Ohio State (11-1) vs Clemson (12-1)
When: Saturday, December 31st 2016
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
Time: 7:00 ET | TV: ESPN
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The second College Football Playoff semifinal will take place in Glendale, Arizona as the Ohio State Buckeyes and Clemson Tigers battle in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Both teams are making their second appearance in the CFP in the three-year history and the Buckeyes won it all in 2014, beating Alabama and Oregon. Ohio State is the first team to be selected for the College Football Playoff without winning its conference championship. The Buckeyes missed out on the Big Ten title game thanks to a 24-21 midseason loss at Penn State, but they won their last five games of the regular season, including a double-overtime win over sixth-ranked Michigan. The Buckeyes have one of the nation’s top running games, averaging 258.3 yards per contest on the ground behind the trio of Mike Weber (1,072 yards, 9 TDs), Curtis Samuel (704 yards, 8 TDs) and quarterback J.T. Barrett (847 yards, 9 TDs). Barrett has also passed for 2,428 yards with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Ohio State ranks in the top six nationally in passing defense, total defense and scoring defense, and the Buckeyes also have 19 interceptions – fourth-most in the country. Tyquan Lewis leads the way with 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss
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Clemson made it here last year, but lost in the title game to Alabama in a 45-40 thriller. The Tigers are tough up front on both sides of the ball, including a strong offensive line. Clemson has been inconsistent in its ability to run the ball, though Wayne Gallman (1,002 yards, 15 TDs) has been better of late and quarterback Deshaun Watson could look to run more after staying in the pocket more often during the regular season. Watson can throw the ball downfield, making the Clemson passing attack 7th best in the FBS, but he made some mistakes throughout the year, throwing 15 interceptions, but only two of them came in the last two games. Watson has a number of capable targets, but his favorite is Mike Williams, who caught 84 passes for 1,171 yards, and 10 scores. Clemson’s underrated defense ranks ninth in the country in total defense (313.9) and 11th in points allowed (18.4). Clemson’s 46 sacks ranks right behind Florida State for the nation’s best and they hold their opponents to just 29.5% third-down conversions.
I really don’t like the way Ohio State played down the stretch, especially on offense. Clemson has a very opportunistic defense that can play with the best of them. Watson will cause problems for the Ohio State defense. I think the wrong team is favored in this game.
Pick: Clemson +3