Fiesta Bowl To Be Low-Scoring Party - College Football Pick

Clemson Tigers

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 5:19 PM GMT

This year's Fiesta Bowl gives us a rematch of a thrilling recent bowl clash, and we have a free college football pick for the CFP battle between Ohio State and Clemson.

Season: 25-23-3 (+0.40)

It was not without some controversy that Ohio State made it to the College Football Playoffs. The argument against the Buckeyes was in not winning their own conference championship, those Big Ten honors going to Penn State instead, so Urban Meyer's bunch is out to prove they are indeed one of the four best teams in the country.

It is not without a sense of unfinished business that Clemson reached its 2nd-straight CFP. The Tigers lost a tough one to Alabama in last season's title game, meaning Dabo Swinney's kids are playing to show they can win it all.

That's the atmosphere surrounding the New Year's Eve collision at the Fiesta Bowl. ESPN has the kickoff at University of Phoenix Stadium a little past 7 PM (ET), and the spread has been holding pretty steady in the week since it was released, BetOnline making the Buckeyes -3½ favorites with a 60½ point total.

 

Both Sides Susceptible To Mental Letdowns

Ohio State (11-1 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) at times played like the very best team in the land, such as a 45-24 breeze at Oklahoma and 62-3 dismantling of then-No. 10 Nebraska. The Buckeyes also looked bad at times, the loss at Penn State where they were favored by 17½ on the NCAA football odds sticking out the most. We know now the Nittany Lions were better than most thought, but there were also struggles against Northwestern and Michigan State, teams OSU was supposed to beat by 20+.

The same is true for Clemson (12-1 SU, 6-7 ATS), starting with an early escape job against Troy, the Tigers making too many mistakes and letting the Trojans hang around in the 30-24 final. Clemson needed overtime at home to get past North Carolina State about a month before turnovers cost Swinney's squad in Pittsburgh's big 43-42 upset as 3-TD underdogs.

Both teams have injuries to deal with at this time of the season, but the good news is neither has anything new to report. The coaching staffs are more concerned right now keeping players academically eligible and out of bar scuffles.

 

Could We See Repeat Of '14 Orange Bowl?

It's the third time the Buckeyes and Tigers have gone at each other, the previous two also coming in bowls and both ending in Clemson's favor. The 1978 Gator Bowl was the first meeting and possibly difficult to recall the Tigers' 17-15 decision. But it should not be hard to remember the 2014 Orange Bowl, the last year of the BCS when Clemson scored a 40-35 triumph as small 2½ point underdogs in a game that featured more than 1,000 yards of total offense, six turnovers and 21 penalties.

Your guess is as good as mine on whether the roof is shut or not. Rain isn't the problem in the Phoenix area, but it will be in the 50s and cooling by kickoff so they may close it.

The stats tell us this is a matchup of top defenses, yet I'm still not sold on Clemson's stop unit. We also have two offenses averaging better than 40 points per game, yet Ohio State's passing game troubles me and and the Tigers' vulnerability to turnovers is downright scary. My free college football pick will be to side with the defenses and play the 'under.'

Free College Football Pick: Under 60½ 

Best Line Offered: at BetOnline

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