By David Knox, Sports Editor
There is a gnawing urge to write about how Nick Saban is right – the playoffs have hurt the bowl games – and to supply the addendum that they’ve hurt the regular season, and that it’s only going to get worse.
The Ohio State University may very well have one of the four best teams in the country, but the Buckeyes couldn’t even win their own division, much less the Big Ten.
In the Year of the Brand (see Trump, Donald), Ohio State trumps them all.
Three seasons ago, TCU got gigged by TOSU. This time, it’s Penn State’s turn. You know, the team that actually won the Big Ten. And beat the Buckeyes.
The reasoning in 2014 was that TOSU won its conference championship game. This time, the Luckeyes are in despite not even making their league’s championship game.
But we can’t fix stupid. We could rant all day about how an eventual eight- or 16-team playoff will happen and how it’ll be great for the three-loss SEC teams and still suck for the one-loss C-USA team. But we won’t, today, anyway.
So we’ll swallow hard and buckle down to the Buckeyes and Clemson.
No. 2 Clemson has one of the country’s best playmakers in Deshaun Watson running the show at quarterback. He’s got plenty of weapons at receiver, but his 15 picks this year mean he’s forced it some to make the big play. Ohio State is fifth in the country on pass defense.
Wayne Gallman is a solid running back, but Ohio State allows just 3.3 yards per carry and allowed five rushing touchdowns. Gallman will need to do enough to allow Watson to have time to throw off play-action.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barnett hasn’t had a great year throwing the ball down the field. He does average 70 yards rushing per game, but the stud back is Mike Weber (1,072 yards). But Clemson allows just about 125 yards a game. Still this is the Buckeyes’ area of strength. They don’t want Barnett to face the Clemson rush (3.5 sacks a game, just 188 yards passing a game).
If the Buckeyes can run the ball successfully and avoid turnovers, that’s the key. If Clemson can make big plays in the passing game, that’s their key.
We think Pelham’s Dabo Swinney, the former Alabama wide receiver, boots the Bucks’ Urban Meyer out of the playoffs. He will then get to spend more time with his family.
CFP National Semifinal: Fiesta Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 31, 6 p.m. TV: ESPN