The Ohio State Buckeyes and Clemson Tigers face-off Saturday night in the second of the two College Football Playoff semifinal games. Clemson is 12-1 and the No. 2 seed, while the Buckeyes are 11-1 and the No. 3 seed. Both teams have plenty of NFL talent and although each had a slip-up in the regular season, they think they can win the Fiesta Bowl and the College Football Playoff.
Can the Tigers avoid the turnovers that have plagued them this season? Can Ohio State's offense avoid the poor efforts that showed up against Michigan and Michigan State? Here's our preview and prediction.
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Spread: Ohio State by 1.5
What They're Saying About The Ohio State Buckeyes:
Ohio State Hype Video (Chat Sports)
Dontre Wilson, Corey Smith Eager To Make Impact (Columbus Dispatch)
How Ohio State Can Beat Clemson (Land-Grant Holy Land)
OSU's Game Plan For Beating Clemson (Eleven Warriors)
What They're Saying About The Clemson Tigers:
Clemson Hype Video (Chat Sports)
Mike Williams Has Waited All Year For This (Clemson Insider)
Wilkins, Tigers' Front Ready To Dominate (Clemson Insider)
Dabo Looking For Johnson To Play Well Against Barrett (TigerNet)
Key To The Game: Turnover Battle
I hinted at this above, but there's a major difference in the turnover margins of these two teams. Ohio State ranked third nationally in turnover margin with +16 mark. The Buckeyes forced 25 turnovers and only lost nine in regular season. On the other side, Clemson was 68th nationally with an even margin. The Tigers did force 24 turnovers, but they gave it away 24 times too. QB Deshaun Watson made far too many mistakes and the games that were close featured critical turnovers on Clemson's end. If the Tigers don't turn the ball over, they're very difficult to beat. But when they give it up, they end up playing down to their competition. If the Buckeyes force turnovers (or ideally, if Malik Hooker gets another pick-six), they'll likely win. As for Clemson, they also need to pressure J.T. Barrett, which is an area the Buckeyes have struggled.
Prediction: Ohio State Wins 31-27
The spread has gone down as we've moved closer to kickoff, but I still like the Buckeyes. There's plenty of scoring, as both offenses find ways to get going. But the turnovers show up for Clemson in an bad way. The Buckeyes convert on their chances and they advance to play in the College Football Playoff Championship game.