The 2014 BCS Orange Bowl presents an intriguing scenario. While the matchup is thick with historical context (see: Hayes, Woody and Bauman, Charlie), this is the only BCS bowl in 2014 that features two teams coming off a loss. At various points in their seasons, both Clemson and Ohio State had national title aspirations; now they meet in a consolation bowl game.
Ohio State was one game away from the BCS title game, but couldn’t close the deal against Michigan State. As a result of the loss, the Buckeyes were bounced from both the title game and the Rose Bowl. After blowing out teams for the majority of the season, carrying the nation’s longest winning streak, and fighting for national recognition and respect, Ohio State finally fell to earth and proved many of its critics right. Instead of a trip to Pasadena, the Buckeyes are stewing down in Miami.
The cold dose of reality hit Clemson much sooner than it did the Buckeyes. After defeating No. 5 Georgia to open the season, the Tigers rolled to a No. 3 ranking in mid October. Then, on the fateful night of Oct. 19, Clemson ran into a buzz-saw Florida State team, losing 51-14 in Death Valley. From there, the Tigers lived in relative obscurity. They recovered to play dominate, offensive football until losing to in-state rival South Carolina in the season finale. While a team that went 1-2 against ranked opponents should be happy to play in a BCS game, the heights of a No. 3 ranking and willed ignorance of Dabo Swinney make this game feel like a disappointment.
With that said, let’s take a look at the important matchups for this year’s Orange Bowl.
Same result; different process
Ohio State is a running team. They rank third in the nation in rushing offense, averaging over 317 yards a game. As for passing, there isn’t much to get excited about. The Buckeyes are 93rd in the country in passing offense. They barely eke out 200 yards a game through the air.
Clemson is the total opposite. The Tigers rank 11th in the nation in passing offense with just over 329 yards per game through the air. However, they only rank 60th in rushing (173.75 ypg).
Though the two teams have different methods, they each yield the same results. Ohio State and Clemson each rank in the top-10 nationally in points per game, both averaging over 40 points per contest. Likewise, both teams rack up over 500 yards of total offense per game.
We’re built to beat ourselves
Just as the Buckeyes are a running team, they are also built to beat the ground game. Ohio State ranks seventh in the nation in run defense, and allows barely over 100 yards per game. Just like the offense, the defense isn’t pass oriented either. The Buckeyes are vulnerable through the air, giving up nearly 260 yards per game. Teams have fallen behind quickly against Ohio State and have been forced to abandon the run, but that still doesn’t excuse being ranked 105 out of 125 teams in pass defense.
It’s the same story for the Tigers. Clemson loves to pass, and is built to stop the pass (ranked 15th nationally). The Tigers don’t run well, nor are they particularly stout against the run.
While both teams have defensive liabilities, they tend to hold opponents to few points. The Buckeyes and Tigers give up barely over three touchdowns per game, at 21.3 and 21.1 points allowed, respectively.
From the looks of it, this game figures to be an offensive wonderland. Ohio State runs well, and Clemson has trouble with the run. Clemson passes well, and Ohio State is weak against the pass. Each team plays perfectly to the opponent’s weaknesses.
The main thing with this game, as is often the case with many premier bowls, is motivation. Will the teams have an optimistic or pessimistic attitude entering the contest?
Ohio State can be happy to finally return to postseason play after shedding the NCAA sanctions. Or, the players can be distraught over missing both the BCS National Championship Game, and the Big Ten’s slot in the Rose Bowl.
The same goes for Clemson. The Tigers can enter the game happy that they drew a BCS bowl despite not playing in a conference championship game. Or, they can be sour about wasting Tajh Boyd’s final season, and potentially that of Sammy Watkins and Vic Beasley.
As for pride, Ohio State can help shed the reputation of a team that bullies lesser opponents, while rolling over to anyone of merit. Whereas the Tigers can work to debunk the notion that “Clemsoning” now means losing big games to ranked teams.
It’s time to settle it. Who parties down in South Beach?