There's a fairly decent chance that the College Football Playoff will feature two blowouts in three games. Alabama is far and away the best team in the country, with the potential to eviscerate Washington, Ohio State, and/or Clemson with the blink of an eye.
However, the Fiesta Bowl matchup of Ohio State and Clemson will bring some intrigue to a Playoff that could be short on it, because absolutely nobody has any clue what is going to happen.
Ohio State is a three-point favorite, but OddsShark's computers only see the Buckeyes winning by one, and 57 percent of the money is coming in on Clemson. The advanced stats agree that it's a toss-up: The S&P+ and F/+ ratings have Ohio State close, while the weighted S&P+ ratings have Clemson close. Despite the stats giving a slight edge to the Buckeyes, 14 of ESPN's 20 human predictors chose the Tigers.
Basically, this all amounts to a big ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
In reality, Ohio State and Clemson are very similar teams. Both have big-play threats at quarterback who can make things happen on the ground and in the air. Both have ultra-talented defenses that have been spotty. Both have big wins that provide reason for optimism—Michigan and Oklahoma for Ohio State, and Louisville and Florida State for Clemson—as well as questionable close games that are cause for concern: Northwestern and Michigan State for the Buckeyes, and NC State and Troy for the Tigers.
As good as Ohio State and Clemson were in 2016, they were also fairly inconsistent for being the second and third-best teams in the country, which is why we have no clue what we're going to get in the Fiesta Bowl.
Any college football fan could be convinced of the following scenarios:
- The great Deshaun Watson shows up for Clemson, and J.T. Barrett can't do much against one of the two best defensive fronts he's seen all season, helping the Tigers win big.
- Clemson's sometimes leaky pass defense is carved up early by Barrett and Curtis Samuel, who will open things up on the ground to put up more than 40 points in a blowout win.
- Both teams' talent and weaknesses show up and give us a close, unpredictable game.
There aren't that many great bowl matchups this season, and the Playoff probably won't be all that competitive if Alabama plays better than average. But Ohio State-Clemson has a chance to be the best game of the bowl season, in part because we have no idea how it will play out.