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Orange Bowl Preview: #12 Clemson vs. #7 Ohio State

As we enter the final few days of NCAA football, the ACC still has two games remaining, beginning with Friday’s #12 Clemson (10-2, 7-1) vs #7 Ohio State (12-1, 8-0) Orange Bowl.

Both teams had grander bowl expectations than this Jan. 3 game against one another.

For Clemson, they started the season with six straight wins and grabbed a No. 3 ranking but their season went south on Oct. 19 with a 51-14 loss against Florida State (13-0, 8-0). So long BCS dreams. Ohio State lasted longer, as they suffered their sole loss on Dec. 7 against Michigan State (13-1, 8-0) 34-24 in the Big Ten Championship game.

Along with bowl disappointments, one team is saying goodbye to its quarterback, possibly both.

Tajh Boyd

Tajh Boyd

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd will leave with a career that included an ACC title, two BCS games and 31 wins–the second highest for the school–as well as career schools records (16 of them with possibly six more to come on Friday) and 11 conference records.

But it could have been a more complete college career had he been playing on this coming Monday night, not on Friday. Boyd said via ESPN, “I had goals: I want to go to the national championship, I want to win the Heisman, beat South Carolina. Looking at it from the outside, well did you really improve? I can honestly say yeah, just from my growth, my maturation and looking at the season as a whole.”

Boyd oversaw a team with a strong offense that averaged 45.1 points and 534.6 yards in their victories. He amassed 3,473 passing yards with 29 touchdowns (plus nine additional rushing scores). From his 102 career touchdown passes, he’s tied at No. 15 for college history.

Helping Boyd this season was wide receiver Sammy Watkins. He will also be playing his last college game and will enter it as the ACC’s leader with 85 catches for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’ll leave as a second-team All-American. Watkins is paired with fellow receiver Martavis Bryant, who grabbed 39 receptions for 800 yards (one of the nation’s best at a 20.5 yard average) and five touchdowns.

Good luck trying to stop this duo. The Tigers also have ground power with running back Roderick McDowell, who ran for 510 yards and five touchdowns (plus two receiving scores).

Ohio State’s defense will have their hands’ full as they’ve struggled against an opponents’ passing game. In their last four games, they enabled the other quarterbacks to have a 63.7 percent pass completion, a 340.8 yard average and 11 total touchdown. Against Michigan State, Sparty quarterback Connor Cook had a career-high game with 304 yards and three touchdowns.

While its defense has struggled, the same can’t be said of their offense. The Buckeyes sit at No. 4 in the FBS for scoring (46.3 points per game) and No. 7 in total offense (518.5 yard average).

Braxton Miller

Braxton Miller

They are led by quarterback Braxton Miller, who may be playing his last game. The junior has said he’ll make a decision about the NFL “a few days after the Orange Bowl.” With this in mind, the player knows he’ll also be in the spotlight and could use a big game to shut the book on his legacy and impress NFL scouts.

A one-time Heisman contender, Miller was again the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year. He likes to run, averaging 155.8 rushing yards per game (a 9.4 per carry average) and had eight scores in the last four games. He led the conference with his 22 passing touchdowns while passing for 1,860 yards.

Miller’s weapon of choice is senior running back Carlos Hyde, a third-team All-American and No. 2 in the Big Ten with his 14 rushing scores (even with three absences). In his last six games, he ran for 965 yards (an 8.7 yard average) and for the season, he had 1,408 rushing yards (7.7 yard average) and 14 touchdowns.

Look for both defenses to have a busy game and players padding their resumes. In this offensive-dominated game, Ohio State will get the win (-3, 71 o/u).





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