Orange Bowl preview: Clemson vs. Ohio State
The 2013-14 college football bowl season continues on Friday evening as the Orange Bowl takes place between Clemson and Ohio State in Miami.
Here are some things to keep an eye on when you're tuned into the contest between the Tigers and the Buckeyes.
Clemson (10-2) vs. Ohio State (12-1)<br /> January 3, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
The Tigers began their season with a win over Georgia, which was considered a potential BCS title contender. But Dabo Swinney's squad was blown out by Florida State, ending any hopes of a Clemson run at the crystal football. And another loss to South Carolina closed the regular season, putting a stain on what was supposed to be a real breakthrough campaign.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes started the Urban Meyer era 24-0 before losing their shot at the final BCS title by getting beat by Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. But while OSU would prefer to be playing in Pasadena on Monday night, this is a team that did not taste the postseason last year. So it should be motivated as head coach Urban Meyer tries to win his fifth BCS game in as many tries (three different schools).
Battling dual-threats: This game will feature two of the most athletic quarterbacks in the country running electric offenses. Clemson's Tajh Boyd will be playing in his final college game, and he'll want to go out on a strong note after struggling in games against Florida State and South Carolina the last two seasons. He accounted for 38 touchdowns this year, and the Tigers have the advantage of having top weapons in receivers Sammy Watkins, who had 100 or more receiving yards in seven games this year, and 6-5 Martavis Bryant. The Buckeyes have allowed 755 passing yards in their last two games and have a pass defense that is ranked 102nd in the FBS, allowing 259.5 yards per game. They may be without top cornerback Bradley Roby and they already know they're playing without pass-rush specialist Noah Spence, a defensive end who has been suspended for the game. I would expect to see the Boyd who helped Clemson beat Georgia earlier this year and LSU in last year's bowl game.
US PRESSWIREBuckeyes RB Carlos Hyde is averaging 7.7 yards per rush this season.
The punisher: Buckeyes running back Carlos Hyde is a bruiser who is tough to bring down and can gain yards in chunks. He has only had two carries all season where he lost yardage and is averaging almost 8 yards per carry, which is ridiculous at the BCS conference level. Sure, Clemson did a very solid job against Boston College's Andre Williams, who won the Doak Walker Award and is a bigger back. Williams was held to 70 yards on the ground against the Tigers. But combined with Braxton Miller's athleticism when he runs, the Tigers will be hard-pressed to not wear down against the physical Hyde.
The Beasley-Mewhort battle: NFL scouts will love watching Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley against Ohio State offensive tackle Jake Mewhort. Beasley has 12 sacks this season, and he poses a challenge that Mewhort has not quite seen this year. Containing Beasley will be a priority for OSU. The Tigers have had success getting into the backfield both against the pass and the run, as they lead the country in tackles for loss. Putting pressure on Miller while not allowing him to make plays with his feet is critical for Clemson.
Odds and ends: Ohio State is favored by five points ... Clemson leads the all-time series 1-0. The lone meeting took place in the 1978 Gator Bowl, and it's best remembered for Woody Hayes' final game as head coach of the Buckeyes because of his punch to Clemson linebacker Charlie Bauman after an interception ... The Tigers have won only five of their last 16 bowl games ... The last time they played in the Orange Bowl was two years ago when they lost 70-33 to West Virginia ... In their losses to Florida State and South Carolina, Clemson had 10 combined turnovers.
Dave Miller, the college football editor and writer for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.