As you know I have been backing the ACC and touting them as the best conference this season. They had by far the most experience coming back of any conference and they have certainly lived up to that this bowl season. With the exception of Pitt who lost their star RB early in their game against Northwestern and their QB later. The ACC is undefeated SU and ATS. The ACC went 7-3 vs. the SEC This year, they are 4-2 vs. the Big 10. So we have made the case that the ACC is better than the Big 10 this season. Letâs move onto coaching.
You really canât say Dabo Swinney is better than Urban Meyer, but besides the national championships Meyer has itâs pretty damn close and pretty damn remarkable what Swinney has done here at Clemson. Swinney went head to head with Meyer before as a dog in 2013 in their bowl game and won 40-35. Defense will win this game and Iâll take Brent Venables, the Clemson defensive coordinator over Greg Schiano who is in his first year as the defensive coordinator and is playing by far the best offensive team and QB all year. Venables has been here since 2012 and took this defense in 2012 to a 60th defensive ranking from a YPP perspective to 38th, #1, #11, and 6th this year.
I truly think this Clemson team has been on a mission and I really enjoyed watching the offense down the stretch. Sure they lost some guys from last year, but they brought back more starters than both Ohio State and Alabama. Their offense has more WR depth with Mike Williams coming back and Wayne Gallman & Deshaun Watson got hot late. Gallman actually has 87 fewer carries than last year and thatâs a good thing going into these games.
Strength of schedule â Both teams faced a top 10 strength of schedule with elite competition in their non-conference games. Ohio State is ranked as having the #1 SOS and Clemson has #7. I took a deeper look I completely disagree. Ohio State had the 3rd ranked defense and faced an average opponent ranking 67th. Clemson had the 6th ranked defense and faced an average opponent ranking 62nd. Clemson faced 5 top 40 offenses while Ohio State faced 4. Itâs close but I would say both teams have about the same level of talent on defense and Clemson had the tougher schedule.
Offensively Ohio State ranks 38th, and lets be honest they are a bit one dimensional with strengths in the running game as they lack a receiver and JT Barret lacks accuracy and footwork in the pocket at times. They faced a ton of tough defenses this year on their way to that ranking an average opponent ranking 50.5. Clemson however, has the 27th ranked offense a more balanced offense and better QB all around. Clemson took on an average defense ranking 46.4, a tougher schedule when you consider they faced six top 30 defenses 8 top 40 defenses. Ohio State faced 4 top 30 defenses and just 5 top 40 defenses. Ohio Stateâs offense vs. top 30 defenses scored 38, 21, 30, and 30 which is impressive, but keep in mind only Michigan and Penn State had an offense that could keep Ohio State off the field. Ohio Stateâs offense really struggled against Michigan and in my opinion they lost that game. The officiating seemed to be against them, and that game went to two OTâs as Ohio State scored just 17 points in regulation and 7 of those were a defensive TD. Clemson on the other hand in their 6 games vs. top 30 defenses averaged 35.5 points and they faced an SEC defense in non-conference play on the road.
Trenches and efficiency are big time considerations in these type of games and I feel like Clemson has the edge. We already have shown they faced the stronger schedule and yet they did better on third down offense and defense. Red zone TD% was another edge they had against tougher defenses. In the trenches is where I think they have the advantage in this one they have +50 tackles for loss compared to Ohio State who was only +25 this year. They have +32 sacks while Ohio State does even have 32 sacks as they had 26 while allowing 25. Havoc rates Clemson ranks 4th, 7th, and 21st while Ohio State ranks 15th, 17th, and 30th. Clemson has to watch the turnovers in this game that is their biggest threat to losing this game in my opinion. They had 24 this year, but only 3 over their last 3 games. They also forced 24 so itâs not all bad while Ohio State is +16 in turnover margin. I will say Clemson ranked 118th in fumble recovery % which is essentially luck compared to Ohio State who ranks 43rd.
If you read this far thank you. We certainly have to break down the X-factors that are the QBâs in this game with running abilities. Deshaun Watson really has not carried the ball a ton this year like he did a year ago, but he had 17 carries for 85 yards against Virginia Tech. It really seems like he is saving it for these two games. Last year he had 145 yards against Oklahoma and 73 vs. Alabama. You really canât stack the box against Watson with his arm he will pick you apart. Ohio Stateâs young defense which has struggled in the trenches has not faced a mobile QB like this. They were lucky to knock Tommie Armstrong out of their game early who had 4 carries for 19 yards. McSorley from Penn State had 63 yards on 19 carries and Clayton Thorson who is not even a running QB had 44 yards on 6 carries. Now, JT Barret is going up against a defense that had 112 tackles for loss and 46 sacks and he doesnât have the arm or the receiving weapons that Clemson has. Clemson also has been good against running QBâs and has faced some of the best this season. They kept Lamar Jackson under wraps in the first half before he got lose and I think theyâll really study that tape before this game. The other guys they faced Justin Thomas, Francois, and Jerrod Evans did not get much in 38 carries for just 68 total yards.
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