Ohio State vs Clemson: Five Key Notes On The 2016 Rematch

Jan 9, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; General view of the college football playoff trophy during media day at Phoenix Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; General view of the college football playoff trophy during media day at Phoenix Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The Ohio State Buckeyes now knows their opponent in the College Football Playoff. What must we keep in mind with this game?

With Sunday’s College Playoff Committee announcement of the final rankings, Ohio State will get a rematch against Clemson. This is a rematch for a number of reasons including the fact that the Tigers handed Urban Meyer his lone bowl loss as the Buckeyes head coach in the 2014 Orange Bowl.

There’s plenty of time to get into the X’s and O’s ahead of the Fiesta Bowl, Dec. 31. For now though, there’s some key notes to keep in mind as the Buckeyes prepare for the Tigers.

1. For all of the doubt, the Clemson resume is as strong as Ohio State’s

The Tigers have four wins over the ESPN Power Index’s top 25. Their only loss was to Pitt, which sits at 24th in that same FPI ranking. Three of those big wins were on the road against Auburn, Florida State, and Virginia Tech.

Sure, there were close games against teams like Troy and NC State, but there were also huge wins against Louisville in addition to those three big road wins.

One thing Clemson has on their resume that Ohio State lacks is a conference championship. That is the biggest reason why the Tigers jumped up to No. 2 ahead of Ohio State in the final rankings.

Winning your conference still matters. While the only functional difference is being designated the “home team” in Glendale, Arizona, it still matters that the committee feels Clemson was one spot better than the Buckeyes.

2. Deshaun Watson isn’t alone on the Clemson attack

First of all, Watson is certainly the headliner. He is much like Tajh Boyd, who was the headliner the last time Ohio State saw Clemson in a bowl game.

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Due to Louisville’s Lamar Jackson‘s late season struggles, Watson will be the best quarterback the Buckeyes have seen; Even more so than Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. While Watson is the key to Clemson’s offense, there is more to the Clemson offense than just their quarterback.

Mike Williams is a big-time receiver and is one of the highest rated prospects for the upcoming NFL draft. There’s no comparison for any receiver that the Buckeye secondary has seen this year.

Jordan Leggett is their second leading receiver as a tight end, but is frequently flexed out wide to take advantage of his unique athletic skill set. On the ground, Wayne Gallman found the end zone 15 times en route to a 1,000-yard season. Greg Schiano will have his hands full preparing for the Tigers over the next few weeks.

3. The Tigers defense is pretty good too

Clemson has the ninth rated defense by yards per game in the country and 12th in points allowed per game. They are in the top 25 against both the run and the pass, so there is not an obvious weakness to attack. Even after losing a plethora of NFL talent last season, Ben Boulware and company can still cover sideline to sideline with the best of them.

Still, this is a defense that allowed 36 points to Louisville, 34 to Florida State, 35 to Virginia Tech, and 43 in their loss to Pitt. In each of those games, quarterbacks threw for over 250 yards and Jackson even added 162 yards on the ground.

The Tigers’ defense can give up big games. Against an offense like the Ohio State attack, there could be an opportunity for the Buckeyes to keep the ball moving.

4. There’s a direct correlation between Watson’s play and the team’s success

In the games where Clemson barely escaped with wins or lost, Watson was not nearly as sharp as his overall resume would suggests. While he threw for an incredible 580 yards against Pitt, he also threw three interceptions. One of those picks made its way to the end zone, but that led to Pitt’s game winning field goal.

In the Tigers close win over Louisville, Watson’s 306 passing yards were brought down by three more interceptions. Against Troy, it was two interceptions.

As a result, Watson’s play has been splitting hairs. Therefore, there is a track record of Watson getting out of sorts in big games when his team isn’t rolling right through the competition.

5. The Buckeyes love traveling to Glendale…most of the time

Stretching back to the 2002 BCS Title Game against Miami (FL), Glendale has been very kind to the Buckeyes and their fans. That game started a stretch of three trips in four years to the desert, each of which ended with a Buckeyes victory.

The 2003 Fiesta Bowl was a win over Kansas State and 2006 was a win over Brady Quinn’s Notre Dame squad. Last year also brought Ohio State another win over Notre Dame, a 44-28 beat down.

But a word of caution that is especially relevant for the Buckeyes: Glendale is also home to two heartbreaking bowl losses.

The infamous 2006 title game was in Glendale. The very same game where Meyer showcased to Buckeye fans that speed kills. That said, to this day there has not been a worse performance by an offensive line than the Buckeyes’ effort in that game.

Next: Which Conference Is Better: SEC or Big 10?

Another heartbreak was the 2009 Fiesta Bowl in which Ohio State lost 24-21 to Texas. Ohio State led late into the fourth quarter until Colt McCoy‘s touchdown pass to Quan Cosby with 16 seconds left sealed the Longhorns win.