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Editor's note: This is the final story of a three-part preview of Ohio State's Orange Bowl opponent, the Clemson Tigers. Today's preview focuses on Clemson's coaching and special teams. Tuesday's centered on their offense and Wednesday's the defense.
COLUMBUS, Ohio-Ohio State and Clemson both have two of the most potent offenses in all of college football. The Buckeyes and Tigers each have defenses that have playmakers, but lack the ability to consistently perform.
So how can one team separate itself from the other?
Special teams. Coaching.
In two of Ohio State's closest wins of the season, it was the special teams unit that made a play that turned out to be significant in the contest's outcome.
Against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. in early October, the Buckeyes blocked a punt early in the first quarter. That same punt return unit blocked another one against Michigan in Ann Arbor in late November.
Last season, Ohio State returned a punt for a touchdown during a close victory against Wisconsin and recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown versus Indiana.
Someone on the special teams will likely have to make a play similar to the ones made against Northwestern, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana for Ohio State to be victorious against the Tigers Jan. 3. in Miami.
How does Clemson's special teams unit stack up?
Clemson's special teams, by the numbers:
o Gains 18.15 yards per return
o Allows 19.46 yards per opponents return
o No touchdowns recorded, none given up
o Averages 60.43 yards per kickoff
o 34 touchbacks recorded (45 percent of the time)
o Four kicks gone out-of-bounds
o Averages 39.58 yards per punt
o Averages 8.34 yards per punt return
o No touchdowns recorded, none given up
o Made 87.5 percent of kicks
o Average 1.2 makes per game
o Made 57 of 57 extra points
Like its opponent, Clemson possesses a fairly gifted punter and kicker.
When the Tigers line up for a field goal, it's nearly a given that three points will be added to the scoreboard. Senior kicker Chandler Cataranzo made 13 of his 14 attempted field goals this season. All 57 of his extra point attempts were successful. His lone missed field goal was a 25-yard attempt against Boston College. That attempt came on a natural grass surface, as the Orange Bowl's will be.
Punting the ball, Clemson uses a sophomore, Bradley Pinion. He averages 39.47 yards per attempt. The Tigers punt the ball 4.8 times per game. Comparatively, Ohio State's punter, freshman Cameron Johnston, averages 43.52 yards per attempt. The Buckeyes punt the ball just 3.4 times per game.
Despite both teams possessing extremely fast and talented return men, no team has recorded a punt or a kick returned for a touchdown.
Clemson uses its best receiver, junior Sammy Watkins, as its primary kickoff return man. Watkins averages 21.75 yards per return, taking 12 of the Tigers' 26 returns. Six other Tigers have returned kicks this season, but none have a higher return average than Watkins. Ohio State's return man, freshman Dontre Wilson, averages 24.9 yards per return.
The Tigers employ another speedy receiver on punt returns. Junior Adam Humphries is Clemson's punt returner. He averages 10.6 yards per return. Watkins has lined up to receive just one punt this season. Ohio State's punt returner, senior receiver Corey Brown, averages 8.76 yards per return.
Urban Meyer is attempting to go 13-1 for the fourth time since 2006. Meyer is the fourth coach in college football history to lead three separate teams to a BCS game. With a 128-24 career record, Meyer has the highest win percentage of any current coach.
Dabo Swinney took over the Clemson program in 2008 as an interim coach after previous coach Tommy Bowden resigned midway through the season. Swinney, following a victory against South Carolina to end the 2008 regular season, was formally named as the Tigers' coach Dec. 1, 2008.
Swinney has a career record of 50-23. He's 2-3 in bowl games. Swinney will be coaching his second BCS game. The Tigers got blown out, 70-33, by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl in 2012.
What Ohio State needs to do
o Win the field position game
o Make all of its field goal attempts
o Allow no big returns to Watkins