PHOENIX — Ohio State knows what its going to get from its superstars.
J.K. Dobbins has been consistently one of the best tailbacks in the country. The same can be said about Chase Young at his position and Justin Fields at his.
Now with a few days off, the Buckeyes are fully healthy and energized as they arrived in the desert Sunday afternoon.
“I think our guys are going to come back today, refreshed, reenergized,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “We got a lot of time to game plan. We’ve been working at it the last couple of days, and now we’ve got really six days to get ready for this game, which is great. Whole bunch of time together in the hotel, which is always good, too. It’s like being on the road for an extended period of time. That’s kind of the way we’re looking at it.
“Certainly it’s a bowl game, but it’s a little different. This one you’re playing for a lot more, and I think the guys are going to prepare that way this week.”
So the big names are going to remain the same, and they’ll play well like they have all season. But those aren’t the players who make the subtle differences that help win a national title.
DT DaVon Hamilton
Hamilton has been a wrecking ball this season, tallying five sacks from the nose tackle position for the dominant Buckeyes defensive line. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is one of the best passers in the country, but he isn’t nearly as good on the run — and he certainly can’t throw from his back. If Hamilton can get pressure from the interior, Chase Young and the talented stable of defensive ends can get to Lawrence and possibly force turnovers. Hamilton could be a key for the Ohio State defense.
TE Luke Farrell
Clemson is going to have a game plan that can stop J.K. Dobbins and Justin Fields in the run game, but that’s where the Buckeyes could take advantage of the Tigers. If running the ball works for the Buckeyes, Fields could go to reliable and durable tight end Luke Farrell to soften up the defense even further. Farrell has had a few big catches this season, including a tough touchdown grab against Michigan State in a tight game. As the Buckeyes plan for the Clemson defense, Farrell could play a big role. Linebacker Isaiah Simmons will be an edge rusher and spy on Fields, so the tight end option might be open enough to make a difference.
LB Baron Browning
There aren’t many more versatile guys on Ohio State’s defense than Baron Browning, who has proven his worth as both a run-stuffing linebacker and a pass-rusher when needed. During the Buckeyes win over Penn State, Browning played a pivotal role in stopping the run, then he found ways to sack the quarterback in the critical stretches of the fourth quarter. Clemson running back Travis Etienne is quietly one of the nation’s best running backs, and Ohio State could have its hands full with him. Should Browning be able to alleviate that pressure, the Buckeyes defense will be in a good spot.
LT Thayer Munford
Justin Fields and Ryan Day have both talked about Fields being 100 percent for the Fiesta Bowl, but they’ll only know that when they take the field Saturday. If Fields is fully healthy, the goal will be to keep him that way, meaning he’ll need to stay upright in the pocket against the tough Clemson front. A key piece of that will be Munford, who has battled small injuries, missed a game this season and has been inconsistent during his junior season. If the blindside of Justin Fields can be protected, Ohio State will have a good chance of moving the ball. If the left side of the offensive line struggles, Clemson could have a big day defensively.
LB Tuf Borland
Nobody on the Buckeyes roster has faced more scrutiny than Borland, who had a bad year last season but rebounded with a nice campaign this year. That hasn’t helped his cause, though, as he often is the one getting blamed when the defense has even the smallest issues. Borland will have his hands full as the prototypical run-stopping linebacker against Travis Etienne and the Clemson rushing attack. If Borland has a big game inside the box, Ohio State will enjoy a good game.