SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Boxing champ Mike Tyson used to say that everyone had a plan until they got punched in the face.
In the 2019 Fiesta Bowl, this particular matchup features a pair of teams who haven’t taken many shots, but what shots they have taken, they’ve been able to shake off.
Neither the Buckeyes or Clemson Tigers have faced a program like the other, which means they haven’t yet faced the best shot they’re going to take this season.
Ohio State has taken some body blows — such as the first half of the Big Ten Championship Game — but they have been able recover. Clemson’s lone close game was on the road at North Carolina and that may have been more about what Clemson was doing than North Carolina.
This step up in competition for both teams is what has former Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer intrigued most about this game.
“I told people, I think it’s the first seven minutes of the game is going to be imperative,” Meyer said “It’s going to be because usually that gives you two series of each offense and defense normally unless someone takes a long drive, but I’d be very – start the game, let everybody breathe a little bit, because they’re not used to seeing…Clemson’s not seen anything close to Ohio State, and Ohio State, all due respect to Wisconsin, Penn State and the Wolverines, I mean, they’re very good in certain areas. Right? Not all areas.”
According to Meyer, the first time a team faces somebody equally as talented as they are, “it takes your breath away.”
Both teams have the size, strength, and speed to beat anybody, and now they have to put those tools to use against somebody just as good as they are.
And both teams have to be ready to withstand the toughest barrage of the season.
“This is one man’s opinion,” Meyer said. “I would try to get to two first downs on offense. Just somehow get two first downs and that usually tilts the field. Then you can get a punt, punt it down there, or now you’re crossing the 50 and you can take more shots. What you can’t do is be backed up. You, can’t be backed up.
“And then same thing if you’re the defense playing elite receivers. You haven’t seen any like this, play a little more zone, keep the ball in front of you and maybe stay out of press until you start getting used to the speed. I can’t wait to watch those. I’m going to be on the field watching. I want to watch their eyes because you can tell, the coaches can see as they’re coming off. This is Tee Higgins, now that guy is a beast, and then you look at Clemson, they have never faced a group like this.”
Getting two first downs on a drive is part of Meyer’s “Plan to Win,” which has been handed down to Ryan Day. Day believes in it wholeheartedly and will be trying to get through those first seven minutes without getting pushed back into a troubling situation.
In a game like this, every play is important. But withstanding those first couple of drives without tripping backward into a crevice will be key.
“I think there is such an emphasis, there always is on that first and second down getting it to third and manageable,” Meyer said. “And that’s a bad deal for you if you get minus-two on the first play. You can’t. My opinion, you can’t. If you get minus-two and you’re in normal like minus 20-yard line. There’s a chance you just gave up a score because you’re not going to get those first downs. That’s how critical those first two sessions are. Really intriguing, isn’t it?”