4 clear advantages the Buckeyes have over Clemson
Yes, I understand ESPN says the game is a coin flip.
Yes, I understand Vegas says Clemson by 6.5.
But I also know that Ohio State has a few advantages when it comes to its big College Football Playoff semifinal game at the Sugar Bowl vs. No. 2 Clemson on New Year’s Day — a few advantages that may just mean the difference in the game.
1. The Buckeyes have less wear and tear from less games.
I know there’s been some debate on this issue, but I see it as nothing but a good thing. Ohio State has only had to play 6 games this year.
Less games means there’s less of a chance for your players to get hurt. It means there’s less of a chance for your players to wear themselves out. And as we’ve already pointed out in this space, the Buckeyes are really just rounding into form. Six games is about where they’d be in the middle of a normal season, so it figures they’d be really finding themselves around this time.
Of course, as Dabo Swinney has already discussed, it also means there’s less tape for him to study — meaning Ohio State probably hasn’t shown its full arsenal yet. I bet we see some new wrinkles in the offensive game in the Sugar Bowl.
This also means the Buckeyes have had two weeks to come up with a plan for Clemson — and I think they’ll probably need every bit of that time to prepare.
2. The wide receivers — they’re your weapons. Use them.
With the extra time, Ohio State figures to have Chris Olave back in the mix when they take on Clemson, which is good because this is one of the areas where the Buckeyes have a clear advantage. Now, don’t get me wrong — Clemson is talented, definitely one of the most talented teams in the nation. But no team has a wide receiver tandem like Olave and Garrett Wilson.
And the Buckeyes have to utilize these guys when they can. This pair can get open, and when they do, Justin Fields needs to find them. He cannot afford to have the kind of day he had against Indiana and Northwestern. Unfortunately for him, the Clemson defense will be better.
So finding Olave and Wilson could be the difference in a win or a loss. Will this be the game that one of the talented freshman wide receivers finally steps up to become a reliable third option? Paging Julian Fleming, maybe … ?
3. The rushing offense is unstoppable right now.
Despite the point made above, the Buckeyes may find that the run game is working, and if so, they need to be economical in their passes: Take what the defense gives them, and if the receivers are having trouble, don’t force anything — let the running backs run.
I realize this may be a push, but early in the year, with four new faces on the offensive line, Clemson’s running game struggled. Maybe both teams are hitting their running-game stride at the right time, and if so, I’m taking the Buckeyes. Trey Sermon proved that if he’s given the chance, he can run against a good defense. I think he’ll be given the chance again, as will the offensive linemen, who have found their stride as run blockers. So … is Sermon — who nearly doubled his yardage output for the entire season with his record-setting performance in the B1G title game — just fool’s gold, or will he be able to be effective in an even bigger game?
We’ll have to see. But if the run game is actually running on all cylinders, this is a big advantage for Ohio State.
Still, the Tigers have only allowed 2.8 yards per carry this season. It’s going to be a fight to get those kinds of yards in this game.
4. The intangibles. The Buckeyes have all the intangibles.
Simply, this is the revenge factor. Ohio State won’t be scared. They won’t be intimidated. Mind you, this does not mean they will win, but this is the game the Buckeyes have wanted for a year.
In fact, it’s all been adding up to this. You can look at all of these other games as the preseason. Ohio State just wanted to get back to this moment, to play this team.
Add in Swinney’s constant comments picking at Ohio State’s abbreviated schedule and their overall worth in the Playoff, and the buildup to this game has become downright nuclear. It’s an advantage for the Buckeyes, who really enjoy playing the role of the underdog when they can.
Lastly, there’s one other intangible on Ohio State’s side: They have yet to play their best game.
“We certainly don’t have the game reps, especially for the younger guys, to find out what they can do,” head coach Ryan Day said. “And we haven’t had our best game yet this year. Played some good games, but we haven’t played our best game this year, and we’re going to have to play our best game again to beat Clemson.”
So can they play their best game against Clemson? They definitely can.
Well, that’s why we have to watch.