The state of Ohio enters its semifinal round of the College Football Playoff with Clemson as a 7½-point underdog. Being a clear underdog is a new role for the state of Ohio, which kicked in last season with Clemson as a two-point underdog.
The state of Ohio controlled a large portion of that game last season and passed on four of its first five chips. Eventually, failures in the red zone, the legs of Trevor Lawrence and the dynamics of Travis Etienne caught the ball out of the backfield, undoing the state of Ohio. (Buckeye fans will quickly remind you that the officials did not help.)
So what can the state of Ohio do this year to arouse the dismay? We spoke to ten coaches and scouts familiar with Ohio State and Clemson to see how this version of Ohio State matches this version of Clemson.
Here’s a look through the eyes of experts at the key matches, staffing issues and X factors that will determine the game.
1. Win up front on the defense
In Trevor Lawrence’s three seasons at Clemson, this roster has the least talent of 1-44 at second depth. No place is as dazzling as the offensive line, with a high-end left tackling Jackson Carman and four other pedestrian players.
The Ohio State defense front lacks a Bosa-like disruption and certainly misses Chase Young’s lead, but the top four in Buckeye give OSU a clear advantage. The Buckeyes will try to stop the run as Notre Dame did to keep Travis Etienne up to 28 runs on 18 yards in the teams’ first game.
The key for the state of Ohio will be to defend Haskell Garrett, who was less baggy and tackle than Tommy Togiai, but was disruptive. “I thought Garrett was explosive and violent and played with great leverage,” said an opposing assistant. “He appeared on film, and people had a very hard time blocking him.”
According to the coaches, Ohio State is playing more zone than last seasons because they flash Cover 3, Cover 1 and mix someone in. But any path to victory starts from scratch.
2. Stop the obvious
The two best players on the field are in the Clemson backfield on Friday – Lawrence and Etienne. The key for Ohio State will limit them to the supporting role they played in this game last season – Lawrence as runner (107 yards, including a 67-yard TD) and Etienne as passer (three catches for 98 yards and two TDs ).
It’s easy to write and much harder in reality. The striking defensive vigilance in the state of Ohio is safety, and it will be interesting if the true first-year safety, Lathan Ransom, gets more snaps after his break with the key pass ended the game against Northwest. Do OSU staff trust him enough to put him in a bigger role?
So how do you slow down Etienne in the passing game and restrict Lawrence’s running? (And it’s obvious that Clemson is more willing to drive Lawrence in such high-leverage games than against Furman, for example.)
“You do not want to make Etienne brackets, but to slow him down, you have to put a safety or nickel on him,” said an opposing assistant. “You do not want to put a linebacker on him. Some teams went into Cover 0 and secured him. ”
As far as Lawrence is concerned, the most important thing for the state of Ohio’s defense front is to stay in their stormy careers. It will require discipline and possibly affect the strength of the pace, but the Buckeyes learned the hard way last season what happens when he escapes.
The state of Ohio also needs a better performance than they achieved this season from Shaun Wade. Wade’s NFL share fell because he struggled to adapt to the protection of players on the outside. One NFL scout said Wade was playing as if he was ‘afraid of getting hurt’ instead of ‘letting it go’.
The good news for the state of Ohio is that Clemson’s talent for receivers is a big dive from Justin Ross and Tee Higgins, who limited OSU defensive rugby last season with press releases.
Get Justin Fields on track
Simply put, Justin Fields has yet to play well in 2020. In the two matches against teams that will achieve the rankings, he has scored five interceptions and scored only twice.
Fields played infrequently thanks to OSU’s staccato schedule, and there were problems getting into rhythm due to all the changes to the offensive line and players missing from the wide receiver.
But Fields sometimes looked lost. His decision-making was suspicious and he was prone to high-risk patients that would make a Jayvee coach cringe.
How can Fields get going? Running the ball will be a start. (A safe prediction is that both backs have double-digit rushes.) Fields rushed one game in the 100 yards one season in the OSU’s six games. OSU lacks depth and quarterback experience, which has made Ryan Day coach Ryan Day reluctant to manage Fields.
But with Clemson’s defensive line two years ago of the unit and the Tigers ‘lineout crew a very mediocre bunch, OSU are looking to make use of Fields’ legs. It could help open things up on the outside, as Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, returning from an absence related to COVID-19, have the ability to be a dynamic playmaker for Fields. “He was not in rhythm,” an opponent said. “If he finds his rhythm, he’s pretty tight.”
Can Clemson’s defensive coordinator Brent Venables get in Fields’ head and rattle him? This is the story of the early part of the game.
4. Will Trey Sermon keep rolling?
One of the most impressive performances of the entire season occurred when Sermon rolled through the Northwest defense for an Ohio State record of 331 yards in the Big Ten title game.
The fundamental tension for the state of Ohio is whether the performance was a blip or the beginning of a trend. “I think they finally found a running rugby,” said an opposing assistant coach. ‘Master Teague is a good player. But he’s not like [Sermon]. ”
Although Sermon does not have the year-to-year-out productivity of Etienne, who is the ACC’s leading rusher, he does present problems.
Day often wanders on the side of aggression with his game-calling. Can we see a game plan based on running behind three elite attacking lineouts – guards Harry Miller and Wyatt Davis and center Josh Myers? (This could be accompanied by a ‘sugar belly’, which will slow down the pace of preventing the signals from the state of Ohio from being stolen as we dived in yesterday.)
5. Can the state of Ohio use Clemson’s secondary?
Interestingly, Clemson’s safety Nolan Turner will be out for the first half of the Ohio State game due to a penalty kick. Had it not been for abuse, Turner could have finished the buck of last year’s semifinal between Ohio State and Clemson.
But Olave ran the wrong way during the last offensive game in Ohio State, and after slipping to the ground, Turner ended up with an easy interception in Clemson’s 29-23 victory. Olave has already burned Turner for a fourth quarter, and it looks like Day is asking for that game again. But Olave ran the wrong way, and Turner’s tin can eventually became one of the decisive plays of the match.
Without Turner, a second-team All-ACC safety, Ohio State therefore expects to pick its replacement. Second-years Joseph Charleston or second-years Lannden Zanders are expected to step in, and both are likely to be tested regularly by Day’s calling in the first half.
Opposing coaches point to cornerback Derion Kendrick as the only safe defensive first-round pick for Clemson in the upcoming draft. It’s a talent group compared to some previous Clemson releases. But Venables’ creativity compensated for the lack of talent, as one NFL scout pointed out.
“They just turn so many guys on,” he said. ‘They play like 20 guys on defense and they all play 100 miles per hour and flash a ton and throw very well to teams. This is currently the style in the 3-3-5. He has done more this year with less than ever before. He usually has more talent. ”
Another coach added: ‘There are always guys on film. But the offense never sees them. There is always a [defensive] guy who gets unblocked and free. When I look at their defense, it sometimes does not look healthy. But it’s super efficient. ”
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