Clemson vs

Ohio St.

at Glendale AZ
Sat, Dec 28
5:00 PM Pacific
Rotation: 243
Odds: Ohio St. +2, Total: 63

Game Analysis

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Lean – Ohio State (+2)  30   Clemson  29

Ohio State opened as a 1.5-point favorite in this game and I think that line was about right. Clemson outscoring their opponents by an average margin of +35.2 points per game is certainly impressive but Ohio State outscored their opponents by +36.2 points per game while facing a schedule that was 5 points tougher than the schedule that Clemson played. Of course, analyzing this game is not as simple as that, as Clemson’s play really improved over the course of the season once quarterback Trevor Lawrence stopped being careless with his passes. Lawrence was intercepted 5 times in the first 3 games and 8 times in the first 7 games but was nearly perfect over the Tigers’ last 6 games, completing 76% of his passes with 20 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Of course, that’s still not as impressive as Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who threw 40 touchdown passes against just 1 interception this season, which I’m assuming is the best ratio ever. Let’s dig in to this matchup.

Clemson’s offense is better than the 45.5 points per game on 539 yards per game at 7.4 yards per play, as the Tigers often had their starters in for less than 3 quarters. Overall, the Tigers were 1.5 yards per play better than average offensively (they faced teams that would allow 5.9 yppl to an average team) but they were 2.2 yppl better than average using only their stats with the starters in the game and their average first-half scoring margin is +26.5 points per game is incredibly impressive (although Ohio State has a +22.5 first-half margin against tougher competition).

The Ohio State defense matches up pretty evenly with Clemson’s starters, as the Buckeyes’ defensive starters allowed just 3.9 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.8 yppl against an average defensive team and were a bit better against the 6 best offensive teams that they faced (Indiana, Nebraska, Wisconsin twice, Penn State, and Michigan), rating at 2.1 yppl better than average defensively in those games. Clemson didn’t face an elite defense but they were held to an average of just 31 points while their starters were limited to 6.2 yppl by the two best defensive teams that they faced (Texas A&M and South Carolina), who would allow 5.0 yppl against an average team. That’s just a two game sample and overall the Tigers’ starters were relatively the same against worse than average and better than average defensive teams. My math projects 430 yards at 6.15 yards per play for the Tigers in this game.

Ohio State’s offense has been 2.1 yppl better than average with their starters in the game (7.4 yppl against teams that would allow 5.3 yppl to an average team), which is just 0.1 yppl lower than Clemson’s offensive starters rate. The big question is quarterback Justin Field’s injured knee. A few days ago he said his knee was 80% to 85% but he was advised by coaches not to give an update on Thursday morning. However, running back J.K. Dobbins said the Fields “looked 100% to me” and Fields was originally projected to be 100% recovered by game time, which I will assume is the case. Unlike their opponent, Ohio State’s offense has been tested by really good defensive teams and the Buckeyes were just as good, relatively, against those good defensive teams. The best defensive team that Ohio State faced is Michigan, which ranks 5th in my compensated ratings on defense, and the Buckeyes racked up 56 points on 580 yard at 7.6 yppl in that week 14 game. Ohio State averaged 40.6 points and 6.8 yppl against the 7 good defensive teams that they faced (Cincy, Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin twice, Penn State, and Michigan), which is 2.0 yppl more than what an average offense would average against those teams.

Clemson’s defense didn’t face a truly elite offense but they were relatively better against better offensive teams, which turned out to be a case of their starters playing more snaps against better offensive teams. My math for this game only includes stats accumulated before the backups enter the game and Clemson’s defensive starters have been 2.1 yppl better than average, which is the same rating as Ohio State’s offense. The Buckeyes are projected to tally 414 yards at 5.9 yppl in this game, assuming Fields’ knee allows him to run like he usually does.

Overall the math gives an advantage to Clemson from the line of scrimmage but favors Ohio State by a point due to their significant advantage in special teams. Not only is Ohio State’s kicker 0.7 points per game better but the Buckeyes’ kickoff, punt and return teams are 1.8 points per game better and field position could be a deciding factor in this game. I’ll lean with Ohio State as a underdog in this game.

  • Team Stats
  • Game Log
  • Clemson
  • Ohio St.


  • Run Plays 37.0 31.6
  • Run Yards 247.1 99.6
  • YPRP 6.9 3.8


  • Pass Comp 22.5 16.9
  • Pass Att 34.4 32.0
  • Comp % 65.4% 52.7%
  • Pass Yards 284.0 169.4
  • Sacks 1.2 3.3
  • Sack Yards 8.5 21.2
  • Sack % 3.4% 9.3%
  • Pass Plays 35.7 35.3
  • Net Pass Yards 275.4 148.1
  • YPPP 7.7 4.2


  • Total Plays 72.7 66.8
  • Total Yards 531.1 268.9
  • YPPL 7.3 4.0


  • Int 0.5 1.2
  • Int % 1.5% 3.7%
  • Fumbles 0.6 0.7
  • Turnovers 1.1 1.8
  • Points 46.5 10.6
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