National Championship.


Can Clemson Contain Chase Young

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

For a time this season, Ohio State defensive end Chase Young looked like the most unstoppable player in college football. 

The Heisman Trophy finalist made seven sacks in victories over the Wisconsin Badgers and Penn State Nittany Lions.

Since then, the junior has disappeared a bit from the box score, as he was silenced by Michigan and did not earn a sack in the Big Ten Championship Game. 

Clemson's offensive line has given up 13 sacks in 13 games, and Lawrence has only been taken down more than once on three occasions. 

Young said Tuesday that if Lawrence finds a rhythm, Ohio State would be in trouble, per The Athletic's Grace Raynor. 

There could also be a personal battle brewing between Young and Clemson offensive lineman Jackson Carman, who was involved in a Twitter beef with former Ohio State quarterback and ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit regarding last season's Ohio State quarterback situation, per Cleveland.com's Tim Bielik. The comments were not received well by the Buckeyes players. 

If Carman and his teammates are able to contain Young, Lawrence may work in a clean pocket and lead the Tigers to an early advantage. 

But if Young has his way on the interior, the Buckeyes could force a few quick punts that could allow Fields and the offense to pick up an advantage of its own. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com