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#7 Ohio State vs #12 Clemson: Orange You Glad It’s Finally Here?

Ohio State fans, diagnosis are you over it yet?  Did the complete devastation of that stunning loss to Michigan State in the B1G Title Game, along with the Buckeyes’ chance to make it to the National Title Game leave your body yet?  Did you eat your feelings through December and avoid ESPN at all costs?  Well if it hasn’t, kick it to the curb my friend, because the Clemson Tigers and a possible top-BCS-bowl win are staring us in the face, and it’s a Tony Soprano kind of stare.  Show no fear, Buckeye Nation.

We’ll start off with the latest OSU/Orange Bowl scuttlebutt as of Tuesday – the flu seems to have overtaken numerous Buckeye players and coaching staff, including star quarterback and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Braxton Miller.  Here’s hoping they’ve got some good Hollywood-like docs with them.  And defensive end and top pass rusher Noah Spence – who’s recorded 52 tackles and a team-high 8 sacks – has not traveled to Florida with the team.  No reason has been given other than that he is “sorting out personal issues.”  Head Coach Urban Meyer has stated that he hopes Spence will join them all soon.  Spence would be a huge difference-maker for the Buckeyes, who need all they have to slow down the Clemson Tigers’ high-powered offense.  {Update below.}

The defense is also suffering the diminished ability and possible loss of two other starters – cornerback Brad Roby and linebacker Curtis Grant.  Roby is dealing with a bone bruise in his knee from the B1G Title Game and Grant has a back injury.  So far the odds are not ever in our favor.  But these are the Ohio State Buckeyes and this is Urban Meyer – this ain’t the Titanic, kids.

Friday, January 3, Ohio State is making an appearance in one of the top five BCS bowls, where two of the most prolific offenses in the country will go head-to-head.  This is only the second time the two have met, with the first being in the 1978 Gator Bowl that, yes, featured the punch heard round the world and resulted in the end of Woody Hayes’ stellar career.

Clemson is one of the best passing teams in the country, with one of the best quarterbacks in the game with Tahj Boyd.  Boyd has passed for 3,473 yards and 29 touchdowns this year.  He scored another nine TDs on the ground. The senior’s 102 career touchdown passes are tied for 15th in major-college history.  His favorite target?  Wide receiver and second-team All-American Sammy Watkins, who led the ACC with 1,237 yards on 85 catches and 10 TDs.  Impressed yet?

While Clemson did rack up two big losses for the season and did not make the ACC Title Game, those defeats were only to #1 Florida State and #9 South Carolina.

These two offenses will probably provide one of the most exciting match-ups of this bowl season.  The Tigers averaged 45.1 points and 534.6 yards in their wins.  The Bucks ranked fourth in the FBS in scoring at 46.3 points per game and seventh in total offense, averaging 518.5 yards.  While Clemson wins on the passing game, the Bucks own the running game.  The Buckeyes’ rushing game was close to unstoppable this season and the offensive line was one of the best in the country.

Tahj Boyd

Third team All-American running back Carlos Hyde powered the Buckeye offense with an average 317.5 rushing yards – the nation’s third-best mark. He led the conference in rushing yardage and finished with 1,408 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.  Add to that QB Braxton Miller, who averaged 155.8 rushing yards per game, 9.4 per carry and ran for eight TDs over his last four contests. He also led the B1G with 22 passing touchdowns while throwing for 1,860 yards.

The great news is that Tigers have had a vulnerable defense and some trouble stopping the run, allowing an average of 169.5 rushing yards in their last four games.  But, they are good against the pass and boast the best defensive line in the ACC.  Ohio State can defend the run but have been, well, pretty bad at pass defense and the secondary absolutely, positively must be operating at the very best possible level in this game.

Fun fact: Clemson star quarterback Tahj Boyd was this close to signing with OSU.  Former Heisman-winning Buckeye quarterback Troy Smith was his idol growing up (damn, do I feel old now) and he’d met numerous times with Coach Tressel, who had the scarlet & grey pen all ready for him. 

Overall expect a high-scoring game between two incredible offenses and not-exactly-outstanding defenses.  The opening Orange Bowl odds had OSU as a 3-point favorite.  If Ohio State can make some adjustments in the secondary and vastly improve their pass defense while putting pressure on Tahj Boyd and making him hold on to the ball longer than he wants to, this game can be all theirs.  Whatever may happen, this is an excellent match-up and should be a really exciting game.

And the only thing I have left to say…..GO BUCKS!!

1/1/14 UPDATE: The Buckeyes have confirmed that Brad Roby will not play in Friday night’s game.  And per Eleven Warriors, sophomore defensive end Noah Spence has violated a Big Ten rule and will be suspended for three games, starting with Friday night’s Orange Bowl.

Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch reported Spence’s suspension is due to the use of a banned dietary supplement. The Big Ten declined to comment when asked by Eleven Warriors to expand on details surrounding Spence’s suspension.

Serenity Now.

About the author: Kristin Conrad is a college football-loving graduate of Ohio State – she bleeds Scarlet & Gray and considers the Varsity Club hallowed ground. A PR pro who just moved back to Columbus from Manhattan Beach, Chicago and NYC, she’s been happy to find that some of her favorite friends ever are from schools she used to hate and that nothing brings people together like sports does.

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