Because of NCAA sanctions, the Buckeyes weren't eligible for the postseason in 2012, robbing them of a chance to play for Big Ten or BCS championships. With the loss this season, they once again will fail to earn either of those titles, leaving them with just two division championships over that span.
The 34-24 loss to Michigan State may have taken the shine off the win streak in the eyes of many, but Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney believes his squad is set to face a formidable foe in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3. In a press conference with Meyer on Wednesday in Miami, he laid out the case for why the Buckeyes may be one of the best teams in the country.
"Just a balanced football team that is really complete in all facets of the game," Swinney said. "They have a quarterback, good in the trenches, they've got skill guys that can beat you. Again, they're 24-1. That's almost unheard of. Probably, to be honest with you, they very well could be the best team in the country. They're maybe two plays away from sitting on the other coast right now (in Pasadena, Calif., for the BCS Championship). So, this is a great football team."
The matchup between the Buckeyes and Tigers has already drawn national attention. Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel ranked the game third among the 35 bowl games in terms of most compelling showdowns. Ohio State and Clemson rank seventh and 13th, respectively, in total offense, leading many to anticipate a high-scoring shootout. Vegas sportsbooks project the combined point total to be 68, ranking near the top of all bowl matchups.
"I just have great appreciation for the Discover Orange Bowl for extending the invitation for us to come and compete against a great, quality opponent like Ohio State," Swinney said. "I have great respect for Coach Meyer and for what they've done there with the Buckeyes. I don't have any doubt that this will be a great matchup."
Both quarterbacks – OSU's Braxton Miller and Clemson's Tajh Boyd – rank among the top in the country, and each coach spoke glowingly of the other. In the case of Miller, Swinney noted that his dual-threat ability made him tough to account for. Miller's biggest plus, in the eyes of Swinney, is his winning ways, even if the Clemson coach failed to account for the OSU signal caller's freshman season when referencing his record as a starter.
"Man, is he a special player," Swinney said. "As I was saying the other night on the press conference, the biggest thing is he's a winner. When you can count on one finger the number of losses you have as a starting quarterback, that's pretty good. He's got a great cast around him, and they do an excellent job with their scheme. He's a 1,000-yard rusher, and he's missed three games this year, I think.
"You throw that in there with the balance they present with their running back and they throw the ball very efficiently. It's two equally great quarterbacks that mean so much to their team facing off. I think it's a great matchup down here in South Florida."
Whether you view it as a positive (being more well-rested) or a negative (accumulating rust), the Tigers will have gone an extra week without playing because they didn't make it to the ACC Championship. While he acknowledged that his team faces an immense challenge in Ohio State, he also said that he'd split his bowl preparation pretty evenly between stopping the Buckeyes and working out flaws in his own team.
"From my standpoint, we're playing a team that's rushed for over 4,000 yards," he said. "It's a very, very powerful offense and it's going to be a tough challenge for us to prepare for. We'll have a good plan, try to strike a balance between preparing for Ohio State but also continuing to develop our football team. That's a big part of what bowl practice is about, as well."