The-Ozone Staff Picks: Ohio State vs. Clemson

2019 Fiesta Bowl Ohio State

We have reached the portion of the season where the picks from earlier in the season don’t matter.

The regular season records have all been washed away by this bullcrap rain in Phoenix all week.

All of the picks made from game one to game 13 are now moot. Nobody wants to hear that I probably got more picks correct than anybody else, especially not Brandon Zimmerman or Caroline Rice.

Everybody is 0 and 0 at this point, with a chance to go 2-0.

Although by typing that, I have been flagged by the Clemson sports information department for disrespecting their football program and personally insulting Dabo Swinney. For that, I apologize. It was not my intent to harm him or his family or his legacy of gollyshucks.

But we should probably get to the picks, because I have a feeling a few of us here are probably going to tick off some Buckeye fans as well.

Tony Gerdeman

When anybody asks me about this game, I have a familiar refrain: if Ohio State runs the ball and they protect Justin Fields, they can’t lose.

Running the ball is key, but I expect the Buckeyes to be able to do that well enough. Only Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game has held OSU to under 200 yards rushing, and that was due to Justin Fields’ knee and the Badgers’ familiarity with the Buckeye offense.

If Fields has time and the offense doesn’t get backed up with big negative plays, there are areas in Clemson’s defense to take advantage of, especially deep.

But I’m not sure Fields can be protected as well as he’ll need to be in this one. Blitzes up the middle have been effective. He is also not as elusive as he once was.

It is also impossible for me to forget how lost the pass defense was at times late this season. Much of that was due to Shaun Wade not being there against Michigan.

The Clemson offense has had three weeks to come up with some ways to mix up the communication in the backend for the Buckeyes and confuse them. If somebody doesn’t step up alongside Chase Young, Ohio State won’t be able to get the stop they need.

Clemson 34, Ohio State 31

Brandon Zimmerman

Somewhere along the way, the Buckeyes went from being the most dominant team in college football to a team collectively walking into a slaughter house by simply being matched up with Clemson in the playoffs.  While a large portion of the fan base has convinced themselves this is 2016, I am not one of those people.

On offense, the Buckeyes will look to impose their will in the run game with a steady combination of JK Dobbins and Justin Fields (who I bet is more than 80% healed).  The aggressiveness by Clemson will lead to a few long TD runs.  JK will get his 150+ yards but the real difference makers on offense will be the WR group taking advantage of a very average Clemson secondary.  I see KJ Hill having a huge game across the middle with 10+ catches.  The combination of the run game and KJ will open things up for a few deep balls.

Defensively, Ohio State is set up to at least limit the powerful Clemson offense a little.  Trevor Lawrence’s ability to scramble scares me more than anything.  It’s that ability that turns a third and long into a broken first down which may de-moralize the defense.  If I am the Buckeyes, I sell out on stopping Travis Etienne and like my chances with the secondary to do their part.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see OSU go big up front and even start Jashon Cornell at defensive end.

Ohio State 45, Clemson 27  

Tom Orr

The Fiesta Bowl is a matchup of two of the three best teams in the nation. That’s pretty much inarguable. It is also entirely possible a matchup of the two best teams in the country.

There are a lot of variables that could swing the game. How will Clemson handle facing a team that’s exponentially more talented than
anyone they’ve faced all year? How will Ohio State, with a first-year head coach and first-year starter at quarterback, handle the stage of the Playoff?

But as we’ve discussed on The Buckeye Weekly Podcast this month, the game will likely come down to three things: 1) Can Ohio State generate a consistent push up front on offense and run the ball? 2) Can the offensive line protect Justin Fields in the face of a solid Clemson pass rush and Brent Venables’ secondary hold up against an extraordinarily talented OSU wide receiving corps?

There’s a good chance the Buckeyes will be able to run the ball. The line has gotten a good push, and J.K. Dobbins has been fantastic all year.

There’s also a good chance that the offensive line struggles to keep Justin Fields upright. Fields said earlier this week that his bad knee was “80 to 85 percent.” That’s a problem.

And while OSU’s entire secondary could be playing in the NFL this time next year, they’re almost certainly going to give up 300+ yards of passing against Clemson. That, in turn, sets up the Tigers’ rushing attack with Travis Etienne.

These might be not only two of the most talented teams in the country, but two of the most evenly-matched as well. This should be an absolutely incredible game.

In the end, OSU’s biggest weakness, pass protection, might be enough to negate Clemson’s relative weakness in the defensive backfield. And in a game this close, that might make all the difference.

Clemson 35, Ohio State 31

Michael Citro

Ohio State is about to face its toughest test of the season. The Buckeyes haven’t seen an offense as good as they’ll see in the Fiesta Bowl. Their opponents have a dynamic quarterback, an excellent running game, a balanced offense, and the ability to keep the other team off balance. On offense, they’ll see a defense that attacks, tackles well, and keeps other teams from scoring many points. But the same is true of Clemson. They’re going to see an offense and defense unlike any other the Tigers have faced this season.

So, it could come down to which team is more battle tested. That would be Ohio State. It could come down to which team is the healthiest. Clemson seems to have the edge due to Justin Fields’ knee. Maybe it will be special teams play. Or it might simply be whoever takes better care of the football. This match-up is about the biggest toss-up I can imagine for the 2019 Buckeyes. The law of averages can sometimes be a difficult beast to coax out of its cave — one needs to look no further than the total number of offensive holding calls against OSU opponents this year to discern that. So, is this the year Ohio State finally gets a postseason win against Clemson? They’re certainly due and I sure hope so. We’ll see.

Ohio State 38, Clemson 34

Caroline Rice

The last time these two teams played, Clemson beat Ohio State 31-0 in the 2016 College Football Playoff Semifinals. It was ugly and embarrassing for the Buckeyes. This Fiesta Bowl is their opportunity to take out their anger and get revenge. If there’s any Ohio State who can beat Clemson, it’s this Ohio State team right now.

Ohio State has been the most complete and most dominant team in the country all year. The perception that changed after the first half of the Big Ten Championship game and how quickly the conversation changed only adds more fuel to the Buckeyes’ fire. There’s no doubt that Clemson will be the best team Ohio State as faced all year, but Ohio State will also be the best team Clemson has played.

I predict Clemson to come out strong in the first quarter. They have the experience and the confidence and will get away with a few scores until the Buckeye defense figures out Lawrence, Etienne, and Higgins. But I think Ohio State will settle down and get things moving in the first half. It will be back and forth, but I predict that once the Buckeyes get ahead in the fourth quarter, there will be no turning back.

Ohio State 42, Clemson 31

Michael Meihls

It’s not just pregame hype, or trying to stay off the bulletin boards, Clemson may well be the best team Ohio State has faced this season. The Tigers, even in the weak ACC, are a powerhouse. You don’t rattle off 30-odd wins straight without being a good team.

On offense, everyone knows about Clemson’s QB Trevor Lawerence. Sunshine was the best QB recruit his year, and he has not disappointed. However, he throws a lot of jump balls and great defenses can stop him. The Clemson wideout corps will challenge the Silver Bullets, but they are not better than the Buckeyes. But don’t let the AirPower distract you from a very impressive rushing attack either. Travis Etienne will get his, and stopping him will be instrumental to a Buckeye victory.

Clemson’s defense is not the same as the team that won the national championship last year, but they’re darn good. There will be challenges for the Buckeyes, and Clemson will get enough stops to keep them in the game.

Fortunately for Buckeye Nation, as good as Clemson is, the Buckeyes are better…in every aspect of the game. Clemson has been playing great football since nearly getting beat by UNC, and no one really knows how good they are because they’ve not been challenged. OSU, on the other hand, has been battle tested and faced really good competition. I’ll take that over a team that’s living off 2019.

In the end, this will be a good game to watch, and we’ll enjoy it a little more. OSU pulls away late.

OSU 38, Clemson 28  

Chip Minnich

The Ghost Of Fiesta Bowl Past visited Clemson, giving the Tigers an unhealthy dose of overconfidence heading into The 2019 Fiesta Bowl. Little did the Tigers know that The Ghost Of Fiesta Bowl Past also gave the 2002 Miami Hurricanes a visit prior to their battle with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Ohio State can win this game, provided the Buckeyes do not have the same type of lapses that appeared at stretches during the Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin games. The Buckeyes need to keep Clemson from their stereotypical big plays offensively, which is easier said than done. If Ohio State’s defensive line can get pressure on Trevor Lawrence, the secondary tackles well, and Ohio State capitalizes on any Clemson mistakes, I see this as a game where J.K. Dobbins makes himself a legend by helping burn clock late in the game, thanks to the Ohio State offensive line.

Ohio State 42, Clemson 35

Adam Borland

As of my writing this, the following individuals/entities have selected Clemson as the predicted winner of the Fiesta Bowl:
Dennis Dodd, Jerry Palm, Tom Fornelli, Chip Patterson, Barton Simmons, Barrett Sallee, Las Vegas, Pat Forde, Laken Litman, Molly Geary, Colin Cowherd, and a slew of other talking heads.

Essentially, the national media talking points switched in early December from Ohio State being a juggernaut to now being a team that should just be happy to be in the company of the Clemson Tigers. Just take in the sights. Enjoy yourselves, Buckeye fans. Making the playoffs is quite a feat in itself. Let’s just be happy to even be there!

Forget that. The Buckeyes have been building up to this game for the entire season. They’ve beaten every opponent handily, played against far superior competition than Clemson, and are ready for this matchup. OSU will rely on the legs of J.K. Dobbins to move the ball, but will also utilize its talented receivers to test and stretch the Tiger defense. Similarly, though Clemson consistently rolls out excellent talent at its skill positions, Ohio State is blessed with NFL players lining up across from them. The Tigers will need to throw everything at slowing down Chase Young, opening up the opportunity for other D-linemen/linebackers to get to Lawrence in the backfield.

I may be in the minority, but I think that the Buckeyes will advance in the playoffs. It will be a tight game, but OSU comes away with the Fiesta Bowl victory.

OSU 38, Clemson 34

20 Responses

    1. Speaking of crackheads. That must have been some good stuff. I hope you have some left for tomorrow.

  1. PUT DOWN THE CRACK PIPES! Stats aren’t going to win the game. The other thing is stop buying the bullshit that Clemson hasn’t played anybody or been tested. They would have easily destroyed OSU’s ranked opponents. All of them were firmly mid-teen material. Cincinnati was ranked higher than Wisconsin and Michigan during the season. It’s true that the ACC’s mediocrities aren’t as good as the Big Ten’s second raters but what it really means is that neither team has been tested yet by a competent opponent. The fact that Ohio State struggled a little in the last three games is reason to temper the overconfidence. Wisconsin, PSU, and UM doesn’t scare anybody except homers. Teams have figured out ways to handle Chase Young, who had zero sacks in the last two games. Our QB is not at 100%. Pray that he doesn’t go down. Be happy if we win at all. Better save some of that scarlet & gray crack just in case Fields goes down.

    Clemson 38 Ohio State 31

    1. Speaking of crack pipes………..what was in your crack pipe when you typed that nonsense? Maybe some crack with Timothy Leary’s specialty?

      FTR………the ACC’s 3rd best team, not only lost to, but, gave up virtually 500 yards of offense to…….MSU, one of the very worst (96th total O offenses in the Country.

      Clemson is a good team, but, the ACC is an absolute junk yard as a football conference.

      1. Lol, who cares about the ACC’s 3rd best team? The Buckeyes aren’t playing the ACC. They’re playing the defending national champions who have a 28 game winning streak. You need to become acquainted with logic. Whatever meds you’re on are worse than the scarlet & gray street crack but you’re always entertaining. Last time I checked the Tigers were favored by -2. If the Buckeyes win it will be an upset. FYI, Ohio State is a big fish in a little pond. The elite Big Ten teams aside from OSU are solidly in the teens. The Buckeyes played had no signature wins this year, at least not yet. Put down that crack pipe now or at least get better stuff.

      2. James, that conference didnt stop them from winning it all last year. I honestly think Clemsom will win big, not a close game. The defense will be exposed.

  2. I’ve had forboding about this game since it was announced. I’ve been patient and did my dig into the stats no one talks about and what I found bothers me a little, but not so bad as to account for why I’m just not feelin’ it.
    For everything the Buckeyes do better (3rd down conversion, for example, they beat Clemson by 10%), there’s something that Clemson evens it up with (no blocked kicks allowed, more TFLs).
    It really bothers me that they’re better at taking the ball away as that would be huge tomorrow.
    Reading the predictions from another site and then here, I got the impression of Bucks by 11 – I was thinking 35 – 24 because 11 points is as close as anyone’s come all year. Caroline’s probably right that more points will be scored on both sides but I just can’t shake that both defenses are going to outshine their offenses tomorrow.
    My pipe-dream is for J.K. to get 171 yards on 17 carries (putting him at 300 carries for 2k yards for the season) and 3 TDs.
    Buckeyes 42
    Tigers 27

  3. I’ve been thinking about this game all week and looking at every stat, metric and piece of data out there and all of it points to a Buckeye victory.

    However, the last 2 games exposed some significant weaknesses that the strengths of Clemson will take advantage of.

    Unfortunately, and it pisses me off to say this, i think this will be the last game of the year for the Buckeyes in embarrassment… Clemson by 24

  4. You heard it here first….Ohio State 35 Clemson 24 Final. The difference in the game will be a motivated JK Dobbins as the best tailback in the country. He gets 150 yards rushing and its goodbye Clemson. Also, look for Garrett Wilson to light Clemson up on short routes and pick routes. However, it will be the Buckeye secondary that shuts down the Tiger passing game. Look for Shaun Wade to be the difference. Go Bucks!!

  5. with Justin’s knee issue Wilson, Day and company better dial up some pass plays that connect in 2-3 seconds for 5- 8 yards and let receivers get some extra. I’ve been dying to see some play action passes all year long and those plays seem to be torn out of the playbook but as much as we are going to be using Dobbins Clemson is going to bite hard on a PAP. Also on the back burner were the middle drags from laqst year that messed with SCum so much. If we come out with same offensive plan we’re toast. If we get a little creative we win

  6. I’ve never been accused of being an overconfident fan, but I’ve got OSU, 34-30. The way I feel about this game is the same way I felt about Alabama in 2014: intially worried, then calm, then optimistic. Lawrence and his receivers scare me, a lot, but Dabo Swinney has no idea what he’s in for. The dogs are about to be unleashed.

  7. Clemson double digits and exposing OSUs defense. Saying that, I predicted they would lose to Mich

  8. de facto national championship with the 2 best overall teams,,LSU is good but don’t the same great defense as these 2…Justin Field’s health/ability to take off and avoid sacks is my main concern, but I think the run blocking of OSUa nd the d-line for OSU are advantages..I would definitely key on stopping travis E and let the talented OSU secondary deal with clemson’s talented WR’s and ..they will get their’s–not totally stopping clemson at all..but I think Dobbins and the run game will be the difference in what should be an exciting, nerve-wracking game of the elite of the elite…OSU 31- Clemson 28…go Bucks!!!

    1. 26 is a pretty odd football score, James. 😉

    2. 47-26? That must be some especially potent crack. Hope you saved some for after the game.

  9. It hangs on Just Fields’ mobility. If his knee is solid enough to avoid the pass rush, Bucks win. If not, Clemson by 10.

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