Clash of the Titans Battle in the Fiesta Bowl
Both teams come into this game feeling disrespected. Winners of 28 consecutive games, the Clemson Tigers have felt the need to chase perfection all year. Head coach Dabo Swinney even made a point to let the country know how he felt about the Tigers needing to be perfect. Meanwhile, Ohio State feels slighted because they feel that after three consecutive wins against ranked opponents they deserved the top seed. The Buckeyes struggled really for the first time all year in the first half against Wisconsin. However, the showed their championship pedigree by soundly defeating the Badgers. With that, set up a clash of the titans in the Fiesta Bowl.
Last year, Trevor Lawrence was the budding newcomer who led his team to a national championship in his first year as the starting quarterback. This year, Justin Fields looks to do the same thing for the Buckeyes. Either way, it’s a thrilling matchup featuring arguably the two best teams in the country.
Clemson Tigers Preview
You can make an argument that some teams are playing as well, but nobody is playing better than the Clemson Tigers right now. Clemson has won its games by nearly 30 points per game on the year. In fact, after the scare against North Carolina, they stepped that up by a 42-point margin. They concluded that with a 45-point victory over Virginia in the ACC Championship game.
As mentioned, the Tigers enter Glendale bolstering a 28-game winning streak over the last two seasons. With the talent that Swinney has been able to shuffle in and out of his program, it’s safe to say it’s at a dynasty status. Clemson has been dynamic on both sides of the ball in averaging 46.5 points per game while only allowing 10.6. Those are good for fourth and first respectively in the country.
For the Tigers, it starts with Lawrence. He’s had a bit of an up and down season. Coming into the year, he was a Heisman favorite. But, he started the season with just 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions after seven games. However, the last six games have been lights out. The sophomore has thrown for 20 touchdowns without an interception. In fact, he has over 147 consecutive passes without an interception. Lawrence has the luxury of three outstanding playmakers by his side. Travis Etienne has nearly 1,800 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Tigers also have two electric receivers in Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross who have over 1,800 yards receiving and 21 touchdowns.
Many thought this would be the season that Clemson would struggle on defense. However, Brent Venables has reloaded and produced the best defense in the country. Isaiah Simmons is the leader on defense as the best linebacker in America. His ability to essentially play every position on the field give Venables so many options. He leads the team with six sacks. And, Tanner Muse has been wonderful on the back end. Muse leads the team with four interceptions and has been critical in run support.
Ohio State Buckeyes Preview
Replacing a legend is hard. But, thus far, Ryan Day has made it look easy. The Buckeyes have looked like the most complete team in college football over the balance of the season. They have shown their dominance at times with a near 30 point beatdown of Michigan. And, they showed the country their meddle in coming from behind and outscore Wisconsin 27-0 in the second half of the Big 10 Championship.
Like Clemson, Ohio State’s dominance is clear to see on the stat sheet as well. The Buckeyes are the top-scoring team in the country with a 48.7 points per game average. Meanwhile, they bring in the third-ranked defense in giving up only 12.5 points per game. With as dominating as both of these clubs have been, the level of competition is what gave Ohio State the seeding edge. The Big 10 has been a much stronger conference than the ACC.
These College Football Playoffs are replete with unbelievable quarterback play. But, with Fields, Ohio State has the most efficient playmaker. He has 40 touchdown passes with only one interception on the season. Add in his 10 touchdowns on the ground makes him one of the most dynamic players in the game. He has one of the best sidekicks you could ask for in J.K. Dobbins. Dobbins had over 1,800 yards on the ground with 20 rushing touchdowns. Ohio State spreads the ball around a little more than Clemson. But, Chris Olave has been a big playmaker for the Buckeyes with nearly 800 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns.
Ohio State brings perhaps the best individual player in college football in Chase Young. From his defensive end position, he has 16.5 sacks on the season and is a matchup nightmare. However, the matchup of the game might be Ohio State’s two shutdown corners of Damon Arnette and Jeff Okudah against Higgins and Ross. Both have broken up seven passes each on the year.
Clash of the Titans: The Prediction
The individual matchups in this game are incredibly intriguing to watch. The Tigers are battle-tested with two national championships in the last three years. Meanwhile, Ohio State’s complete team is staggering. Lawrence vs Fields. Etienne vs Dobbins. Arnette and Okudah vs Higgins and Ross. One thing to keep an eye on is Fields’ health. He has a leg injury that hasn’t progressed as much as he would like. In an even matchup like this, we go with the experienced team. Clemson 34, Ohio State 31.