Fiesta Bowl: Clemson vs. Ohio State Pick 12/28
Clemson Tigers (13-0 SU, 10-3 ATS) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (13-0 SU, 9-4 ATS)
The Fiesta Bowl
Date and Time: Saturday, Dec. 28 at 8pm ET
Where: State Farm Stadium – Glendale, AZ
Point Spread: CLEM -2/OSU +2 (Bookmaker - Best Sportsbook for Highrollers)
Over/Under Total: 63
You run out of superlatives at some point when teams are undefeated conference champions with historically good offenses and defenses so it is good that we can just let them settle it on the field. Clemson and Ohio State will meet in the Fiesta Bowl for the right to advance to the National Title Game, and this must feel like a long time coming as both teams have been virtual locks for the semifinals for much of the regular season. Clemson had to survive a 21-20 scrape with North Carolina, and Ohio State needed all four quarters to put away Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, but both teams have cruised, for the most part, putting up gaudy numbers along the way. The CFP semifinals are familiar territory for both schools, and this is a direct rematch of the 2016 Fiesta Bowl that saw Clemson blank OSU 31-0.
Clemson has been a bowl game stalwart, going 9-5 under Dabo Swinney overall and 8-2 since 2012 (9-1 ATS) with a 2-0 mark against Ohio State. This bowl will be Ryan Day’s first as a head coach, but he was part of Urban Meyer’s staff that oversaw the Cotton, and Rose Bowl wins in 2017 and 2018. Ohio State is 5-1 (5-1 ATS) in the last six bowl games and 1-1 since 2016 at the Fiesta Bowl with a win over Notre Dame alongside the Clemson defeat.
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The Orange Crush
There is no way around the fact that Clemson has dominated opponents on both sides of the ball in 2019. Most impressively, the Tigers lead the nation at 6.5 yards per rush and average 252 rushing yards per game, good for 10th in the country. The offensive line has allowed the 4th fewest sacks in college football and keeping Chase Young (16.5 sacks) from doing too much damage will be key. Trevor Lawrence threw for 34 touchdowns against 8 interceptions in the regular season and continues to be a significant running threat with 407 yards and seven scores on the ground. He has most often found Tee Higgins who has hit the 1,000 receiving yards mark while averaging 20.8 yards per catch. Higgins has scored a touchdown in five straight games, netting ten scores over that span. Travis Etienne (1,500/17) is averaging 8.2 yards per carry but will run against an OSU run-stopping unit that is allowing 2.8 yards per tote and only 99 yards per game. The Clemson defense hasn’t been overly productive in the sack department, but the secondary has picked on pass-happy offenses with 17 interceptions. Safety Tanner Muse leads the way with four picks.
There was a certain degree of nervousness to start the season as Justin Fields took over the record-setting offense, but it didn’t take him any time at all to acclimate, and he earned a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist for his efforts. Fields threw for 40 touchdowns and just one interception with ten more rushing scores to lead OSU to a NCAA-best, 48.7 points per game. J.K. Dobbins needs 181 yards to hit 2,000 on the season and he finished with 20 touchdowns as Ohio State finished 5th in the country in rushing yards per game. The Buckeyes have three matchup problems at WR with Chris Olave, K.J. Hill and Binjimen Victor all able to take over a game. That trio accounted for 27 touchdowns in the regular season and their production against a Clemson pass defense that is allowing just 138 yards per game will have a lot of say in the outcome. I mentioned Chase Young’s and his sack total, but he also racked up 21 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles to earn himself a Heisman finalist honor.
Clemson is 4-0 against the spread in their last four as a neutral site favorite and the Under has hit in each of the Tigers last four Bowl Semi-Final games. Clemson is 17-5 against the spread in their last 22 as a favorite overall. Ohio State has played good teams well, going 10-2 against the spread in the last twelve against an opponent above the .500 mark and has 20 ATS win in their last 27 games as an underdog. The Under is 5-2 in the last seven Ohio State games on a neutral field. Clemson is getting about 56% of the public money in the early betting period with the “OVER” seeing about 66% of the action.
The talent on this field is incredible as is the coaching and both of these teams could go down as one of the best in college football history with two more wins. We are talking about the #1 and #2 ranked teams in so many categories and the margins are so thin that anything besides a close game would be a surprise. I think Ohio State getting pushed around for a half by Wisconsin last week helps the Buckeyes attitude. They completely dominated the second half of the Big Ten Championship game and a four-quarter effort like that will have them headed to a National Championship. Justin Fields was banged-up in that contest but should be as healthy as he can be with a couple of weeks rest and I think Clemson is going to have a moderate amount of trouble with what has to be their best opponent this season. Ohio State has a few more playmakers, in my opinion, and that will help make up for Clemson’s big game experience edge. OSU leads the nation in third-down conversions on offense and sacks for. I think that third-down performance on both sides of the ball will help power them to a mini-upset here and I’m betting Ohio State to get a 34-30 win.
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