According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, the Buckeyes will play the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl and that includes their lethal passing attack.
Despite having one of the best defensive backs in the country in Bradley Roby, the Buckeyes’ secondary has been one of the weakest spots on the team. Ohio State ranks 75th in the FBS in passing defense efficiency and gives up an average of 259.53 yards passing per game along with 26 total touchdowns through the air.
In the Big Ten Championship game, the Spartans exposed that weakness and it ended Ohio State’s wining streak at 24 games. Michigan State threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 34-24 victory. While the final nail in the coffin was a rushing touchdown, it was the secondary that doomed the Buckeyes.
Against Clemson, Ohio State’s secondary will have an even tougher test. Tajh Boyd is a much better quarterback than Michigan State’s Connor Cook, and Boyd’s fleet of receivers are some of the most dangerous, including arguably the nation’s best in Sammy Watkins.
The Tigers rank 12th in the FBS in pass yards per game with 329.3 yards per game. On the season, Boyd has thrown for 3,473 yards and 29 touchdowns with just nine interceptions. Watkins has been his favorite target this year with 85 receptions for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns. Boyd’s second favorite receiver, Martavis Bryant, has only 39 receptions, but still has 800 yards and five touchdowns.
In the second half of the Big Ten Championship game, Roby injured his knee and never returned. Upon his exit from the game, the Buckeyes’ defense just wasn’t the same. Luckily, Roby has nearly a month to recover and get back on the field for Ohio State.
If Ohio State wants to win their first Orange Bowl since 1976, then the secondary is going to have to step up. While the aerial attack for Michigan State was solid, it’s nothing compared to the assault they’ll receive from the Clemson Tigers.