Friday, January 3, 2014
Ten reasons Ohio State will win Orange
By Brian Bennett
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Here are 10 reasons Ohio State will win Friday's Discover Orange Bowl game against Clemson:
1. The Urban Meyer factor: In case you hadn't noticed, Ohio State's coach is pretty good in big games. He has a 4-0 record in BCS bowls, compared with 0-1 for Clemson's Dabo Swinney. Meyer knows how to prepare his teams for this kind of stage, and, with nearly a month to get ready for the Tigers, you know he'll have a great game plan in hand. Meyer might not have a whole lot of fans left in the state of Florida, but everyone has to respect his big-game acumen.
2. Braxton Miller: South Carolina's Connor Shaw had a big performance in Clemson's last game, a 31-17 loss to the Gamecocks. Shaw ran for 94 yards and a touchdown and passed for 152 yards and another score. Shaw is a tremendous player, but he isn't as dangerous as Miller, who can take over a game with his speed and running ability. The Tigers will have to commit to stopping the run, which should leave opportunities for Miller to make some plays in the passing game. Except for a rough ending in the Big Ten title game, Miller has a history of rising to the occasion in Ohio State's biggest games. This is a legacy moment for him, as he has yet to win a bowl game and has been waiting for this opportunity.
Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller will team up for the final time, with a goal to run over Clemson.
3. Carlos Hyde: The confident senior running back has talked openly about breaking the Orange Bowl rushing record of 206 yards, and why not? That's a regular day at the office for Hyde if he gets enough carries. Clemson surrendered big rushing days to Georgia's Todd Gurley and Syracuse's Jerome Smith. And neither of those teams also had a dangerous running quarterback to account for. Hyde, who weighs 235 pounds, can break the will of a defense with his bruising running style, and his ability to keep the chains moving will shorten the game and keep the Tigers' offense off the field.
4. 24-1: That's Ohio State's record under Meyer. The one loss was to a top-five team (Michigan State) in a game which Ohio State led in the third quarter. So the Buckeyes know how to win, and they've pulled out many close games in the past two years. The "1" on that other side of the record might be the most important part. After losing for the first time in two years, the team should have plenty of motivation to refocus and get back on the winning track.
5. The ACC, as always, is overrated: If it's early January, that must mean the ACC is doing its annual postseason nosedive. In fact, going into Friday's game, the ACC has lost its past five bowl games, many in blowout fashion. At least Duke played well against Texas A&M. Maryland, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College have all looked bad this bowl season. The Big Ten has its problems. But it can still look down at the ACC.
6. "Clemsoning" is still a thing: The Tigers were celebrated for beating Georgia in their opener, making it two in a row over top-10 teams from the SEC after they took down LSU in last season's Chick-fil-A Bowl. But the Tigers were flat-out embarrassed in their big home showdown against Florida State and were soundly defeated by South Carolina. Outside of the Georgia game, there's nothing impressive about Clemson's schedule, and that game was a long time ago. The Tigers have never won a BCS game and were roadkill in their last Orange Bowl appearance two years ago against West Virginia, allowing 70 points. It's still not wise to bank on Clemson in a big game.
7. The Buckeyes' BCS track record: On the flip side of our No. 6 reason is Ohio State's long and impressive BCS résumé. The Buckeyes have been to the most BCS games (10, including Friday's Orange Bowl) of any team and have won six of them, tied for the most in the BCS era. They get dinged for a couple of lopsided national-title game losses, but the reality is this team almost always shows up on this stage. Couple that with No. 1 on our list and you have a program and a coach who know how to handle this spotlight.
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8. Turnovers: Many wonder how Ohio State's battered pass defense will hold up against Clemson's offense, especially with Noah Spence out (Big Ten suspension) and Bradley Roby questionable (knee injury). That's a valid question. One possible answer is by taking the ball away. In the Tigers' losses to Florida State and South Carolina, they committed a total of 10 turnovers. The Buckeyes, by contrast, have generally been very safe with the ball this season, finishing at plus-7 in turnover margin. Miller has thrown only five interceptions. Tajh Boyd has shown that he is sometimes shaky in big games. Watch out for Ryan Shazier, the ball-hawking Ohio State linebacker who will be playing basically in his hometown. Turning Clemson over will go a long way toward winning this game.
9. Ohio State's offensive line: There might not be a better offensive line in the country than the Buckeyes' group, which includes four seniors playing their final game in the scarlet and gray. Marcus Hall returns after serving a suspension in the Big Ten title game, and he should be fired up to atone for missing that one. Ohio State's offensive line has worn down opponents all season and has a great chance of winning the battle in the trenches against Clemson.
10. Woody's revenge: Ohio State legend Woody Hayes' last game came against Clemson in 1978, when he earned a pink slip by punching Charlie Bauman. Somewhere in football heaven, the irascible Hayes is cursing and screaming and kicking some clouds over this rematch. Even if he has to reach down and use a divine hand to trip a Tigers player on the way to the end zone, there's no way Woody is letting the Buckeyes lose to Clemson again in this or any other dimension.