Orange Bowl Breakdown: 5 Questions

With the Orange Bowl nearing, we put on our analysis hats to look at the matchup between Ohio State and Clemson. Our four staffers in Miami debate who the most important player in the game is for OSU, which offense is better and more heading into tonight's game.

So what's gonna happen when the ball is in the air Friday night when Ohio State takes on Clemson?

We've got some answers.

BSB staffers each answered five questions about Orange Bowl in an effort to break down what might happen as the No. 6 Buckeyes face the 12th-ranked Tigers.

Ben Axelrod
How important is this game to OSU program: Not very. Win or lose, the results of this game will be irrelevant come the start of the 2014 season. Sure, a loss could hurt the perception of Ohio State moving forward, but in the grand scheme of things all that's going to matter from here on out is winning the Big Ten and getting into the playoff. What happens in this game won't change that, as it's more or less a consolation prize for the 2013 season.
Key Ohio State player to the game: Braxton Miller. We know that Carlos Hyde will be able to get his on the ground, and to a certain degree, Miller should be able to as well. But the Buckeyes need Miller to throw the ball consistently against the Tigers, something that he hasn't done since October. In what I predict to be a shootout, a consistent passing game from Ohio State will likely be the difference between a win and a loss.
Which offense is better: Clemson's offense is better. The Buckeyes have a better running game, but the Tigers' throw game is significantly better, and there's not a player on the OSU roster that gives you the same dynamic as Sammy Watkins. In today's day and age of football, give me a consistent passing attack over a lethal rushing one. I obviously love what the Buckeyes can do on the ground, but when push comes to shove, you need to be able to throw the ball.
Ohio State will win if...: Miller looks like the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He won the award, and deservedly so, but it was more based on what he did in October rather than what he did in November. The Buckeyes need an all-time outing from him -- like Terrelle Pryor in the Rose Bowl -- if they're going to walk away from South Beach with a victory. I think that Miller has it in him, but his last month of the season raised questions.
Ohio State will lose if...: Can't outscore the Tigers. That may sound obvious -- we all know that the team that scores more points wins the game -- but this one won't be about stops. I'm not confident in the Buckeyes' defense's ability to stop Clemson, and therefore Miller and Hyde are going to have to get the job done. I don't think that the Buckeyes can afford to punt the ball more than twice this game and limiting turnovers will be even more crucial. This legitimately could be a game where the first one to 50 wins, so the OSU offense is going to have to do its part.

Ryan Ginn
How important is this game to OSU program: Important, but certainly not the be-all and end-all for the program. Maybe I'm underestimating the doggedness of Big Ten detractors, but this will either be a redeeming win or an easily explained loss (thanks to injuries, suspensions and illness). With that being said, I still think OSU needs to finish off this two-year stretch with something to show for it. An Orange Bowl victory would salvage some of the pain of the Michigan State loss.
Key Ohio State player to the game: This is a given, but it's Braxton Miller. There's a chance I'm reading too much into behavior and body language, but he certainly hasn't demonstrated any sort of fire in the rare moments we've been allowed near him. Hyde has been a given throughout the season. Miller, on the other hand, has struggled for four games in a row. The man who completed just six passes in the only loss of the season needs to play well for the Buckeyes to win.
Which offense is better: Without question, it's Ohio State. The Buckeyes are better nationally in scoring offense (No. 3 vs. No. 8), total offense (No. 3 vs. No. 11) and rushing offense (No. 3 vs. No. 62), while Clemson holds the edge (No. 11 vs. No. 91) in passing offense. Clearly, the Buckeyes have played better. Unfortunately for Ohio State, its slightly better offense appears to be taking on a much better defense than Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins will be facing.
Ohio State will win if...: Someone finally pulls out all the pins in the voodoo doll. Since coming down to Florida, OSU has been hit by illness, endured a three-game suspension for sophomore "Viper" Noah Spence, lost junior cornerback Bradley Roby to a knee injury and been informed that senior safety Christian Bryant will not be granted a medical redshirt. That's a lot to overcome, but it's certainly not an impossible task. On paper, Ohio State is better than Clemson. If anything finally goes the Buckeyes' way, they'll win.
Ohio State will lose if...: The defense appears to be as big a disaster as expected. The so-called Silver Bullets allowed 75 points in the final two games of the season and completely melted down in the fourth quarters of both contests. Now, they've lost two of their best players while facing two of the most explosive players in the country in Boyd and Watkins. That's a tough ask for any unit. If Clemson gets its passing game going early and identifies a weakness in the secondary, it will be a long night for the Buckeyes.

Marcus Hartman
How important is this game to OSU program: Winning this game would be nice for the national perception, but I don't think a loss will do any type of serious damage, either. The schedule gets tougher next year with the addition Virginia Tech and Cincinnati, so the Buckeyes shouldn't have to worry about getting into the new four-team playoff as long as they take care of their business, something they weren't able to do this year.
Key Ohio State player to the game: Braxton Miller has to be on his game because the Buckeyes are probably going to need to score a lot of points to keep up with the high-powered Tigers. There is little doubt Ohio State has the firepower to hang a big number on Clemson's defense, but what number is going to be high enough given the state of the Ohio State defense? Miller is nearly unstoppable when he is on target with his passing and his reads.
Which offense is better: If Miller is on, the Buckeyes are a more complete unit. The running game is elite thanks to Carlos Hyde and the offensive line, not to mention the running of Miller, which has been a little more of a wild card this season. If he is on target, there is just too much to take away. That said, Clemson's combination of efficiency and explosiveness in the passing game is still significant.
Ohio State will win if...: The Buckeyes must win the turnover battle and be efficient offensively. If they take advantage of their opportunities, they should be able to put up a lot of points. Turnovers are more likely than regular stops for the beleaguered Buckeye defense, and they give the offense even more opportunities.
Ohio State will lose if...: The Buckeyes continue to make the errors of the past couple of games. Whether it is missed tackles, missed throws, penalties or blown coverages, Ohio State has helped its last couple of opponents far too much. Clemson is much better than a Michigan team that almost knocked off the Buckeyes, so they can't afford a repeat performance.

Jeff Svoboda
How important is this game to OSU program: I wrote a column about this earlier this week, but I think it's extremely important. Clemson is clearly spinning this as a program-defining game when it comes to their arrival in the national elite, but this is just as key to Ohio State. If the Buckeyes lose to Clemson, many fans and national media will cast real doubt on just how impressive the 24-game winning streak that began the Urban Meyer era was. Get ready for a long offseason if Ohio State loses.
Key Ohio State player to the game: I think a really good answer is Armani Reeves, but I'm going with Jamal Marcus. It looks as though he'll get a chance to start in place of Noah Spence, and he's looked like a player who can be a terror off the edge in limited action thus far. Clemson is prone to giving up sacks, and the story is Tajh Boyd struggles under pressure. One way for OSU to short-circuit the Tigers passing attack is to get to Boyd before he can get set, and Marcus is a key part of that.
Which offense is better: This is an interesting question because the offenses are so opposed to one another. Both are spreads, but the Buckeyes are a power spread based on the run while Clemson chooses to air it out. I'd say Ohio State, though, for a couple of reasons. Not only are the stats a little bit better, but I prefer a run-based attack over a passing attack because it is easier to disrupt an aerial assault. Remember what Woody Hayes said about passing...
Ohio State will win if...: It possesses the ball for more than 35 minutes. Ohio State likely doesn't want to let Clemson's high-tempo offense really get going, so one key to the game plan has to be keeping the ball away from the Tigers. If OSU can chew up time and yards on the ground, it'll limit the opportunities for the Tigers against OSU's banged-up defense.
Ohio State will lose if...: Clemson throws for at least 400 yards. That's a pretty high bar but it seems to be on the table given the injuries and Spence's suspension. If Ohio State just makes a couple of stops, they can win this game given the high-powered attack they bring to the table as well.


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