Ohio State vs. Clemson: An advanced-stats Fiesta Bowl preview

Ohio State’s Mike Weber fends off Nebraska’s Kieron Williams on a touchdown run in the first half on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff
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Ohio State’s Mike Weber fends off Nebraska’s Kieron Williams on a touchdown run in the first half on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

By now players and coaches from both sides have had plenty to say about Ohio State’s Fiesta Bowl matchup with Clemson.

What do the advanced stats from Football Outsiders say about the matchup?

Here are five things to know before the Buckeyes take on the Tigers:

1. On offense, the biggest difference is Clemson better on passing downs.

Star quarterback Deshaun Watson keys a strong aerial attack while Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett leads a ground game that has been stronger.

2. Both defenses are tough, but Clemson isn’t as good on standard downs.

Additionally, the Tigers have been a bit more susceptible to allowing big plays than Ohio State but cause more havoc.

There are not very significant differences in anything on defense overall, though.

3. The Clemson offensive line is very good overall except on power success rate (converting third- and fourth-and-short), where the tigers rank 86th nationally and Ohio State is No. 1.

Of course advanced numbers also confirm something regular stats and the eye test indicate: Pass protection can be a problem for the Buckeyes.

4. The Buckeye pass rush is poor per Football Outsiders figures while the Clemson defensive line checks in strong overall with an elite pass rush.

The numbers indicate the Tigers are just average when it comes to stopping short yardage, so who wins early downs could be critical as it will determine which team plays to its strength on third (and maybe fourth).

5. SO…. what those numbers say ultimately?

If all else is equal, it could be a matter of the 5-star quarterback (Clemson’s Watson) being able to outperform the 4-star quarterback (OSU’s Barrett), though the former has been more prone to turnovers than the latter.

Ohio State needs to stay ahead of the chains, but there is reason to think the Buckeyes can do that with their running game as long as the rest of the game doesn’t get away from them via turnovers or big plays allowed.