Big Ten: Clemson Tigers

Position U: Defensive line

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
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video
Which team deserves to claim the title of "Defensive Line U" for the 2000s?

1. LSU (200 points)
Four-time award winner, All-American and first-round NFL draft pick Glenn Dorsey produced 68 points by himself, but LSU is “D-Line U” because of the sheer number of outstanding players it has produced. There are 21 draft picks in all, including first-round picks Dorsey, Marcus Spears, Tyson Jackson, Michael Brockers and Barkevious Mingo. That’s an amazing legacy, which helped Les Miles’ Tigers barely edge Texas for the top spot.

Award winners: Dorsey - Outland (2007), Lombardi (2007), Nagurski (2007), Lott (2007).
Consensus All-Americans: Chad Lavalais (2003), Spears (2004), Dorsey (2007).
First-team all-conference: Lavalais (2003), Spears (2004), Claude Wroten (2005), Dorsey (2006, '07), Drake Nevis (2010), Sam Montgomery (2011, '12).
NFL first-round draft picks: Spears (2005), Dorsey (2008), Jackson (2009), Brockers (2012), Mingo (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Jarvis Green (Round 4, 2002), Marquise Hill (Round 2, 2004), Wroten (Round 3, 2006), Al Woods (Round 4, 2010), Nevis (Round 3, 2011), Montgomery (Round 3, 2013), Bennie Logan (Round 3, 2013), Ego Ferguson (Round 2, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Howard Green (Round 6, 2002), Lavalais (Round 5, 2004), Kyle Williams (Round 5, 2006), Melvin Oliver (Round 6, 2006), Chase Pittman (Round 7, 2007), Ricky Jean-Francois (Round 7, 2009), Lazarius Levingston (Round 7, 2011), Lavar Edwards (Round 5, 2013).

2. Texas (196)
With 13 draft picks -- including first-round picks Casey Hampton, Marcus Tubbs and Brian Orakpo -- and 11 first-team all-conference picks, Texas finished a close second to LSU in the defensive line race. Orakpo was the big point producer with four national awards, an All-American honor and an all-conference selection before going in the first round of the 2009 draft.

Award winners: Orakpo - Lombardi (2008), Hendricks (2008), Nagurski (2008); Jackson Jeffcoat - Hendricks (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: Hampton (2000), Rodrique Wright (2005), Orakpo (2008), Jeffcoat (2013).
First-team all-conference: Hampton (2000), Cory Redding (2001), Tubbs (2003), Wright (2005), Tim Crowder (2005), Roy Miller (2008), Orakpo (2008), Sam Acho (2010), Alex Okafor (2011, '12), Jeffcoat (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Hampton (2001), Tubbs (2004), Orakpo (2009).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Shaun Rogers (Round 2, 2001), Redding (Round 3, 2003), Crowder (Round 2, 2007), Brian Robison (Round 4, 2007), Miller (Round 3, 2009), Henry Melton (Round 4, 2009), Lamarr Houston (Round 2, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Wright (Round 7, 2006), Frank Okam (Round 5, 2008), Kheeston Randall (Round 7, 2012).

3. Georgia (182)
Four-time award winner and two-time All-American David Pollack is the main reason that Georgia ranks so high on this list, but the Bulldogs have produced a ridiculous number of NFL defensive linemen in the 2000s. First-round picks Pollack, Richard Seymour, Marcus Stroud, Charles Grant and Johnathan Sullivan are among 20 NFL draft picks from Georgia, including players like Geno Atkins, Robert Geathers and Charles Johnson who have made big impacts in the league.

Award winners: Pollack - Lombardi (2004), Bednarik (2004), Lott (2004), Hendricks (2003, '04).
Consensus All-Americans: Pollack (2002, '04).
First-team all-conference: Seymour (2000), Pollack (2002, '03, '04), Quentin Moses (2005), Justin Houston (2010).
NFL first-round draft picks: Seymour (2001), Stroud (2001), Grant (2002), Sullivan (2003), Pollack (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Geathers (Round 4, 2004), Moses (Round 3, 2007), Johnson (Round 3, 2007), Corvey Irvin (Round 3, 2009), Atkins (Round 4, 2010), John Jenkins (Round 3, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tyrone Robertson (Round 7, 2001), Josh Mallard (Round 7, 2002), Kedric Golston (Round 6, 2006), Marcus Howard (Round 5, 2008), Jarius Wynn (Round 7, 2009), Jeff Owens (Round 7, 2010), Kade Weston (Round 7, 2010), DeAngelo Tyson (Round 7, 2012), Cornelius Washington (Round 6, 2013).

4. Oklahoma (174)
A pair of All-Americans (Tommie Harris and Gerald McCoy, both first-round NFL draft picks) and an award winner (Harris) highlight Oklahoma’s batch of defensive linemen who tied for fourth in our standings. The Sooners had a total of 11 defensive linemen drafted in the 2000s.

Award winners: Harris - Lombardi (2003).
Consensus All-Americans: Harris (2002, '03), McCoy (2009).
First-team all-conference: Ryan Fisher (2000), Harris (2001, '02, '03), Jimmy Wilkerson (2002), Dusty Dvoracek (2003, '05), Dan Cody (2004), C.J. Ah You (2006), Larry Birdine (2006), Auston English (2007), McCoy (2009), Jeremy Beal (2010), Frank Alexander (2011), Ronnell Lewis (2011), Charles Tapper (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Harris (2004), McCoy (2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Dvoracek (Round 3, 2006), Alexander (Round 4, 2012), Lewis (Round 4, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Wilkerson (Round 6, 2003), Ah You (Round 7, 2007), Beal (Round 7, 2011), Stacy McGee (Round 6, 2013), David King (Round 7, 2013).

4. USC (174)
With four first-round draft picks -- Kenechi Udeze, Mike Patterson, Sedrick Ellis and Lawrence Jackson -- it’s no surprise that USC would rank high on this list. The Trojans tied Oklahoma for the No. 4 spot largely thanks to that foursome, who also accounted for two of the program’s three All-American honors for defensive linemen in the 2000s (Shaun Cody had the other).

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Udeze (2003), Cody (2004), Ellis (2007).
First-team all-conference: Udeze (2003), Cody (2003, '04), Patterson (2003, '04), Frostee Rucker (2005), Jackson (2005, '07), Ellis (2006, '07), Fili Moala (2008), Brian Price (2009), Jurrell Casey (2010), Nick Perry (2011), Leonard Williams (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Udeze (2004), Patterson (2005), Ellis (2008), Jackson (2008).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Cody (Round 2, 2005), Rucker (Round 3, 2006), Kyle Moore (Round 4, 2009), Moala (Round 2, 2009), Everson Griffen (Round 4, 2010), Casey (Round 3, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Ennis Davis (Round 7, 2001), LaJuan Ramsey (Round 6, 2006).

6. TCU (158)
Aside from Jerry Hughes’ impressive résumé in 2008 and 2009, TCU doesn’t have a defensive line résumé that competes with some of the other top-tier programs at the position. It certainly helps the Horned Frogs’ cause that they were competing in the WAC, Conference USA or Mountain West up until 2012, as 96 of their 158 points came from linemen earning all-conference honors -- and only two of them earned that recognition since TCU joined the Big 12.

Award winners: Hughes - Lott (2009), Hendricks (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Hughes (2008, '09).
First-team all-conference: Aaron Schobel (2000), Shawn Worthen (2000), Chad Pugh (2003), Bo Schobel (2002, '03), Tommy Blake (2005, '06), Chase Ortiz (2005, '06, '07), Hughes (2008, '09), Wayne Daniels (2010), Stansly Maponga (2011, 2012), Devonte Fields (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Hughes (2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Worthen (Round 4, 2001), Aaron Schobel (Round 2, 2001), Matt Schobel (Round 2, 2002), Bo Schobel (Round 4, 2004).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Maponga (Round 5, 2013).

7. Penn State (152)
Considering that only 11 Penn State defensive linemen have been drafted since 2001, it’s impressive that five of them -- Jimmy Kennedy, Michael Haynes, Tamba Hali, Aaron Maybin and Jared Odrick -- went in the first round. Hali, Maybin and Devon Still (a second-round pick in 2012) accounted for the Nittany Lions’ three consensus All-American selections during that time period.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Hali (2005), Maybin (2008), Still (2011).
First-team all-conference: Kennedy (2001, '02), Haynes (2002), Hali (2005), Scott Paxson (2005), Maybin (2008), Odrick (2008, '09), Still (2011), Jordan Hill (2012), DaQuan Jones (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Kennedy (2003), Haynes (2003), Hali (2006), Maybin (2009), Odrick (2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Anthony Adams (Round 2, 2003), Jay Alford (Round 3, 2007), Still (Round 2, 2012), Hill (Round 3, 2013), Jones (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jack Crawford (Round 5, 2012).

8. Florida State (148)
Jamal Reynolds and Bjoern Werner are the headliners, as both players earned consensus All-American honors before becoming first-round NFL draft picks -- plus Reynolds claimed the Lombardi Award in 2000. But Florida State has plenty to brag about, including 13 total draft picks and 10 all-conference selections among its defensive linemen in the 2000s.

Award winners: Reynolds - Lombardi (2000).
Consensus All-Americans: Reynolds (2000), Werner (2012).
First-team all-conference: Reynolds (2000), Darnell Dockett (2001, '03), Alonzo Jackson (2002), Travis Johnson (2004), Everette Brown (2008), Brandon Jenkins (2010), Werner (2012), Tank Carradine (2012), Timmy Jernigan (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Reynolds (2001), Johnson (2005), Brodrick Bunkley (2006), Werner (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Dockett (Round 3, 2004), Chauncey Davis (Round 4, 2005), Andre Fluellen (Round 3, 2008), Brown (Round 2, 2009), Carradine (Round 2, 2013), Jernigan (Round 2, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Eric Moore (Round 6, 2005), Letroy Guion (Round 5, 2008), Everett Dawkins (Round 7, 2013).

9. Clemson (138)
Two-time award winner Da’Quan Bowers (38 points) and first-round draft pick Gaines Adams (22 points) -- both consensus All-Americans -- account for 60 of Clemson’s 138 points, but the Tigers have had 13 defensive linemen drafted, which is a big reason why they cracked the top 10. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Vic Beasley add significantly to the point total this season.

Award winners: Bowers - Nagurski (2010), Hendricks (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: Adams (2006), Bowers (2010), Beasley (2013).
First-team all-conference: Terry Jolly (2000), Nick Eason (2002), Adams (2006), Bowers (2010), Jarvis Jenkins (2010), Andre Branch (2011), Beasley (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Adams (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Eason (Round 4, 2003), Bryant McNeal (Round 4, 2003), Donnell Washington (Round 3, 2004), Phillip Merling (Round 2, 2008), Darell Scott (Round 4, 2009), Bowers (Round 2, 2011), Jenkins (Round 2, 2011), Brandon Thompson (Round 3, 2012), Branch (Round 2, 2012), Malliciah Goodman (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Charles Bennett (Round 7, 2006), Ricky Sapp (Round 5, 2010).

9. North Carolina (138)
There aren’t a ton of accomplished North Carolina defensive linemen on this list. The Tar Heels have just one award winner and All-American, Julius Peppers, and just seven all-conference selections. But UNC boasts a whopping six first-round draft picks in the 2000s -- Peppers, Ryan Sims, Kentwan Balmer, Robert Quinn, Quinton Coples and Sylvester Williams -- which is more than any other school in the top 10.

Award winners: Peppers - Lombardi (2001), Bednarik (2001).
Consensus All-Americans: Peppers (2001).
First-team all-conference: Peppers (2000, '01), Sims (2001), Quinn (2009), Coples (2010, '11), Williams (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Peppers (2002), Sims (2002), Balmer (2008), Quinn (2011), Coples (2012), Williams (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: E.J. Wilson (Round 4, 2010), Marvin Austin (Round 2, 2011), Kareem Martin (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Joey Evans (Round 7, 2002), Chase Page (Round 7, 2006), Hilee Taylor (Round 7, 2008), Cam Thomas (Round 5, 2010).

REST OF “D-LINE U” RANKINGS
128 - Utah; 126 - Nebraska, Ohio State; 116 - Florida; 114 - Pittsburgh; 108 - Iowa, Miami; 104 - Tennessee; 102 - Auburn; 100 - Wisconsin; 98 - Louisville; 96 - Alabama, Missouri, South Carolina; 94 - Arizona State; 92 - Michigan; 86 - Oregon State, Purdue; 80 - California, Syracuse; 74 - Georgia Tech; 70 - Oregon, Virginia Tech; 64 - BYU, UCLA; 62 - Texas A&M; 58 - NC State; 56 - Virginia; 54 - Illinois; 52 - Kansas State; 50 - Michigan State, West Virginia; 44 - Boston College; 42 - Arkansas; 40 - Maryland; 38 - Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Rutgers; 34 - Washington State; 30 - Minnesota, Northwestern; 28 - Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Stanford, Texas Tech, Washington; 24 - Wake Forest; 18 - Baylor, Indiana, Iowa State; 16 - Arizona; 12 - Duke; 4 - Vanderbilt

Best B1G games of 2013: No. 3

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
1:30
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We're continuing our countdown of the top-10 games from the Big Ten in 2013. Remember that we're taking into account the stakes in the game, the excitement level, the quality of the performances and the atmosphere.

No. 3: Clemson 40, Ohio State 35, Jan. 3

How it went down: How would Ohio State respond after losing in the Big Ten title game and seeing its national title hopes go down the drain?

[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsBraxton Miller's Buckeyes led Clemson in the second half of the Orange Bowl, but they wound up losing their second straight game.
Early on in the Discover Orange Bowl, the answer seemed to be: not well. Clemson opened up a 20-9 lead in the second quarter, taking advantage of a battered Buckeyes defense that was missing star cornerback Bradley Roby (knee injury) and top pass rusher Noah Spence (suspension).

Yet, even though the Tigers statistically dominated most of the first half, Braxton Miller put Ohio State up 22-20 at halftime with a 57-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Heuerman and then a 3-yard scoring run with 12 seconds left. The Buckeyes led 29-20 and had forced a punt from Clemson in the third quarter, but Corey "Philly" Brown fumbled away the return.

Then things really got wild. Clemson scored two touchdowns in less than two-and-a-half minutes to regain the lead, followed by another lead change on Miller's throwback pass to Carlos Hyde for a score. Tajh Boyd capped a tremendous night by throwing for the game-winning touchdown with 6:16 left, and the two teams traded interceptions on three straight possessions late.

It was a wild game full of huge plays and momentum swings, and Miller got beat up and battled through injuries. Ohio State showed that it wasn't quite national championship worthy, especially on defense. But the Buckeyes helped provide a thoroughly entertaining end to the BCS era.

Player(s) of the game: Boyd and Sammy Watkins share the honors, as they both fed off one another while feasting on the Buckeyes' defense. Watkins broke Orange Bowl and school receiving records with 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Boyd went 31-of-40 for 378 yards through the air, ran for 127 yards and had six total touchdowns.

Stat of the game: The two teams combined for 1,003 yards of offense and 204 penalty yards.

They said it: "It's going to sting for a while, probably a long while because we didn't finish," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "It was right there."

More best games

  • No. 10: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 24
  • No. 9: Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30
  • No. 8: Arizona State 32, Wisconsin 30
  • No. 7: Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30
  • No. 6: Penn State 43, Michigan 40, 4 OT
  • No. 5: Michigan State 34, Ohio State 24
  • No. 4: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 24

MIAMI -- Since the moment the pairing was announced, we thought the Discover Orange Bowl could feature a wild and entertaining shootout between No. 7 Ohio State and No. 12 Clemson.

And that's just what we got in Clemson's 40-35 win Friday before an announced crowd of 72,008 at Sun Life Stadium. Here's quick rundown of how this one went down in South Florida:

It was over when: Clemson's Stephone Anthony intercepted a Braxton Miller pass over the middle with 1 minutes, 18 seconds remaining, capping a crazy series of events. Miller had fumbled on Ohio State's previous possession after he was slammed into by Bashaud Breeland with 3:12 left. But the Tigers gave the ball right back when Tajh Boyd threw a pick of his own to C.J. Barnett on a puzzling third-and-13 call. Miller was battered and bruised throughout the game and appeared to be favoring his arm early on. All those hits might have taken their toll in the end.

Game ball goes to: Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins and Boyd. Playing in what was in all likelihood his final college game, Watkins broke the Orange Bowl receiving record before the third quarter was even over. Going up against a young and injury-decimated Ohio State secondary, the junior was just too good to handle as he finished with a career-high 16 catches for 227 yards, plus two touchdowns. His 16 catches also set an Orange Bowl and school record. Boyd completed 31 of 40 passes for 378 yards and five touchdowns while running for 127 yards and another score.

Stat of the game: The two teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of total offense, though Clemson offset some of its major yardage advantage with a whopping 15 penalties for 144 yards. But the stat that mattered in the end was turnovers. The Tigers committed 10 turnovers in their two losses (Florida State and South Carolina) this season, while the Buckeyes have been mostly solid on ball security all year. Yet it was Ohio State that gave the ball away four times, all in the second half, versus two for Clemson. In a game where every possession loomed large, that made the difference.

Best call: Carlos Hyde wasn't happy that he didn't get the ball on a crucial fourth-and-2 late in the Buckeyes' Big Ten title-game loss to Michigan State. Well, Hyde got his revenge in this one. Ohio State faced a fourth-and-1 from the Clemson 32-yard line in the third quarter and decided to go with their workhorse back this time around. Hyde, who only had 62 yards on 18 carries to that point, ripped off a 31-yard run and punched it in for the touchdown one play later for a 29-20 Buckeyes lead.

Second-guessing: Ohio State led 29-20 and had forced a stop late in the third quarter. But Philly Brown was indecisive on fielding a punt return and opted not to call for a fair catch. He fumbled the return, setting the Tigers up at the Ohio State 33-yard line. Clemson quickly scored on a Boyd pass to Watkins, and it was able to reverse all the momentum the Buckeyes had gained starting late in the second quarter. Brown had a terrific game otherwise, catching eight passes for 116 yards, but that turnover helped turn the tide.

What it means: Clemson finished off an 11-win season for the second consecutive year. That's the first time in school history that Tigers have posted back-to-back 11-win campaigns. Maybe more importantly, they won their first BCS game just before the end of the BCS era and helped redeem themselves from the 2012 Orange Bowl disaster against West Virginia. Losing Boyd and Watkins will be tough to overcome, but this program has established itself as a legitimate national power under Dabo Swinney. Ohio State won its first 24 games under Urban Meyer, but went 0-2 when it really mattered in the Big Ten championship game and on Friday night. Meyer lost for the first time in five tries in BCS games, and Ohio State will have to fix a defense that sprung all kinds of leaks late in the season to be taken seriously as a championship contender in 2014.

Join us for Orange Bowl Live (8:30 ET)

January, 4, 2014
Jan 4
12:09
AM ET
Clemson. Ohio State. These two tradition-rich programs are meeting for the first time since Woody Hayes’ finale and we’ll be here chatting about it throughout.

At 8:30 ET, join reporters Brian Bennett, Austin Ward, Andrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna as they discuss the game between the Tigers and Buckeyes. Post your comments and questions and we’ll include as many of them as possible.

Discover Orange Bowl preview

January, 3, 2014
Jan 3
11:00
AM ET


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The last and only time Clemson and Ohio State played, this happened. We don't expect any sideline high jinks this time, just a potential thrilling shootout between the No. 7 Buckeyes (12-1) and the No. 12 Tigers (10-2) in the Discover Orange Bowl (8:30 p.m., ESPN).

Who to watch: The two quarterbacks. Clemson's Tajh Boyd, a senior, is one of the most accomplished players in school and ACC history, with more than 10,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in his career. Ohio State junior Braxton Miller has more than 5,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing in his career and has finished in the top 10 of the Heisman Trophy voting the past two years. Although they have similar body types, Boyd is the far better passer, having thrown for 3,473 yards and 29 touchdowns this season. Miller remains most dangerous as an open-field runner. Each has a wingman who is a superstar in his own right -- for Miller, it's running back Carlos Hyde, and Boyd loves throwing to Sammy Watkins because who wouldn't? But the quarterbacks remain the main attraction here, even for the coaches. "That's awesome," Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. "I get to sit up there with my hot dogs and popcorn and Diet Coke and get to watch this thing go down, man. These are two of the top five or 10 quarterbacks in college football today and have been for the last couple of years." About the only thing missing on the résumés for Boyd and Miller is a BCS win. That will change for one of them tonight.

What to watch: Can Ohio State's pass defense do anything to slow down Boyd, Watkins and Martavis Bryant? Clemson had the 11th-best passing attack in the country this season, and, in Watkins and Bryant, it boasts arguably the best pair of receivers the Buckeyes have faced all season. Ohio State's pass defense was in tatters by the end of the season, giving up 451 yards through the air to Michigan and allowing Michigan State's Connor Cook to throw for 300 yards in the Big Ten title game loss. Add to that the uncertain status of top cornerback Bradley Roby (bone bruise on his knee) and top pass-rusher Noah Spence (personal reasons) and there could be issues. Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell is putting true freshman Vonn Bell into the lineup at nickelback and moving Tyvis Powell to starting safety in an attempt to shore up the pass defense. But if Ohio State doesn't show major improvement in the secondary and make up for the possible loss of Roby and Spence, it could mean a huge night for the Clemson stars.

Why to watch: Both teams averaged more than 40 points per game in the regular season and are blessed with an abundance of fast future NFL stars (we haven't even mentioned defensive standouts such as Clemson's Vic Beasley and Ohio State's Ryan Shazier, coming to a pro stadium near you soon). This has a chance to be one of the most entertaining games of the bowl season. Urban Meyer is 4-0 in BCS games and has a 24-1 record at Ohio State. Clemson is seeking its first BCS win and wants to redeem itself from its last Orange Bowl appearance, a 70-33 humiliation at the hands of West Virginia in the 2012 game. It's the final non-championship BCS bowl ever. There's no better way to spend your Friday night.

Prediction: Clemson 38, Ohio State 35. The potential loss of Roby and Spence is devastating for a Buckeyes defense that was already going to be under the gun in this game. The Big Ten just can't prepare you for the type of speed and playmaking ability Clemson has at receiver. Ohio State will find lots of success running the ball with Miller and Hyde, but ultimately the Buckeyes will need to match the Tigers score for score because of their spotty defense. And that's a tough way to win a BCS game.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Ohio State announced Wednesday morning that it wouldn't have defensive end Noah Spence for the Discover Orange Bowl (or the first two games next season). This afternoon, head coach Urban Meyer said the defense would likely be without another star: cornerback Bradley Roby.

[+] EnlargeBradley Roby
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesBradley Roby's career at Ohio State is likely over. The redshirt junior cornerback has already declared for the NFL draft.
Roby has been dealing with a bone bruise on his knee that he suffered in the Big Ten championship game, and he has practiced on a limited basis this week. Meyer said Wednesday that he didn't think Roby would be able to play vs. Clemson on Friday night.

Roby's loss is even bigger than Spence's, because he was the one player in the secondary who was playing at an extremely high level. Now Ohio State could have new starters in three spots when they go to the nickel package against the Tigers' high-scoring passing attack. And Roby would have been the guy to try and stop Clemson star receiver Sammy Watkins.

Instead, Ohio State finds itself playing shorthanded on defense.

"That''s tough," Meyer said. "What's my confidence level? We recruited a lot of them and we coached a lot of them. I have a lot of respect for our players. I'm anxious to see Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell at the safety positions. Josh Perry is one of the most improved players on our team. We've got [Ryan] Shazier. So we've got some very good players."

They just won't have two very important starters on defense.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Did Clemson’s Chad Morris nearly become Ohio State’s offensive coordinator when Urban Meyer first got to Columbus? Depends on whom you ask.

[+] EnlargeBoyd-Morris
Tyler Smith/Getty ImagesClemson OC Chad Morris and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer have exchanged ideas about their offenses.
It was reported at the time that Meyer tried to lure Morris to the Buckeyes in December 2011. Morris said on Monday that he and Meyer had a conversation about the job right before the 2011 ACC title game. Clemson must have thought those communications were serious because the school gave Morris a big raise -- to $1.3 million a year -- the Sunday morning after the Tigers won the ACC championship.

But Meyer said later on Monday that “there was no truth” to the rumors he’d offered Morris the job and claimed to not have any idea where those reports came from.

“I’m going to have to ask Chad: ‘Did you start that?’” Meyer joked.

Whatever the case, this much is true: Meyer and the third-year Clemson play-caller share a mutual admiration. And when their teams face one another in Friday’s Discover Orange Bowl, you’ll see a lot of similarities in the two offenses.

Morris was still a high school coach in Texas when he got to know Meyer. The relationship started when Meyer recruited some of Morris’ players while at Utah. When Meyer went to Florida, Morris took his high school coaching staff to Gainesville one offseason to gather information about the spread offense.

During Meyer’s year off from coaching in 2011, he called a handful of Clemson games as an ESPN analyst. Meyer wisely used his time off to learn from other coaches, including Morris.

“You know Coach Meyer,” Morris said. “He’s definitely always looking to try to find something that separates him offensively. He’s an offensive mind. So he would come out and watch our practice. After practice, we’d sit and talk for a while.”

Morris said he and Meyer struck up a conversation once about how Clemson was using tight end Dwayne Allen. That led to near-weekly talks on the phone about a tight end’s role in the offense.

“I remember watching the transformation from the previous offense to his [at Clemson],” Meyer said. “It was almost overnight. They were doing a great job.”

This past spring, two members of Ohio State offensive staff -- including the coordinator Meyer did hire, Tom Herman -- spent about three days visiting Clemson to exchange ideas. Herman, who spent several years coaching in Texas earlier in his career, knows Morris well.

“I wouldn't say we're best buddies,” Herman said. “We don't go on vacation together or anything like that, but we do spend a lot of time talking football over the phone. It has been a very good, productive working relationship.”

Both Herman and Morris have frequently been mentioned as future head coaches, and with the success of other former offensive coordinators like Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, it’s easy to see why. Of course, neither needs to settle for just any job. Morris is already being paid like a head coach. When a reporter started a question to Herman about both coordinators being on “the cutting edge” of offense, Herman cracked: “Him more than me, if you look at his paycheck.” (Herman makes $550,000 at Ohio State).

Morris said when he and Herman went to dinner in the offseason, they joked about potentially meeting up in a bowl game. And so it came to pass, as two teams that share a lot of offensive principles are about to find out which one works better.

Clemson averaged 40.2 points per game this season, while Ohio State scored 46.3 points per contest. The Buckeyes are a run-heavy team, while the Tigers tilt far more toward the passing game. That’s mostly because that’s where each team’s true strengths lie, as Clemson has Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, while Ohio State has Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde.

But as far as formations, shifting, motions and tempo go, they’re a lot alike.

“We have a lot of common ground,” said Ohio State offensive line coach Ed Warriner. “Especially in the spread things we do in the passing and running games.”

Morris said he didn’t give away all his secrets when Herman visited. In college football, many offenses use the same basic concepts.

“It's funny,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “We say it all the time in our meeting. It's not just them. It's a lot of these offenses that you're seeing. You watch the 49ers with [Colin] Kaepernick. It's like all these boys went to the same retreat, the same clinic and they’re stealing ball plays from each other."

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And whether Meyer and Morris came close to working together or not, their offenses flatter each other.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins is not afraid to make his feelings known. To some, this comes off as trash talk. To others, he is just being honest.

Simply put, Watkins does not hold back. So it should come as no surprise, then, that he told reporters after arriving for the Discover Orange Bowl, “I think I’m the best receiver in the nation. ... Overall I think I can’t be guarded. That’s just my mindset.”

[+] EnlargeWatkins
AP Photo/Richard ShiroClemson's Sammy Watkins, who has 10 touchdown receptions and averaged 14.6 yards per catch, is one of the top receivers in college football.
How Ohio State covers Watkins is one of the biggest keys to watch heading into the Discover Orange Bowl. Many believe Clemson has the unquestioned advantage with Watkins and his fellow receivers, specifically because the Buckeyes secondary has not played up to standards over the last two games.

That advantage seems to have grown even larger with news on Monday that Ohio State could be without starting cornerback Bradley Roby, rehabbing a knee injury. Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell also confirmed the Buckeyes will start freshman Vonn Bell at nickel cornerback.

Three new starters could be in the Buckeyes secondary against the best receiver group they have faced to date, leaving observers to believe Watkins and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd are in line for a big day.

“I think our wide receiver group is top 5 in the country,” Watkins said Monday. “We've been playing good all year, not just catching the ball but blocking, taking care of the little things. We definitely have to come out and put on a show. Their defense is pretty good, but for our offense and wide receivers, we've got a better wide receiver corps than they've ever faced in their conference and we've definitely got to show it when we play them.”

Watkins has shown it all season long, rebounding from a down year in 2012 to have one of the best seasons in the country with 85 receptions for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns, leading the team in receiving yards, receptions, touchdowns, kickoff return yards and all-purpose yards.

Martavis Bryant ranks second on the team with 800 yards receiving and has shown flashes of brilliance. Their size alone -- Watkins is 6-1, Bryant is 6-5 – gives Clemson a huge edge. Fickell said of the receiver group, “The combination of size and speed is something that's really intriguing.”

Add in what has happened the last two weeks to the Buckeyes’ secondary. Ohio State gave up 451 yards in the air to Michigan -- the Wolverines’ second-highest total on the season -- and then 304 yards passing to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. That ranks as the highest passing total for the Spartans since their quarterbacks threw for 322 yards Sept. 8, 2012, in a blowout win over Central Michigan.

Ohio State ranks No. 103 in the nation in average passing yards allowed (259.5 ypg).

It’s easy to see why Clemson is penciled in to have the edge in the matchup.

“I don't think there's a lack of confidence from our DBs. We believe in ourselves,” Ohio State safety C.J. Barnett said. “But this is a chance to prove to the doubters -- a lot of doubters -- that we can play well and I think we have to go out there and prove it.”

Despite what seems to be an edge on paper, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is not one of those doubters. After practice Monday, he downplayed the potential matchup advantage, saying, “People look at things like that statistically and say they're 100th or whatever in pass defense and you immediately say, hey, that's a great advantage. Well, we look at things a little bit differently. We take the curtain back and we see they've had some inconsistency at times, some mistakes and busts which have led to some things but also one of the things is people having to throw the ball because they can't run it.”

Ohio State ranks No. 6 in the nation in rush defense, but if the Tigers can have success passing the ball the way Michigan and Michigan State did, the run element might not matter. Plus, Watkins has vowed to have the best game of his season, in what most likely is his final game for the Tigers.

Though he says he will not make any announcements until after the bowl game, the junior is the highest-rated receiver on the board for the 2014 draft. Still, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris has done his best to pitch Watkins on the benefits of staying. Namely: seniors get to travel first class on team flights.

“I reminded him of that this week as we got on the plane,” Morris said. “I said, ‘Just think, next year, when you get on a plane, you'll be able to sit in first class.’ Like he always does, he grins ear to ear. He's had a great career, and whatever his decision is, we're going to support him.”

Perhaps one final career game in an outstanding career awaits.

Flip Week: Clemson

December, 24, 2013
12/24/13
9:30
AM ET
Clemson Fans Brian Bennett/ESPNClemson fans take the field at Memorial Stadium after the Tigers' win over Georgia Tech on Nov. 14.
Editor's note: During Week 12, 10 ESPN.com reporters changed conferences to experience college football in unfamiliar territory. Here is what they learned from the experience.

I had a choice to make when the Georgia Tech-Clemson game ended.

Once the crowd cleared out, I made my way up to the top of "The Hill," the famous incline where the Tigers enter before games. I wanted to get an up-close view of Howard's Rock and see the field from that vantage point.

Then it was decision time. Should I run down the Hill, as Clemson players and coaches do, and risk making a fool of myself by tripping? That sucker's pretty steep, and it undulates. Plus, my out-of-shape sportswriter quads were already burning from traversing the hilly terrain around Memorial Stadium for several hours while visiting tailgaters. When you're in a place called Death Valley that's situated below a cemetery, it doesn't take much to get you contemplating your own mortality.

But I'd also heard so many people in the previous two days talk about how special that entrance was, how much the rock and the running down the hill meant to them. How students like freshmen Austin Stevenson and Connor Sweeney camped out for a full week just to sit on the hill for the Florida State game. How, as fan Ricky Thompson told me, "It brings you chills every time they do it." I had witnessed just how special that tradition was a few hours earlier.

So in the end, there was really no choice at all. How many times would I get a chance like this? So I rubbed the rock for good luck, and I ran, quite unathletically, down that hill.

There were no spills. Just thrills.

Here are some other highlights of my "flip week" experience at Clemson:

[+] EnlargeClemson Paw Bearer
Brian Bennett/ESPN.comA Clemson fan has a unique way of showing his devotion to the Tigers with a "Paw Bearer" vehicle.
Best meal: Sorry, Midwesterners, but it's true: Barbecue just tastes better in the South. So I wasn't going to miss a chance to hit The Smokin' Pig in Pendleton on game day. It's open only Thursday through Saturday, so I got there just after the doors opened at 11 a.m. Good thing, too, because the line was out the door by 11:15 a.m. I asked my waitress whether it was so crowded because of the Clemson game. She replied, "Honey, it's like this every day." As I inhaled my chopped pork plate and tested out the homemade sauces, I easily could understand why.

Must-see sight in Clemson: They call the Tigers' entrance to the field "the most exciting 25 seconds in college football." It actually lasts a bit longer than that, as the video board shows the team arriving via bus from its locker room on the other side of the stadium and the crowd starts to go nuts. Thanks to Clemson giving me a photo vest, I got to stand at the bottom of the hill as the team touched Howard's Rock and ran down right past me, to eardrum-splitting noise. It was every bit as cool as advertised.

Biggest surprise: How incredibly friendly and outgoing everyone at Clemson was. I thought there might be some insecurity over the whole "Clemsoning" thing, but Tigers fans simply love their team and their school and are happy to share it with outsiders.

Biggest difference from the Big Ten: Clemson has a definite out-of-the way, small-town, close-knit atmosphere that you don't get in many Big Ten towns, except for maybe State College, Pa. Midseason Thursday night football also provided a much different environment than the Big Ten, which cherishes its Saturday afternoons. Clemson canceled classes on Thursday to accommodate the game, and I can't imagine many -- if any -- Big Ten schools going for that. On the field, the biggest difference was the Tigers' speed and athleticism at receiver, with Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. Most Big Teams are lucky to have one guy like that at wideout. Nobody has two.

They said it: "You can bring some people here who've never been before, and it will turn them all the way around." -- Clemson fan Kevin Nettles.

If I could go back: I'd go for a Saturday game. The Thursday game was unique, but because so many Clemson fans travel long distances to games, Memorial Stadium was not close to full. That's wildly unusual for some of the most loyal fans in the country. There was basically no game-day eve atmosphere on Wednesday night, and I was told that tailgating was much sparser than normal on Thursday afternoon. On the plus side, you actually could move around inside the ESSO Club and find places to eat without waiting. But someday, I'd like to enjoy the full Clemson game-weekend experience.

B1G bowl opponent primer: Clemson

December, 11, 2013
12/11/13
1:00
PM ET
This week, we're taking a closer look at each of the Big Ten's bowl opponents. Up next: the Clemson Tigers, who will face Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl.

Let's begin ...

DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL
Clemson (10-2) vs. Ohio State (12-1)
Miami Gardens, Fla., 8:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 3, ESPN


Clemson Tigers

Coach: Dabo Swinney (sixth year, 50-23)
Combined opponents' record: 81-65
Common opponents: None
Leading passer: Tajh Boyd, 252-for-373 for 3,473 yards, 29 TDs and 9 INTs
Leading rusher: Roderick McDowell, 177 carries for 956 yards and 5 TDs
Leading receiver: Sammy Watkins, 85 catches for 1,237 yards and 10 TDs
Leading tackler: Spencer Shuey, 89 tackles, 5.5 for a loss

What to know: Thanks to a successful run on the recruiting trail and a prolific offensive scheme, Clemson has built itself into a program that appears ready to contend annually for at least a conference title under Swinney. The Tigers haven't yet climbed over the hump into position to play for a national title, but after overcoming a rough patch during his second full season that seemed to put Swinney on the hot seat, they certainly seem to be headed in the right direction.

Clemson has won at least 10 games three seasons in a row and will be making its second appearance in the Orange Bowl in three years. The first trip didn't turn out well as West Virginia put up 70 points in a blowout victory over the Tigers after the 2011 season, again putting their defense under fire after failing to do much to support a high-flying offensive attack that typically has no problems carrying its share of the load.

This year, that defensive unit has been steady and solid, giving up just more than 21 points per game to rank No. 17 in the nation. That helps balance the scales with an offense that scores more than 40 points per game. The Tigers were gashed, though, in Top 25 matchups against Florida State and South Carolina, yielding 51 to the No. 1 Seminoles and 31 to the rival Gamecocks to close the regular season.

Key matchup: Ohio State star cornerback Bradley Roby has one final audition on the college stage before heading to the NFL draft, and he's going to have his hands full with another surefire future pro. Watkins is one of the most dangerous targets in the country, and few defensive backs have been able to handle him without much help thanks to his explosive athleticism and playmaking ability.

The Buckeyes are at their best when they can play man coverage in the secondary and create pressure in the front seven, particularly when they turn Ryan Shazier loose as a blitzer. But an aggressive approach in getting after the passer requires lockdown coverage on the receivers, and the winner in what figures to be a spirited battle between Watkins and Roby will go a long way toward determining the Orange Bowl title.

More bowl opponent primers:

Discover Orange Bowl

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
11:05
PM ET

Clemson Tigers (10-2) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1)

Jan. 3, TBD, Miami (ESPN)


CLEMSON TIGERS BREAKDOWN
Despite its third straight season with at least 10 wins, Clemson ended the regular season by extending its sour streak with a fifth straight losses to rival South Carolina and once again looking up at Florida State in the Atlantic Division standings.

[+] EnlargeClemson
Tyler Smith/Getty ImagesTajh Boyd and the Tigers committed six turnovers in their regular season finale at South Carolina. Can Clemson redeem itself in its bowl game?
The Tigers were picked by the media in July to win the ACC, but they fell flat in their two most important games of the season -- against the Seminoles and against South Carolina. They also happened to be the two worst performances of the season for quarterback Tajh Boyd, who has since fallen out of the Heisman conversation.

It wasn’t just that the Tigers lost those games; it was the fact that they lost them in embarrassing fashion. Florida State rolled Clemson in Death Valley on Oct. 19, quieting the crowd with a 51-14 romp. In a 31-17 loss to the Gamecocks, Clemson turned it over six times, each gaff seemingly more unbelievable than the last. Clemson’s only two losses, though, were to top-10 opponents. Clemson committed 10 turnovers versus FSU and South Carolina and was outscored 45-0 in points off turnovers in those games.

Still, the Tigers will bring one of the country’s most productive offenses, led by Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins, who has 224 career receptions and will need nine catches in the bowl game to break Aaron Kelly’s school career record of 232. The defense, led by Vic Beasley, has also shown significant improvement in the second season under coordinator Brent Venables. -- Heather Dinich

vs.

OHIO STATE BUCKEYES BREAKDOWN
The flawless, fairytale run wasn’t going to last forever, but Ohio State surely wasn’t planning on trying to start a new winning streak in its bowl game.

[+] EnlargeHyde/Miller
AP Photo/Jeff HaynesCarlos Hyde and Braxton Miller will be a tough duo to handle in the Buckeyes' bowl game.
Undefeated under Urban Meyer until Saturday night’s loss in the Big Ten title game against Michigan State, “The Chase” the Buckeyes have been on for a national championship came up one game short. Their defense struggled to get off the field against the Spartans, and their powerful rushing attack was unable to get the yards that counted most.

But the combined star power of Meyer, quarterback Braxton Miller, running back Carlos Hyde and linebacker Ryan Shazier still made Ohio State plenty attractive for a BCS bowl, and it will have a marquee opportunity to post an impressive victory and cap what has still been a record-setting season for the program.

Few teams have been as explosive as the Buckeyes offensively, with both Miller and Hyde rushing for more than 1,000 yards and causing defenses fits with the zone-option attack. And while the passing game has regressed during the final month of the season, Miller has still come a long way as a passer, which has helped receivers Philly Brown and Devin Smith and tight end Jeff Heuerman find the end zone a combined 21 times.

The defense hasn’t been quite as consistent, particularly since the loss of stabilizing senior safety Christian Bryant in late September to a fractured ankle, but more often than not, it has made the plays needed to rack up wins. Typically, it has been Shazier doing the most damage, as the junior has routinely stuffed the stats sheet while leading the Big Ten in three different individual categories.

Neither side of the ball did quite enough to push the Buckeyes into the bowl they really had their eye on. But there was a nice consolation prize waiting for them, and a big opportunity to start over with, as well. -- Austin Ward
You can refer to us college football reporters as Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd this week, because we're trading places.

Most of us cover one conference and one part of the country year-round. But this week, we're stepping outside of our comfort zones to experience the sport in a different area. The goal is to find out what's different and what's the same throughout college football, while finding and highlighting those unique traits from each place that help make the sport so special. We'll immerse ourselves in a new environment and tell you what we discovered.

I'm Brian Bennett, and I cover the Big Ten. Later today, I'm heading south to Clemson, S.C., to see the Tigers play Georgia Tech on Thursday night. But first, I need some tips on what to do and see there. So I'm turning to an expert: ACC reporter Andrea Adelson.

Brian Bennett: Hey, Andrea. I'm no stranger to the South. I've been all over the SEC. But my travels have never taken me to Death Valley, and I'm excited to make my first trip there.

[+] EnlargeClemson Tigers
Heather Dinich/ESPNOne of college football's best scenes: Clemson running down the hill at Memorial Stadium.
What I know about Clemson is basically what I've seen on TV. I know the stadium has a reputation for being extremely loud. I know the team boards buses and runs down the hill before the game, a moment I can't wait to see in person. I know about Howard's Rock, which is cool but ... I mean, it is just a rock, right?

My hunch is that Clemson fans are incredibly loyal but perhaps a little scarred from some of the team's notorious losses over the years. And I'm expecting some good Southern hospitality, and probably some very tasty barbecue. Other than that, I'm a blank slate. What do I need to know, see and do when it comes to Clemson?

Andrea Adelson: First off, I would not tell the Clemson fans you see that Howard's Rock is just a rock. That's like saying "Play Like a Champion Today" is just a sign. You may get that plate of BBQ you were so kindly offered at a tailgate swiped right from your hands. Clemson fans are a really loyal bunch, and they get pretty defensive when you knock their traditions or bring up the dreaded term "Clemsoning." So avoid both at all costs.

Just soak up the atmosphere, which no doubt will be buzzing at night at Death Valley. On your way to campus, you may want to stop at The Smokin Pig just outside town or even the Pot Belly Deli, known for some terrific sandwiches at the bottom of College Avenue. The drive up College Avenue will take you through the main strip, filled with your typical college watering holes and gear shops. But the ultimate watering hole is closer to Memorial Stadium -- the Esso Club, a Clemson tradition for 80 years, with the distinction of being the oldest place to drink beer in town. ESPN The Magazine selected The Esso as its top pick for college sports bars.

The tailgate lots around the stadium are quite expansive, but I have no doubt you will find friendly faces along the way. Stand at the bottom of the hill when the team runs down just before kickoff, balloons flying in the air and the band playing and you are sure to get a big rush. You will see why this is one of the best atmospheres in all college football.

***

You've heard our thoughts. Now it's your turn to tell us what traditions and experiences -- whether that's the best restaurant for a pregame meal, the best tailgate spot, etc. -- are a must for any first-time visitor to Clemson. Send us your recommendations to Brian's mailbag. And do it quickly, because game day is rapidly approaching.

 

Kickoff Live: Week 8

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
11:45
AM ET
To watch the show on your smartphone, click here.

ACC reporters Andrea Adelson and David Hale join host Chantel Jennings at 2 p.m. ET to preview the conference showdown between No. 5 Florida State and No. 3 Clemson in Death Valley. Pac-12 reporter Kevin Gemmell, SEC reporter Edward Aschoff and Big Ten reporter Brian Bennett also join the panel to talk about the other big games around the country in Week 8.

Video: College GameDay onsite

September, 16, 2011
9/16/11
8:39
PM ET

Pat Forde and Heather Dinich break down Oklahoma-Florida State, Auburn-Clemson and Ohio State-Miami.

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