Sneak Peek: 2014 Orange Bowl

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WHO: 10-2 Clemson vs. 12-1 Ohio State

WHAT: The Orange Bowl (80th year)

WHERE: Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida

WHEN: Jan. 3 at 8:30 p.m. ET

WHY: While it may be simplistic — and I’m nothing if not simple — the key to the outcome of this game could very well come down to the answer to a singular question: can Ohio State’s beleaguered secondary even remotely slow down Clemson’s high-powered passing game? That’s going to be a helluva lot easier said than done.

The Tigers, led by quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins under the leadership of offensive coordinator Chad Morris, boast an aerial attack that averages nearly 330 yards per game, a total that’s currently 11th in the country.  The Buckeyes, on the other hand, are 103rd in passing yards allowed, giving up an average of 259.5 yards per game.  Over the past four games, OSU has given up a total of 1,267 yards (317 ypg) to the likes of Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld, Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase, Michigan’s Devin Gardner and Michigan State’s Connor Cook, none of whom will ever be confused with Tajh Boyd.

Adding to OSU’s secondary woes is Bradley, the Buckeyes’ top cover corner who will likely miss the Orange Bowl due to a knee injury.  Not only that, but Noah Spence will be sidelined due to a three-game suspension.  The defensive lineman leads Ohio State in sacks and would’ve been expected to help apply pressure on Boyd in the hopes of forcing the senior into mistakes.

The good news for the Buckeyes is they have the offensive firepower to at least match the Tigers’ explosiveness.  Quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde have combined 2,441 yards on the ground and 4 rushing touchdowns despite missing multiple games due to injury (the former) and suspension (the latter).  When it comes to defending the run, Clemson shades toward the middle of the pack (50th at 152.6 ypg).

Miller could also test the Tigers’ stingy 16th-ranked pass defense with his arm, having completed more than 63 percent of his passes in 2013 and throwing 22 touchdowns in what amounts to 10 games.

The only previous meeting between the two programs came in the 1978 Gator Bowl when, well, this happened.  Wayne Woodrow Hayes, you will always be The Man despite the misguided emotion that connected with Charlie Bauman‘s throat.

Both teams are coming off tough double-digit losses to end their “regular” seasons, with the Buckeyes falling 34-24 to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game — snapping OSU’s 24-game winning streak — and the Tigers getting dropped 31-17 by in-state rival South Carolina.

As important as the game is to each program individually, its crucial for the battered images of their respective conferences.  Thus far this postseason, current members of the ACC are 3-6 while the Big Ten is 2-4.

The Orange Bowl is the final 2013-14 postseason game for the Big Ten, while the ACC has Florida State in the BCS title game Monday night remaining.

PREDICTION: Clemson 48, Ohio State 42

Arizona State confirms Boise State’s Zak Hill as new OC

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At the end of the regular season, Herm Edwards fired the bulk of Arizona State’s offensive staff. Nearly two weeks later, the reshaping of the assistants on that side of the ball has commenced in earnest.

Following up on speculation that had been growing in recent days, ASU on Saturday announced that Zak Hill has been hired as Edwards’ new offensive coordinator. Hill will replace Rob Likens, who was a part of the post-regular-season purge.

“Zak is very well versed in offensive football,” the head coach said in a statement. “He comes from winning programs and he played the quarterback position. I like that. He’s good at building an offense around the personnel that he has available to him. He will force the defense to adjust with multiple formations and personnel groups. His style fits the DNA of what we want on our coaching staff. He’s an excellent teacher.”

The past four seasons, Hill served as the coordinator at Boise State. Prior to that, and aside from a one-month stop at Hawaii, Hill spent seven seasons as the passing-game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at FCS power Eastern Washington.

“I am really excited about this opportunity and I truly believe it is a great situation for me at ASU,” Hill said. “I appreciate Coach Edwards believing in me and having the trust to bring me on and I am thankful to Ray Anderson and the Sun Devil administration for their support in making this happen. I am really excited to get down there and I know we have some exciting weapons on offense. I look forward to putting together an explosive, fun offense that our fans will love to watch.”

“I am humbled at this opportunity. I also want to thank everyone at Boise State for a great four years and I am grateful for all the support I have received from Bronco Nation,” he added. “I would especially like to thank Coach Harsin for his leadership and my years at Boise State and the opportunity he afforded me to grow as a coach.”

In addition to Hill’s, uhhh, addition, ASU also confirmed Derek Hagan and Prentice Gill as offensive assistants. Their specific titles and responsibilities were not detailed.

Hagan, who played wide receiver for the Sun Devils and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2015, was an offensive analyst at ASU this past season. Gill served in the same role at Oregon.

Dabo Swinney lays out new responsibilities for offensive staff

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Jeff Scott spent a dozen years at Clemson, including the last five seasons as co-offensive coordinator, before taking the head job at USF earlier this month. Despite his importance to Dabo Swinney‘s success, there won’t be too much change for the defending national champions moving forward.

Friday, Swinney confirmed that he will not be filling Scott’s co-coordinator position and will instead allow Tony Elliott to serve as the sole coordinator. Elliott and Scott have shared coordinating responsibilities each of the past five seasons.

Quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter will maintain his current responsibilities as well as add the title of passing-game coordinator.

Additionally, Tyler Grisham, who played for the Tigers from 2005-08, has been promoted to wide receivers coach, a responsibility previously held by Scott. Grisham had been serving as an offensive analyst for the program.

“We have a good plan for all that stuff and have a great group of people here,” the head coach said. “We’re excited about getting it all settled out.”

Swinney also reiterated that, as had previously been laid out, Scott will return to the team next Thursday and will remain through however long the Tigers’ postseason run lasts. Clemson will face Ohio State Dec. 28 in one of the two College Football Playoff semifinals.

Ohio State’s Justin Fields the way-too-early 2020 Heisman favorite

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You say the tears aren’t even dry yet from Joe Burrow‘s acceptance speech and we’re already looking ahead to 2020?  You’re damn right we are.

Saturday night, Burrow claimed the 2019 Heisman Trophy in record-smashing fashion, with the quarterback becoming just the second LSU Tiger to claim the most prestigious trophy in the sport.  Quarterback Justin Fields finished third in the voting, one of three Ohio State Buckeyes to land in the top six in the voting.

Speaking of Fields, one online sportsbook has the sophomore listed as a 5/2 favorite to win the 2020 Heisman Trophy.  Fellow sophomore Trevor Lawrence of Clemson is right behind him at 3/1.

The next closest is Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at 7/1.

A handful of the players who finished in the Top 10 in the voting — Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, Ohio State running back JK Dobbins, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — have eligibility remaining, but are expected to leave early for the NFL draft.  If any of them opt to remain in school, that would obviously change the odds moving forward.

USC transfer QB Jack Sears appears headed to San Diego State

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Jack Sears may have left USC, but it doesn’t appear he’ll end up leaving the state of California.

After finding himself fourth on the quarterbacking depth chart, Sears announced on his personal Twitter account in late August that he had decided to enter the NCAA transfer database.  A little over three months later, and after a flirtation with Oregon State, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that “Sears has committed to San Diego State as a graduate transfer who would enroll during the spring semester.”

As a graduate transfer, Sears would be eligible to play for the Aztecs in 2020.  He would also have another season of eligibility he could use in 2021 as well.

As of yet, the Mountain West Conference school hasn’t confirmed Sears’ intentions.

Sears was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2017 recruiting class, rated as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the country.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Sears completed 20-of-28 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown the following season.