No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1 SU, 6-6-1 ATS) vs. No. 2 Clemson Tigers (12-1 SU, 6-7 ATS)
College Football Playstation Fiesta Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Saturday December 31st, 2016. 7:00PM (EST)
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium Phoenix, A.Z.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: OSU -3/CLEM +3
Over/Under Total: 60.5
In what promises to be one of the most epic College Football Playoff Semifinal games to date, the no. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes and no. 2 Clemson Tigers will collide in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl inside University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday December 31st. Both teams have been amongst the National Championship discussion all season and are now just one win away from having the opportunity to play for the title. This semifinal has all the ingredients to be a tremendous spectacle and it may just be the best game on the entire 2016 bowl slate.
The reasons this game has all the ingredients to be epic is because both teams do so many things well. Both offenses are among the best in college football ranking in the top 15 in scoring averaging over 40 points per game. The only difference is Clemson does most of their damage through the air behind Heisman Trophy Finalist quarterback Deshaun Watson whereas the Buckeyes typically produce most of their big plays on the ground behind quarterback J.T. Barrett and running back Mike Weber. However, both teams have tremendous defenses to offset the opposing offenses. In fact, both defenses rank inside the top 10 overall with Ohio State ranking 5th giving up just 282 yards per game and Clemson ranking 9th allowing just 313 yards per game. Therefore there should never be a dull moment in this game with great matchups on both sides of the football.
I actually think this game will be one of those where people are on the edge of their seat for the entire 60 minutes. Both offenses have the capability to score on any single play but they also have the defenses that can come up with big opportunities as well. From a betting standpoint, the numbers are also very similar. Ohio State has a 6-6-1 mark ATS with Clemson holding a mirroring 6-7 mark against the number. Both teams have trended down during the latter part of the season with Ohio State going 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games and Clemson covering in just 2 of their last 7 games. The public has favored the Tigers and the points slightly with about 60% of all early action favoring the underdog. Still, even those numbers are pretty equivalent.
I have broken this game down in about every way imaginable and I still cannot find any clear edges. Clemson has some elite talent in their passing game and possibly one of the best receiving corps in the nation led by WR Mike Williams. However, Ohio State ranks 6th against the pass so I do not expect Clemson to find things to come easy down the field but I think they have to challenge down the field to give their talented receivers an opportunity to make big plays. Clemson running back Wayne Gallman is a solid rusher but I dont believe he is a guy that can take over in this game to open up the rest of the offense. Instead, I think Clemson has to hit plays down the field to open everything else up.
The same challenges will be on Ohio State when they have the ball in their hand only in a slightly different manner. The Buckeyes typically keep the football on the ground between Weber, Barrett, and Curtis Samuel. Ohio State relies on these rushing threats for the offense to strive. However, Clemson has established a great defensive unit especially among the defensive front line where they are extremely athletic and physical. The Tigers actually rank 22nd against the run and they do an even better job of getting pressure on quarterbacks. Therefore it is critical that Ohio State stays out of obvious passing situations to avoid Clemsons relentless pass rush.
Overall a game like this where the teams are so equally matched may come down to some of the intangibles like penalties, special teams, and especially turnovers. If things stay the course, the turnovers may be an area that benefits the Buckeyes. Ohio State ranked 3rd in the FBS in turnover margin with the help of their 25 takeaways on the season. Watson has specifically struggled with interceptions (15) this year more than anyone would have expected. Clemson has also given 24 turnovers away as a team so keep an eye on the turnover war because it could have a big impact in this outcome.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I stand by the fact I think this game features two very equally talented teams with matchups that will be difficult for both teams. However, I still feel like the Buckeyes are the better team. Therefore, I will take Ohio State -3!
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