I tuned into the B1G Championship game on Saturday hoping to see Michigan State pull the upset and send Ohio State to the Orange Bowl in lieu of Alabama. After seeing Sparty dominate the first quarter I was salivating for a shot at the Buckeyes. Then OSU QB, Braxton Miller, used his feet to take over the game. He ran all over the best defense in the nation to the tune of 142 rushing yards. I stopped salivating real quick.
Michigan State Defensive Coordinator, Pat Narduzzi, made the necessary adjustments to slow him down, but Narduzzi is an elite defensive coordinator, possibly the best in the country, and will have plenty of opportunities to be a head coach soon enough (Wake Forest?). Braxton Miller is going to be a huge challenge for the Clemson defense. Connor Shaw absolutely torched us in Columbia with both designed QB runs and scrambles away from pressure, and Braxton is twice the athlete.
On the bright side, Shaw's running, at least to some extent, seemed to catch us by surprise, and we failed to adjust mid-game. Braxton Miller is a great runner and everyone knows it's coming. Venables and Swinney have a month to figure it out.
The Buckeye defense is less impressive though. Their secondary committed some horrendous PI penalties in that B1G Championship Game. They surrendered 34 points to a fairly vanilla Spartan offense that only topped that mark in two of their other eight B1G games.
In the game prior, the Buckeyes gave up 41 points, 451 passing yards, and four passing touchdowns to Michigan. Northwestern (5-6) and llinois (4-8) also had big offensive outputs scoring 30 and 35, respectively. OSU has fewer INTs on the season than a Clemson secondary which most consider the weakness of our defense. Fox Sports ranked Ohio State's passing defense 71st in the country. If this is indeed Watkins' last game at Clemson, he'll have a chance to go out on the wings of a huge performance.
Conversely their defensive line is outstanding. They swarm to the ball, use their hands to rip the QB to the ground, and they'll be another very tough task for the Clemson O-line. Their 40 sacks as a team is the most in the the nation (tied with Arizona State and Stanford). Their rush defense is also tough, and is rated 7th by Fox Sports.
Had Ohio State beat Michigan State and played for a National Title, we would've run into Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. I heard some people talk about how that would be a great measuring stick for our program, and we could really test our progress since the 2008 dumpster fire. I don't buy into that. It would have been a mess and with all due respect to an excellent Buckeyes team, I'm much happier with this matchup. This will be the the start of many more ACC/B1G Orange Bowls as it'll pair the ACC with Notre Dame/B1G moving forward.
This is a great opportunity on a big stage. Clemson needs to show up like they did against LSU and UGA and not like they did against FSU and SCar. This is also big for Tajh Boyd's legacy. He has an opportunity to tie Rodney Williams for the most wins by a Clemson QB while joining Billy Hair (1950) and Homer Jordan (1981) as the only Clemson QBs to win an Orange Bowl. I believe that would cement him as the greatest Tiger QB ever. (We will have an article to discuss his legacy posted shortly.)
College football fans--Clemson fans included--often argue that Ohio State is overrated and point to the 2006 and 2007 BCS NC game losses, most notably their 2006 41-14 blowout to UF, as evidence. I fully expect the Buckeyes to open as favorites and many Clemson fans to again call them overrated. If we don't beat them, I don't want to hear it again for a long, long time. This is an excellent team and will be a major challenge, but it is far from an impossible one.
This post is just, as the title indicates, my initial reaction. We'll be bringing you much more in-depth analysis of this matchup in the coming weeks. Please check back for more.
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