Ohio State fans will have a chance to enjoy southern hospitality, Miami nightlife a subtropical escape from the cold on Jan. 3 when the No. 7 Buckeyes (12-1, 8-1) face No. 12 Clemson (10-2) at Sun Life Stadium.
Buckeye Nation has had its opportunities to travel to warmer climates in recent years, having seen its Buckeyes play in the Phoenix area five times since the 2002 season and at in New Orleans twice since 2007 as well as in Pasadena, Calif., for the Rose Bowl in 2009. The Orange Bowl, however, is one BCS stop Ohio State and the Big Ten aren't as familiar with.
"It's been way too long for Ohio State to be down in Miami," Orange Bowl Committee member Larry Gautier told BSB. "When (Ohio State) became available, we jumped right on it because, obviously, now with our new contract, we have a new relationship with the Big Ten and the Southeastern Conference for the next 12 years. We were extremely excited for Ohio State to be available. Fans want unique matchups. Clemson and Ohio State have not played since 1978. There's a lot of offense out there. There's a lot of talent and I think the fans will be in for a really good game."
Fans that choose to make the trek down to south Florida are in for temperatures in the 75-80 degree range. The trip will be a welcome break from the cold, said Gautier, who spent time as a Columbus resident in the past.
"On the athletic front, South Florida gets a chance to see a Big Ten team they typically don't get a chance to see. I think that's very special and very unique, and I think South Florida fans will like it a whole lot because it's a great brand of football," Gautier said. "I think on the social side, Ohio State has a big alumni base down in South Florida. But there's a lot of Ohio State fans that have not been down to Miami since 1977 or in many years. Miami has changed. There's a lot of great things going on, a lot of growth. Miami Beach – a lot of great things to do. We're excited to have a lot of great people from Ohio come down and visit South Florida and experience what we have to offer."
Gautier also recommended a day trip down toward the Florida Keys to visiting Ohioans, adding that the trip is a personal favorite of his.
"For those folks that have the time to drive to the Keys, it doesn't get much better than that," Gautier said. "You drive down, get in your car, it's a day trip. It's about an hour-and-a-half down to Islandmorada which is midway down to the Keys. Have a Grouper sandwich, have something overlooking the water, and drive on back. It makes for a great day."
The game itself appears ripe for fireworks. Ohio State will match its No. 7-ranked total offense against Clemson's 13th-ranked attack. Buckeyes junior quarterback Braxton Miller and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, both of whom were preseason favorites to contend for the Heisman Trophy but fell short of receiving an invite to New York City for the award ceremony, will feature in the contest. For the season, Miller has thrown for 1,860 yards, 22 touchdowns and five interceptions while Boyd has 3,473 yards, 29 touchdown passes and nine interceptions to his name.
"I tell you what, there's a lot more speed (on Ohio State) than you would think," Gautier said. "There's a lot of talent on that field. Ohio State has always been very fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball, but I was very impressed with the skill positions. Carlos Hyde, Braxton Miller, the wide receivers, your defensive backs, very talented players.
"Clemson likes to air it out with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. They got a lot of speed at the outside, so I think they'll try to test your pass defense. I think it very well could be who has the ball at the end of the game will win the game."