Postcard from rainy Arizona: Keys for Clemson are winning 50-50 balls, stopping Samuel

December 31, 2016 GMT

GLENDALE, Ariz. – How about this for an upset?

It rained Saturday in metro Phoenix, which gets an average annual rainfall of eight inches. It might rain more.

So anything that happens at the Fiesta Bowl, where Clemson is a slight underdog in a College Football Playoff semifinal set for 7:10 p.m. at University of Phoenix Stadium, won’t be that surprising.

Keys for the Tigers:

- On offense, winning the 50-50 balls Clemson typically gets when Deshaun Watson throws to Mike Williams, Deon Cain, Artavis Scott and Jordan Leggett. Ohio State has a better secondary than any the Tigers have faced, potential NFL standouts in cornerbacks Gereon Conley, Denzel Ward and Marshon Lattimore.


- On defense, keeping running back Curtis Samuel from making noise in the passing game. The 5-11, 197-pound junior led Ohio State with 65 catches this season.

Rally time

If you’ve seen enough bowl games this month, you know not to be fooled by mere second-half leads.

And remember. Clemson last season in its 37-17 victory over Oklahoma in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Orange Bowl trailed 17-16 at halftime. In the 45-40 loss to Alabama in the national championship game, the Tigers led 24-21 in the fourth quarter.

Both Ohio State and Clemson are more than capable of flipping the script in a hurry.


Clemson 30, Ohio State 28

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff