2015 Capital One Orange Bowl Preview
Capital One Orange Bowl: (1) Clemson vs. (4) Oklahoma
Date: December 31, 2015
Time/TV: 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
Location: Miami Gardens, FL at Sun Life Stadium (Home of the Miami Dolphins)
The Capital One Orange Bowl is one of two College Football Playoff semifinals game. This year’s Orange Bowl will consist of the Clemson Tigers and the Oklahoma Sooners. The Clemson Tigers are having their best season since 1981 when they won a National Championship, while the Oklahoma Sooners are on a mission to avenge their embarrassing 40-6 loss to Clemson in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl.
Clemson Tigers (13-0 overall, 8-0 conference)
The Tigers are the top ranked team in the nation with an undefeated record and a Heisman finalist QB leading the offense. Head Coach, Dabo Swinney, has completely turned the Clemson program around and has led his team to the College Football Playoff. The Tigers have beaten three top 10 teams this year (Notre Dame, Florida State, and North Carolina), and hope to beat two more.
Oklahoma Sooners (11-1 overall, 8-1 conference)
The Sooners one loss came in the Red River Showdown against the below average Texas Longhorns. Although OU played poorly and loss to a terrible team, they have not let that game define their season. Oklahoma has won seven straight since their loss against Texas and have had impressive wins against three teams ranked in the top 13 (Baylor, Oklahoma State, and TCU).
Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson: Lawson has been a freak this year for the Tigers. The Clemson pass rusher is one of three players in the nation to have 10+ sacks and 20+ tackles. Lawson has recorded 10 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss this season. His 22.5 tackles for loss is the best in the country. Lawson will be the difference maker for the Clemson defense as he has been the whole season.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Watson, who finished third in the Heisman race, has completely put the Clemson offense on his back. Watson has seemingly done it all as he has passed for 3,512 yards and 30 touchdowns, while rushing for 887 yards and 11 touchdowns. Deshaun Watson is the only player in the country with 3500+ yards passing and 800+ yards rushing.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: As good as the OU running back duo is, the Sooners offense goes as Mayfield goes. Mayfield’s worst game came in their only loss, not a coincidence. Mayfield finished fourth in the Heisman race and has been the spark for this explosive OU offense. The Junior QB has racked up 3,389 yards and 35 touchdowns, while rushing for seven touchdowns. Late in the season, Baker Mayfield has been very Johnny Football like with his ability to extend plays.
Jordan Thomas, CB, Oklahoma: Thomas has five interceptions and 153 returns yards after those interceptions. The Oklahoma defense ranks eighth in the nation with 19 interceptions. Thomas will have his hands’ full with Artavis Scott, Clemson’s top receiver. With Clemson losing its second best receiver, it will be crucial for Thomas to have a good day against Scott.
Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator, Clemson: Venables is very familiar with Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners due to being the linebackers coach at OU from 1999-2003 and the defensive coordinator from 2004-2011.
Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma: Riley is arguably the hottest coaching commodity in the country. He is just 32 years old and has one of the best offenses in the nation.
Keys For Clemson
Clemson will need to make Baker Mayfield uncomfortable and force turnovers. The more Clemson has the ball, the better, because the Sooners offense is highly explosive. Deshaun Watson will be the deciding factor for the Clemson Tigers, if he can run the ball effectively while protecting it in the air, Clemson should win.
Keys For Oklahoma
Oklahoma needs to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. If Samaje Perine can get going, it could be a long day for the Clemson defense, as they will have to focus on stopping three stars (Sterling Shepard, Baker Mayfield and Samaje Perine). The Sooners need to take the ball away from the Clemson offense and keep Deshaun Watson off the field.
The winner of this game will be the team that can take care of the ball the best. With that said, I think the Sooners will avenge their loss to Clemson from last year’s bowl game and will win by a field goal on a last minute drive. Baker Mayfield will play well and Samaje Perine will have over 150 yards rushing. Oklahoma will win on a last minute drive.
Final Score: Oklahoma 41 – Clemson 38
Dru Smith, DDSports Staff Writer