Herbstreit on Fiesta Bowl: "I can't wait"


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Kirk Herbstreit thinks Deshaun Watson is the best player in the country (Photo by Raymond Carlin, USAT)
Kirk Herbstreit thinks Deshaun Watson is the best player in the country (Photo by Raymond Carlin, USAT)

PARADISE VALLEY, AZ – Kirk Herbstreit likes Clemson’s chances against Ohio St. because the Tigers have the ultimate weapon in Deshaun Watson. Chris Fowler thinks Clemson is all about guts and the fourth quarter.

Herbstreit and Fowler will be on the call for the Fiesta Bowl between Ohio State and Clemson (Dec. 31, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN), and Herbstreit told the media that he sees one player making a difference.

“The quarterback. I think Deshaun Watson is the best player in the country. He is a guy that has been around for three years, he understands the system, understands coverages and understands how to get out of a bad play and into a good play,” Herbstreit said Thursday. “He knows how to maximize a good play and make it into a great play. The kid just does it all. And Clemson, they had enough returning that they had a chip on their shoulder despite all of the hype and all of the expectations. I still feel like they think they have unfinished business, as a group. And he just happens to head up that leadership.”

The former Ohio St. signal caller said he is anxious to see how the Buckeyes defend Clemson’s offense.

“I can't wait. I think that is the game within the game is to watch how Ohio St. defends Mike Williams, how Ohio St. defends Deshaun. Because he is going to run it,” he said. “In these kinds of games, when there is this much hype and this much at stake, he is going to run 20-25 times. Defensively, you have to account for a quarterback who is a running threat, and you have to get numbers up in the box. And now you are going to leave yourself one-on-one with Artavis Scott or Mike Williams or Hunter Renfrow. So how Ohio St, handles that matchup in the box against the quarterback run will go a long way toward determining how Ohio St. defends them.”

Herbstreit said he’s also been impressed with Clemson’s defense, and knows that Brent Venables will bring pressure in an effort to stop the Buckeye running game.

“It's legit. They've lost more than anybody the last two years (in terms of players leaving for the NFL), but his scheme is an aggressive mindset, and they bring a lot of pressure,” he said, “They like to blitz and bring their linebackers, and they aren't going to do anything different in this game. If I am defending Ohio St. I am loading up and stopping their ability to run the football. And what I really want to do is try and get them in obvious passing situations and then account for Curtis Samuel. I want to make J.T. Barrett make plays for four quarters without going in the passing game to Curtis Samuel.”

Herbstreit said this year’s Clemson team has one thing that sets it apart from the team that lost to Alabama in the title game here last January.

“They have maturity. Last year it was all new for them. I don't think this program gets the respect nationally yet that it probably deserves,” Herbstreit said. “I would put Clemson in the last five years, if you look at who they've beaten, their wins and losses, I would put them up there with the elite teams in the country. I don't think fans outside of that region fully understand that and respect that and I think those coaches and those players feel that. I think there is a real chip on their shoulder.”

Fowler said he thinks Clemson can use its experience as an advantage.

“I can tell you this is a game that I was excited about calling when the matchups were made. No disrespect to Washington, but when you look at this on paper it's a very even matchup,” Fowler said. “You have two teams that are really experienced in big games, and Clemson has proven they are a great big-game team. I think Clemson has more experience in big games. They've played in and won two conference championship games, and as an underdog against Oklahoma last year in the Orange Bowl wore them down.”

Fowler also said he thinks Clemson’s culture is that they expect to win the close games.

“I think it is a part of their culture now. Dabo (Swinney) has instilled that,” he said. “We are about the fourth quarter. We are about guts. We are about coming from behind in the fourth quarter. And the results have backed that up.”

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