As 2016 comes to a close this New Years Eve the college football playoff will be kicking off as the no.3 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will be traveling to the Fiesta Bowl to take on the no.2 ranked Clemson Tigers for a chance at a national championship.
Statistically Ohio State and Clemson are very similar. Both teams are loaded with NFL players, many of which will be early round selections. Clemson features a Heisman trophy candidate at quarterback and possibly the number one wide receiver in the upcoming draft. Ohio State has one of the most dynamic players in the nation and the best secondary in the nation. Lets take a closer look at a couple match-ups to keep eye on come Saturday night.
Conley, Lattimore and Hooker vs. Watson, Williams and Leggett
This match-up is chock-full of NFL talent. Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore are two lock down corners for the Buckeyes and Malik Hooker has a knack for taking interceptions to the house. They will have their hands full as they take on the Heisman trophy runner-up Deshaun Watson and the no.1 ranked WR in next years draft, Mike Williams, and a 6-5 freak athlete tight-end, Jordan Leggett.
Watson has been one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. He has focused more on his passing this year and has ran the ball 78 times less this year with half of the yardage of 2015. Despite Watson rushing less he is always a threat to break a big play with his legs.
Isiah Prince vs. Christian Wilkins
Curtis Samuel vs. Cordrea Tankersley
Urban Meyer vs. Dabo Swinney
Dabo Swinney has turned Clemson into a powerhouse program. Although Swinney doesn't boast the same success as Meyer in bowls, he is still has a winning percentage north of .500 at 5-4 in 9 bowls. Swinney had his Tigers in this same position last year as they lost to Alabama in the National Championship game. Clemson has been looking forward to this all year and through Swinney's leadership has handled the pressure of being an elite team with elite expectations well.
With these two teams so evenly matched this game has all the makings of a nail-biter. J.T. Barrett has struggled with down field accuracy all year. If he continues to struggle then the Buckeyes are in trouble. If Barrett can complete some of those throws for big plays then the Buckeyes will be in good position to return to the National Championship game.
For many, this is the game they have been waiting to see this bowl season. New Years toasts can wait. Keep the champagne on ice. Hold off on dropping the ball for a couple extra minutes. 2017 isn't going anywhere. There are more important things at stake this Saturday night.
What: College Football Playoff Semi-final; Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Clemson Tigers
When: Saturday December 31, 2016 at 7:00 PM ET
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale Arizona
Line: OSU -3, O/U 59