Breaking down the Clemson season finale in south Florida...
Ohio State features as lethal a backfield duo as there is in college football in junior quarterback Braxton Miller and senior running back Carlos Hyde.
Miller, the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year two years running, has a top-15 QB rating, but he makes his hay on the ground, steering the nation's No. 7 total offense (518.5 YPG). He's rushed for 623 yards in only the last four games (1,033 yards total), posting eight of his 10 touchdown runs.
Clemson's a 'flash' opponent
Coming off a three-game suspension to start the season, Hyde totaled 1,408 rushing yards in the final 10 games, averaging 160.3 per in the last eight contests.
In a run-powered league, the Buckeyes have largely contained opponents.
No. 7 in rush defense overall (102.62), Ohio State ranks in the top-10 in runs allowed of 10 and 20-plus yards, while they haven't given up a gain of 40 yards or more this season.
Against the pass, they average 3.1 sacks per game (T-7 nationally).
Tajh Boyd and co. will be looking downfield a bunch to hit big plays and open up the run game.
Ohio State is in the triple-digits nationally in pass defense (259.5), ranking in the lower third in completions surrendered of 40 yards or more (10). They are one of only seven teams to give up two 80-yard connections, while Clemson is the only team to hit two 90-yard throws (both Boyd to Sammy Watkins).
What makes those numbers worse? Strength of schedule. The Buckeyes faced zero top-25 passers by rating and only two in the top-50 (Michigan's Devin Gardner and Indiana's Nate Sudfield). In yards per game, they faced one top-25 passer and not since week three (Cal's Jared Goff).
Last time out, Clemson surrendered 94 rushing yards in scrambles and keepers from Gamecocks senior quarterback Connor Shaw. OSU's Miller is a faster, more elusive version and containing him is as key as anything to a Tigers' win. Add in Hyde, one of the nation's best tailbacks, and it's a tall task ahead for Brent Venables' unit.
The Buckeyes' duo runs wild and the pressure shifts to Boyd and the Tiger offense to be both efficient and limit the turnovers that have plagued them in losses this season (five fumbles and five interceptions).
A shootout could certainly be in the cards, but with a chip on their shoulder, Clemson's defense will be out to prove they can indeed perform on the national stage.
Three Predictions & a Pick (Expanded version)
1. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is held under a 110 rushing yards, sub-10 per carry. Tajh Boyd counters with at least three passing touchdowns and one interception.
2. Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, who averages 7.69 yards per carry, is held under 6.3 per for only the third time this season.
3. Sammy Watkins makes it not only his eighth game with 100 receiving yards, but also a fifth game with 125 or more yards (10 for his career).
Analysis: Containing Miller is a given key for the Tigers, but if Hyde is gaining well over six yards a clip then Clemson's really in trouble. They have largely contained opponent's top rushers since giving up 154 yards and two scores to Georgia's Todd Gurley. They'll have to ride that formula again.
However much it may displease Venables, this is a "one more stop" kind of game if Boyd isn't torching Ohio State's secondary – and they get it. Clemson limits turnovers and pulls out a 38-34 win.
Pick: Clemson 38-34
(10-2 overall; 6-6 ATS on picks)
Check out more thoughts on the game in this Q&A I did this week.