Fiesta Bowl preview: Clemson’s defense vs. Ohio State’s offense

Fiesta Bowl preview: Clemson’s defense vs. Ohio State’s offense

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Fiesta Bowl preview: Clemson’s defense vs. Ohio State’s offense

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Here is a little sneak peek at one of the matchups to watch for when No. 2 Clemson battles No. 3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Clemson’s defense vs. Ohio State’s offense: Ohio State runs the same offense Clemson runs. It’s a power spread and the entire offense goes through quarterback J.T. Barrett.

As a runner, Barrett is as good as they come. He finished second on the team with 847 yards and tied for the team lead with nine touchdowns. As a passer, he has 24 touchdowns to five interceptions, so he does not make very many bad decisions.

However, he has completed just 61.8 percent of his passes for 2,428 yards. He is averaging just 202.3 yards per game through the air. A large part of that is due to the fact he has a very young offensive line blocking for him. He has been sacked 26 times this year.

Barrett’s top receiver is actually a running back. Curtis Samuel has caught a team high 822 yards on 65 catches. He is averaging 12.6 yards per catch and has scored seven touchdowns. Samuel is third on the team with 704 rushing yards, while scoring eight touchdowns, which is also third on the team.

The Buckeyes (11-1) lead the Big Ten in scoring (42.7), total (479.5) and rushing offense (258.3). Running back Mike Weber leads the team with 1,072 yards and is tied with Barrett with nine touchdowns. He is averaging 6.1 yards per carry, while Samuel is averaging 7.7 yards.

Ohio State’s top receiver is Noah Brown. He has 30 catches for 385 yards and seven scores, while Dontre Wilson has hauled on 27 passes for 352 yards and five touchdowns. Marcus Baugh has 24 receptions for 269 yards and two touchdowns.

Clemson’s defense has been solid all year. The Tigers rank second in the nation in sacks with 46 and second in tackles for loss with 112.

Clemson (12-1) leads the ACC in scoring defense (18.4), interceptions (18), defensive passing rating (102.4) and yards allowed per play (4.6). The Tigers rank second in the conference in total defense (313.9), passing defense (188.2), touchdown passes allowed (12) and completion percentage (52.4).

The defense is led by linebacker Ben Boulware, who has 105 tackles, nine tackles for loss and four sacks. He also has one interception. Fellow linebacker Kendall Joseph has 94 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

Freshman defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and senior defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, along with Christian Wilkins at defensive end, lead a front seven that is as good as anyone in the country. On the back end of the defense, safety Jadar Johnson, who has five interceptions, had cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (3 interceptions) are both First-Team All-ACC players who give the Tigers one of the best secondaries in the country.

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