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2014 Orange Bowl Preview: Clemson vs. Ohio State

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Overall Game Information

Game Time 8:30 PM EST
Stadium Sun Life Stadium
Host City Miami Gardens, FL
Television ESPN
Play by Play Announcer Joe Tessitore
Color Commentator Matt Millen
Clemson Radio Clemson Tiger Sports Network (WCCP FM)
CU Play-By-Play Pete Yanity
CU Color Commentary Will Merritt
CU Sideline Reporting Patrick Sapp

Team Comparison

Clemson Ohio State
2013 Record: 10-2, 7-1 ACC 12-1, 8-0 in Big 10
Rankings: 12 AP, 11 USA Today, 12 BCS 7 AP, 6 USA Today, 6 BCS
Location: Clemson, SC Columbus, OH
Colors: Clemson Orange and Regalia Scarlet and Gray
Enrollment: 20,768 63,964
Athletic Director: Dan Radakovich (Indiana, PA, ‘80) Gene Smith (Notre Dame ‘77)
Head Coach: Dabo Swinney (Alabama ‘93) Urban Meyer (Cincinnati ‘86)
Record at Current School: 50-23 (.684) 24-1 (2nd season)
Career Record: 50-23 (.684) 128-24 (12th season)
Offensive Coordinator: Chad Morris Tom Herman
Base Offense: Spread Spread
Defensive Coordinator: Brent Venables Luke Fickell
Base Defense: 4-3 Multiple
Athletic Website:

Head Coach

Urban Meyer is a household name and one that all college football fans certainly respect due to his teams' success on the football field.  The Ohio native spent his college playing days at Cincinnati before making the rounds as a college football assistant.  His major stops include a stint as a graduate assistant at Ohio State and stops at Colorado State and Notre Dame as an assistant.  In 2001 Meyer took the head coaching job at Bowling Green.  After a tremendous turnaround there, Meyer left for Utah in 2003.  There his teams were successful as well.  Just prior to leaving for Florida following the 2004 season, his Utes football team won the Fiesta Bowl and finished a perfect 12-0.  Meyer is most famous for his work at Florida.  The '06 and '08 Gator teams captured National Championships.  After a leave of absence following the '09 season, Meyer's Gators struggled in 2010 and Meyer announced his retirement from the coaching game following that season.  The Coach then spent the 2011 season as a television commentator for ESPN/ABC.  His work as a commentator was very, very impressive.  Meyer did a good job breaking down the gameplay by accurately drawing up the plays and strategies involved then successfully conveying those concepts to the television audience.  Meyer left the announcer booth following the 2011 season to accept the head coaching job at Ohio State.  While there, Meyer's teams have lost only once to date.

Meyer is well-known for his offensive strategies.  Meyer helped popularize what is commonly referred to as the spread option.  This attack was famously led at Florida by Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.  Prior to Florida, Alex Smith (Utah) and Josh Harris (Bowling Green) also put up nice numbers leading Meyer's offense.


The offense is led by Tom Herman.  Herman is in his second season as OSU's offensive coordinator.  Herman, who graduated from California Lutheran Uniersity in 1997, has been an offensive coordinator since 2005 (2005-06 @ Texas State, 2007-08 @ Rice, and 2009-11 @ Iowa State) and has had great success at each of his four stops at OC.

Tom Herman developed his successful offensive philosophy while at Texas State.  There he watched a tremendous amount of footage featuring Meyer's teams at Utah.  What evolved was an offense he calls "Jet."  Jet is a hurry up spread attack that features motion and many items common to triple option attacks.  Essentially, this offense is an extension of the ideas that Meyer popularized with twists Herman identified during his days at Texas State, Rice, and Iowa en route to Columbus.

As mentioned earlier, Jet is an offshoot of Meyer's work at Utah implementing the spread option attack.  On that note, you'll see a lot of familiar items as Clemson does a good bit of the same stuff OSU shows.  Up front, you will see inside zone, outside zone, and man blocking.  Ohio State will run all the goodies you've seen out of The Chad:  Power-O, Buck Sweep, Inside Zone plays, Outside Stretch plays, Inverted Veer, Zone Read, etc...OSU does seem to favor counter plays more than Clemson, so don't be surprised to see a good bit of Trey action today.  It should go without saying that the Buckeyes make it a point to conflict the end and use many single-wing strategies...the latter meaning that the quarterback will run the football by design.

Herman/Meyer will use a lot of motion in the presnap.  Some of this is just window dressing but don't just dismiss the motioned player.  You'll see the Jet Sweep and will see option-type plays that are set up with motion.  The motion also creates confusion for the opposing defense, possibly slowing down the front seven a step and/or getting eyes in the backfield instead of in the secondary where they belong.

Herman will run these base plays until you prove you can stop them.  To this point, OSU has been so good that most base defenses were not apt to slow down the OSU attack and teams were forced to cheat to try and slow the Buckeyes down.  Like Clemson, they will counter defensive adjustments with their screen game.  Often, like Clemson and Auburn, their screens come off of base run action and determined at times through the presnap assessment.  These are essentially extensions of the run game AND force defenses to stay more honest even when there appears to be a run play in the mix.

Again, like other spread attacks we've seen, OSU will try to stretch the field both horizontally and vertically.  Now that we've discussed the former, the latter involves using core combination routes and well planned reads off these routes.  Two of the favorites of this offense include the Post/Fly combo and Post/Corner combo.  These plays are designed to get the football down the field to stretch the defense and will often be in coordination with play action.  The links do a good job of explaining the quarterback reads along with what each looks like against different coverage schemes.

Braxton Miller certainly highlights this group of offensive players.  Miller is a versatile athlete who can make plays by both running (over 1000 yards on the season) and passing (1800 yards and 22 TDs on the year) the football.  Additionally, he has shown signs of a magician, at times this season getting out of impossible situations only to ensure a positive play for the Buckeyes.  We all know how well Clemson has fared against mobile quarterbacks this season and keeping Miller in-check will be no small task.  The other side of the coin is his ability to throw the ball well, even on the move.  Clemson has shown issues with missed assignments down the field this season and Ohio State, via both philosophy and talent, have the potential to rip the Clemson secondary and will get a big play or two if issues at the safety position are not shored up.

Carlos Hyde is the feature back for OSU.  Hyde has 1400 yards and 14 touchdowns during the 2013 campaign.  I'll point out that Hyde didn't card any statistics for the first three games of this season, making his 1400 yard total even more impressive.  Combining him with Miller makes this offense a very, very difficult team to stop on the ground.  It is not very often that two players on one team combine for nearly 2500 rushing yards in one season.  OSU has yet another six players with over 100 yards on the year.  Clemson will definitely have its work cut out to limit their rushing attack.

Philly Brown has been Miller's go-to guy on the season.  Brown has 55 catches for 655 yards and 10 TDs.  Devin Smith also has 655 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns receiving this year including a 90 yard TD reception against Cal.  Three other Buckeyes have over 20 grabs on the season.


Luke Fickell is a name that many of you should quickly recognize, as he was the interim coach at OSU following Jim Tressel's resignation prior to the 2011 season.  Fickell played his college ball for John Cooper at Ohio State.  He then returned to Columbus as a GA in the late '90's, spent two years at Akron, then returned to his Alma Mater in 2003 and has been there since.

The Buckeyes employ several defensive sets but will likely be in nickel for the duration of our game like most teams Clemson has faced all season.  If you had to pen a "base" defense, they'd choose to walk SAM up and play a 4-3 Under look.  This will not be the case Friday as Clemson's formations and personnel groupings will move them out of that set and replace a linebacker with another defensive back.

All this being said, OSU's defense this year can best be described as poor.  The Buckeyes have given up substantial yards throughout the season against B1G offenses that aren't as explosive as the Tigers'.  This Clemson offense has the potential for a big day against any OSU defense we've seen this season but should be aided additionally by the suspension of starting Viper Noah Spence and a banged up secondary.  Fickell and company had and still have a lot of issues to iron out and many questions to answer coming into this one.


Most everyone will agree that each of these offenses has the potential for a big game anytime either takes the field.  Ohio State has been extremely impressive running the football all season.  Their ability to run the ball and Braxton Miller's pure playmaking skills make this offense extremely dangerous and one that will give Clemson its fair share of concerns.  Ohio State's defense, conversely, has been exposed a couple times this season and experienced a lot of problems in the B1G Championship game against Michigan State.  In that contest and several times late in the season, Fickell's defense was carved up.  Even a team--Michigan State--not known for its ability to throw the football lit up the OSU secondary.

As always, the story for the Clemson offense will be the play up front and Boyd's ability to get in a rhythm.  OSU's defensive injuries and suspensions combined with their struggles to this point and Clemson's stable of offensive talent mean that the Tigers could have a very big day on the offensive side of the football.  I believe most expect this game to turn into a track meet and, after looking at the OSU squad, they certainly have the offense to put up numbers and the defense to allow a lot of damage.

Clemson needs a win this evening to salvage what has been a bit of a disappointment in '13.  Hopefully the Tigers can put together its second consecutive bowl victory in a prime television spot.