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This game figures to be one of the few even matchups during bowl season. Both teams are considered to be the second best team in their respective conferences, making this a true battle of the ACC vs. the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are getting the early money as -3 point favorites in the Orange Bowl at 5 dimes sportsbook.
Maybe neither of these teams ended up playing in the National Championship game, but there's not much to complain about here as they lost in must-win games.
Clemson finished at 10-2 with two losses against two Top 10 teams. After starting the season 6-0 with a big win over Georgia in the opener, hopes were high for the Tigers until Florida State came to town. The Seminoles roughed them up in a 51-14 beat down that showed Clemson wasn't ready to compete against the nation's best. They ended the season with a 31-17 road loss at South Carolina.
Ohio State was in a similar situation at 12-1, but its hopes were dashed a little later getting its first loss in the Big Ten Championship game against Michigan State. Prior to that, the Buckeyes had a few close calls against some questionable opponents. They were a two-point conversion away from losing to Michigan in their final regular season game which isn't saying a lot. A win against Wisconsin is their highlight win from the season.
The Tigers offense could present some problems against an Ohio State defense that lacks a solid secondary. The Buckeyes got torched vs. some average passing teams in the two Michigan schools and even Illinois threw for close to 300 against them. And now they get to face one of the best QBs in the nation.
Tajh Boyd put in another solid season for Clemson, completing 68 percent of his passes for 29 TDs and nine INTs. In the losses he struggled, but OSU's defense is a step behind those teams. He should have some fun with WRs Sammy Watkins (1,237 yards, 10 TDs) and Martavis Bryant (800 yards, five TDs). In addition to the passing, Boyd is a threat on the ground with nine rushing TDs. He's joined by Roderick McDowell (956 yards, five TDs) in the backfield, who can keep the defense honest.
It's no different for the Clemson defense that struggled to contain anyone of relevance. The Buckeyes have one of the best rushing offenses in the nation averaging 318 per game, but QB Braxton Miller has not looked as good passing the ball lately.
Miller has failed to complete over 45 percent of his passes in three of the last four games, with the only time he did coming against a porous Indiana defense when he went 11-for-17. Granted, Miller has also rushed for an average of 150 yards in those games, but as seen in the Big Ten title game, you need to be able to pass the ball if your defense can't make stops. Miller finished with 32 total touchdowns and 1,033 rushing yards. RB Carlos Hyde was a beast averaging 7.7 yards per carry with 1,408 rushing yards and 14 TDs. Philly Brown (655 yards, 10 TDs) and Devin Smith (655 yards, eight TDs) are solid receivers, but they won't matter much if Miller and Hyde run it all day.
To no one's surprise the over/under is set at 69 because these offenses can put points on the board, and as seen in the numbers above, the defenses will have tons of problems.
The Tigers are 2-6 ATS in their last eight bowl games and 1-5 ATS in their last six vs. a team with a winning record. The Buckeyes have not covered in four straight games and have only played on a grass field two times this season (Clemson played on grass 11 times).
I was going to use Ohio State -2.5 or less as a 1* Key Release tonight. A 1* play, as season long subscribers know, is 1% of your bankroll, whereas a 3* play is 4% or 5% of your bankroll. Needless to say, a 1* play is just a peanut. I'm not going to use the game, but if you decide to play it for a peanut, I think Ohio State is the side.
Clemson is 10-2 and they made they blasted their way through middle of the pack and bottom of the pack ACC teams along the way. But in their two biggest steps up in class this year, they failed miserably, losing to Florida State 51-14 and South Carolina 31-17.
There's no such blemishes on the Buckeyes dance card. They showed up every week and found a way to win, until they ran into a very good Michigan State team in the Big 10 Championship, a game which the Buckeyes led 24-10 after 3 quarters.
This game has the potential to play out just like the Ohio State - Michigan game, a game won by Ohio State 42-41, which I suppose is the main reason I'm not making an official play here. Both of these offenses figure to put some points on the board. You have to be a tad concerned with Ohio State's motivation as well, after their goal of playing for the Title ended with the Michigan State loss. Ask Alabama what happens to your motivation once that title game is taken off the table.
But ultimately, I think Braxton Miller is the difference here. I don't think Clemson can come close to containing this kid. He has more of an impact on his teams success than just about any player in college football. As long as the Buckeyes come to play, I think they are the right side in this one. Strong Opinion - Ohio State -2.5 or less.
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