Ohio State’s next bowl contest will be a unique one – just the program’s second appearance ever in the Orange Bowl and its second ever against Clemson.
So, that begs the question – who is Clemson?
The Tigers were one of the top teams in the nation throughout the season, bursting on to the scene with a big early victory over fellow top-10 preseason squad Georgia to pass OSU and spend part of the season ranked above the Buckeyes.
But Clemson’s national title hopes vanished when the team suffered a 51-14 drubbing at home at the hands of eventual national championship game participant Florida State.
The Tigers rebounded from there with four straight wins before falling in a rivalry showdown in the last game of the season vs. South Carolina. The 31-17 loss dropped the Tigers out of the top 10, and Clemson is ranked 12th heading into the Orange Bowl contest.
So what is there to know about the Tigers? Read on.
Passing Game Dominance
The one thing most folks seem to know about the Tigers is they boast a standout passing game led by fifth-year senior quarterback Tajh Boyd and junior wideout Sammy Watkins.
On the whole, Clemson checks in 12th in the nation in passing yards with 329.3 per game. As Boyd has thrown for 3,473 yards, 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions, the Tigers are eighth in the nation in passing efficiency.
Watkins is by far the top target, having hauled in 85 passes for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has hauled in 10 catches of 30 or more yards – almost one per game.
The Tigers can also hit the big one – they are the only team in the nation with two passes of 90 or more yards. Both went to Watkins, who hauled in a 96-yarder on a simple deep fly route vs. Virginia as well as a 91-yarder at Syracuse. The two plays are second and third longest in program history. In all, Clemson has seven catches of 60 yards or more, tied for third in the nation.
In addition, 13 different receivers have caught touchdown passes this year, a school record. Martavis Bryant is among Clemson’s all-time leaders in yards per catch, as this year he has 39 grabs for 800 yards (a 20.5-yard average). There’s also Adam Humphries, who has hauled in 41 passes for 483 yards and a pair of scores.
The running game isn’t quite as strong, checking in 62nd in the nation with 172.7 yards per game, but senior Roderick McDowell is on the way to giving the Tigers a 1,000-yard rusher and passer for the third year in a row. This season, he has rushed for 956 yards on 177 attempts, an average of 5.4 yards per carry.
Boyd can also run, as he has 134 carries for 273 yards and nine touchdowns.
One other interesting note: Do you know who the Tigers’ backup QB is? Cole Stoudt, a native of Dublin, Ohio, who prepped with Mike Adams and Jake Stoneburner at Coffman High School.
While all the initial talk has been about the prolific Boyd-to-Watkins connection, but Clemson’s defense checks in at 17th in the nation in scoring defense (21.1 points) and 23rd in total defense (350.8).
The Tigers have appeared to be most susceptible on the ground, where they have allowed 152.6 yards per game to check in 49th in the nation. In the team’s two losses, though, Florida State barely cracked three yards per carry, while South Carolina ran 50 times for just 140 yards.
That means Clemson was ripped up through the air, and that was the case against Florida State. Heisman favorite Jameis Winston threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns. Connor Shaw had less success for South Carolina, but he still ran and threw for a TD while accounting for 246 total yards.
On the whole, the Tigers check in 15th in the nation in passing yards allowed, 16th in passing efficiency defense and 17th in scoring defense. They are also holding teams to 31.8 percent on third-down conversions, eighth in the nation.
--Clemson lost six turnovers in the loss to South Carolina and three in the Florida State game. The Tigers were plus-13 otherwise and did not lose the turnover battle in any other game.
--The team is just 114th in the nation in kickoff returns.
--With the quick-strike offense, the Tigers are 110th in the nation in time of possession (27:18).
--Clemson’s red-zone scoring touchdown of 67.9 is 32nd in the country.
--The Tigers allowed 2.67 sacks per game, 100th in the FBS, but made 2.75 sacks per game, 22nd.
--Clemson was 1-2 against teams ranked in the AP top 25.