Fiesta Bowl: Preview and Prediction

 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

#3 Clemson vs #2 Ohio State

Saturday Dec 28, 8:00 PM
State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

In the 2019 Fiesta Bowl, we are getting a rematch of the semifinal round of the CFP in 2016, a game that saw Clemson shut Ohio State out 31-0, handing Urban Meyer one of the worst losses of his career. This isn’t that same Buckeye team, and this isn’t the same Clemson team. If you come into this one expecting another one sided blowout, you may be in for a surprise.

On paper these two teams are about as evenly matched as two opponents could possibly be. They both feature high powered offenses, with elite skill players, and both feature stingy defenses, littered with speed. So what will happen when these two evenly matched teams face off in a battle of unbeatens for a spot in the CFP National Championship Game?

With this 2019 Clemson defense not having faced off against an offense anywhere near the caliber of this Buckeyes offense, some folks out there may still question how they will fare. We still haven’t seen how this unit is against a legitimate rushing attack outside of Boston College, but the Eagles were without their starting QB. The backup could barely throw a forward pass, much less complete one, and the Tigers were able to key on stopping RB AJ Dillon, and stop him they did.

Stopping the Buckeyes ground game will be one of the biggest keys to winning this game. Not only star RB JK Dobbins, but fleet footed QB Justin Fields as well. Whatever gameplan defensive coordinator Brent Venables employs, the defensive ends are going to have to be successful when setting the edge, and the guys on the interior will have to do enough to allow the speedy Tiger linebackers do work. The Tigers haven’t allowed more than 160 yards on the ground all season, giving up just 3 YPC. That’s the kind of effort they will need on Saturday night.

On the opposite side, the Ohio State defense is in a similar situation. During the season, they never faced an offense the likes of which they will see in this game. The best offense they saw was Indiana, who finished 31st in total offense. Slowing down Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Tee Higgins, and Co. is going to be a whole different kind of challenge.

Personally, I think this Clemson defense is up to the challenge. Give Brent Venables three weeks to prepare and you know you will see a brilliant gameplan. They won’t come out, completely dominate and shut the Buckeyes down, but they will be good enough to slow them down.

Dobbins will have some yards, enough to help keep it competitive, but he won’t have enough. The Tigers will do enough on first down runs to consistently keep the Buckeyes in 2nd and long and 3rd and long situations. The only chance Ohio State has is if Justin Fields beats them down the field with his arm, or continuously burns them with his legs on those passing downs. He won’t do either.

Expect Venables to keep Fields guessing all night with a variety of different looks, and disguised coverages. He generally likes to take off when his first read isn’t there and more often than not he will find Chad Smith, James Sklaski, or Isaiah Simmons waiting on him. The Buckeyes will be forced into trying to “dink and dunk” down the field, and you can’t beat this defense that way.

The Tigers strike first and never trail in this game. However, it will be competitive, as Ohio State keeps it close and hangs around through the first three quarters or so. Expect Travis Etienne to get a lot of work in this one, and finish with well over 100 yards. The Tigers ground game eventually wears down the Buckeye defense, and Clemson pulls away late, winning by ten.

Clemson 34 Ohio State 24

We asked for some of your predictions over on Facebook, and thought we would share some of those here.

  • Robert Rambow 38-24
  • Karl Todd 42-14
  • Rhonda Daniel 31-17
  • Kayla Jackson 42-28
  • Jacob McQueen 14-3
  • Jason White 38-28
  • Keith Sprouse 31-28
  • Brianne Skinner 45-7
  • James Matherly 28-24
  • Chad Keith 35-13
  • Dean Green 38-20
  • Curtis Graham 34-20
  • Lisa Sellers 27-6
  • Jason Scott 41-30
  • Mandy Hood 45-38
  • Tom Russell 33-28
  • Randy Hardee 45-3
  • Tyrone Burwick 45-24
  • Samuel Clemons 28-17
  • Mike Behrends 45-31
  • Elmer Davenport 49-14
  • Elizabeth Judy 31-20
  • Chris Matney 37-34
  • Kenny Jackson 42-14
  • Keith Kinard 38-31
  • Sandy Moody 45-17
  • Chuck Wallace 35-31

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