Heading into the final week of the 2013 college football regular season, Ohio State appeared to be on a collision course to meet Florida State in the BCS National Championship game. Instead, the Buckeyes will face No.12 Clemson in the 2014 Orange Bowl in Miami on the third day of the New Year.
Ohio State, ranked No.2 at the time, blew their chance of playing for the national title. They were upset by Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game. With a loss on the Buckeyes' schedule, the Auburn Tigers were voted into a matchup with the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles, having won the consistently competitive SEC conference. Following their loss to the Spartans, Ohio State dropped to No.7 in the polls.
"Obviously, we're not going to where we thought we were going or where we wanted to be going, but we're playing in the Orange Bowl and that's a big-time bowl game," Ohio State offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said. "When you start going back to the coulda, woulda, shouldas, that's poisonous for a team. It's our job as leaders to look ahead and make sure everybody is doing their business."
Clemson saw any hopes they had of competing for a national championship dashed in October when they lost to Florida State by 37 points. They were dominant in conference play, beating teams like Wake Forest, Syracuse and Virginia by five scores. However, after they beat Georgia to open up the season, they failed to defeat another ranked opponent. The Tigers lost to then-No.10 South Carolina to end the regular season.
On Friday, Ohio State and Clemson look to end their seasons on a high note. The contest will feature two of the best offenses in the nation, which are led by two of the country’s top quarterbacks. Braxton Miller and Tajh Boyd began the preseason as Heisman Trophy hopefuls.
Miller is a dual-threat quarterback that threw for 1,860 yards and ran for 1,033 more. He totaled 32 touchdowns, while throwing just five interceptions. Boyd completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,473 yards, 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He helped the Tigers score more than 50 points on five different occasions.
Both quarterbacks are aided by elite playmakers. Sammy Watkins leads Clemson with 85 catches and 1,237 receiving yards. He’s been named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the best receiver in college football.
While Ohio State will have their hands full with Watkins, Clemson may have an even tougher time containing Carlos Hyde. The running back missed the first three games because of a suspension, but he still managed to accumulate 1,408 yards on the ground. The senior has rushed for at least 111 yards in eight straight games, and Clemson give up 152.6 rushing yards per game.
The Tigers have the 17th-ranked scoring defense, but they’ve had trouble stopping the elite teams on their schedule. They’ve given up at least 31 points in all three of their games against ranked opponents.
"Carlos Hyde is a creature," Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony said via espn.com. "We're going to have to show up. You've got to bring all you've got."
The Orange Bowl is expected to be one of the closer BCS bowl games. The Buckeyes are favored by just a field goal. Ohio State went 6-6-1 against the point spread, while Clemson went 6-6.
Betting Odds: Ohio State -3, 69.5
Prediction: Ohio State 34, Clemson 24