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Fiesta Bowl: 4 hot reads

Clemson or Ohio State will head home this evening with the Fiesta Bowl trophy.

AP photo

Clemson or Ohio State will head home this evening with the Fiesta Bowl trophy.

31

December

Four things we'll be watching closely tonight at University of Phoenix Stadium, when Ohio State meets Clemson in the second College Football Playoff semifinal

1) Clemson pass rush vs. Buckeyes blockers
The Tigers' massive front four, three of whom weight at least 305 pounds, has totaled 46 sacks, second-most in Division I behind FSU and Boston College (through Thursday). The Buckeyes allow 2.08 per game (tied for 63rd nationally) and gave up eight in their double-overtime win against Michigan.

2) Curtis and Co.?
While Clemson boasts no fewer than three -- and possibly four -- NFL-caliber receivers, Ohio State junior Curtis Samuel is the Buckeyes' top target, and it's not even close. Samuel's 65 catches are more than twice as many as any other teammate. 

"I want to see if (QB) J.T. Barrett can make plays consistently for four quarters without going (predominantly) in the passing game to Curtis Samuel," ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit said. "Who else can make plays against me if I'm defending him, that can make me pay for that?"

3) Haunted by his words?
Clemson S Jadar Johnson caught heat from his coaches -- and even teammates -- earlier this week when he told reporters that Barrett wasn't the best quarterback the Tigers have faced this year. Barrett and the Buckeyes suggested they weren't fazed, but c'mon, what competitor would let that slide? Will be interesting to see if Barrett and Urban Meyer dial up anything in Johnson's direction.

4) Prone to picks
For all of Clemson QB Deshaun Watson's attributes (and they're plenteous), his propensity for interceptions (15 this season) has been well documented. Tonight, he faces a team with 19 picks, second-most of all Power Five programs. Will that prompt Clemson to minimize Watson's downfield shots and opt for screens and slants to playmakers in space?

[Last modified: Saturday, December 31, 2016 9:58am]

    

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