Colin: Ok, before jumping into the Clemson game, where does that loss to OSU rank among the most painful Michigan losses of all time? Are we finally even for the Cooper years?
Baver: As bad as any. Their players, fans, and head coach will be talking about the first down spot 25 years from now, still needing tissues when they bring up the matter. Have we offset the Cooper years? Not sure, but life is certainly good right now.
Colin: As crazy as this sounds, is there a chance Clemson may over look Ohio State anticipating a rematch with Alabama? They seem sorta cocky.
Baver: I don’t think so. I think the Clemson coaches will get their players in the right mindset, and convince them that they will not beat Ohio State if they play like they did in several games during the regular season. It will be the same kind of motivation Urban will use to push his guys.
Colin: What about this match up favors Ohio State?
Baver: An opportunist Buckeye defense facing a QB that has thrown 15 picks this season. Clemson WR’s are about as good as it gets, but this is the best pass D Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, and company will face this year. I think OSU will force Watson to have to do more with his legs than he is used to.
Staying on that side of the ball, Clemson’s conventional running game with Wayne Gallman is going to struggle against a very stout Buckeye run defense.
Colin: What should Buckeye fans be concerned about?
Baver: The fact that Clemson is, at a minimum, on the same level as Ohio State. Most Buckeye fans, or all CFB fans for that matter, underestimate Dabo Swinney. Clemson has been a dog in each of their last 5 playoff/bowl games. Their record in those games? 4-1, with the only loss being to Alabama, in last year’s title game, in a game where Clemson had 31 first downs to Bama’s 18.
From a matchup standpoint, Buckeye fans should be concerned about Deshaun Watson’s ability to make things happen with his legs. The fact that Watson may have to rely more on his legs may not be a good thing for Ohio State.
And they certainly need to fear Clemson’s three 300-lb+, mobile D-linemen (Lawrence, Watkins and Wilkins). OSU’s pass protection has not been good against the top D-lines they have faced, and likely can’t win this game if Barrett faces constant pressure.
Colin: In your heart of hearts, do you really feel this Ohio State team is National Championship caliber?
Baver: I definitely think Bama is on another level compared to Ohio State. The Buckeye offense will have to make huge strides with their passing game to win a national title. But that doesn’t mean Ohio State is incapable of upsetting the Tide should they get their shot…and underestimating Urban Meyer is not wise.
Colin: Best case?
Baver: A game similar to the win in Norman, Oklahoma, where Ohio State controls the game from start to finish, winning by 3 TD’s or so. That would include Barrett uncharacteristically being in sync with his WR’s, and having JT actually be accurate. That would also include a major upgrade in the performance of the Buckeye O-line.
Colin: Worst case?
Baver: Knock on wood here…. Even if all the usual Buckeye blunders on offense are on display, i.e. OSU’s pass blocking collapsing, Barrett throwing the ball like Bauserman, OSU coaches forgetting that Curtis Samuel is an actual option, etc.)….I still don’t see Clemson beating Ohio State badly. Ohio State isn’t going to go away, no matter how bad they may play at times during the game. Worst case? I’d say Clemson beating Ohio State by 10 to 14 points.
Colin: Most realistic case and final thoughts…
Baver: I see a game that will go back and forth and may very well be decided on the last drive of the game. I’ve been hard on JT, but he is still the guy you want behind center when the game is on the line. These two teams have such similar personalities, where they play their best when their backs are against the wall. I give the Buckeyes the slightest of advantages, but I wouldn’t want to lay points in this one. The Call: Ohio State 30 Clemson 28.