2014 Discover Orange Bowl
Who: No. 12 Clemson vs. No. 7 Ohio State
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
When: Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m.
Records: Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC); Ohio State (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten)
Last year's result: Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 10
CLEMSON - In five-plus years under Dabo Swinney, Clemson has won the turnover battle 35 times, and lost just three of those games.
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"When we win the turnover margin, we win. That's just a fact," Swinney said Thursday. "That's what history says for our guys. Because we're good enough."
History also says, conversely, that losing that turnover battle sinks the Tigers. They're 8-14 in that situation, and most notably and recently were minus-9 in the category in their two losses to Florida State and South Carolina this season.
"When we make critical mistakes and we lose that turnover margin, we get beat," Swinney said. "We've proven we're not good enough to beat good teams when we turn it over. That has to be a key thing that we've got to get done to have a chance to beat these guys."
Clemson did win last year's Chick-Fil-A Bowl, despite LSU's 2-1 edge in takeaways. But the Tigers were minus-3 in the 2012 Orange Bowl, getting trounced 70-33 by West Virginia.
Clemson is 10-6 when turnovers are a push, including a couple of wins this year against Boston College and The Citadel.
With third-year quarterback Tajh Boyd at the controls, Clemson is plus-26 in turnovers in 31 victories and minus-19 in eight losses.
Offensively, it's been a wild ride. Clemson had just two turnovers in its first four games, followed by 11 cough-ups the next four games (at Syracuse, vs. Boston College and Florida State, at Maryland.) Then it had just one turnover each of the next three games, preceded by the dreadful six-turnover performance at South Carolina.
The Gamecocks were the Tigers' only turnover-free opponent.
Ohio State, on the other hand, has been harder to quantify by turnovers. With a 24-1 record under Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes have prevailed while losing the turnover battle eight times, including 2012 wins over Michigan State and Purdue and another this year against Indiana when Ohio State survived minus-3 margins.
In its Big Ten championship defeat to the Spartans, OSU actually took away one interception and did not turn it over.
During Meyer's second of two BCS national championships at Florida - the 2008 season - the Gators enjoyed a tremendous plus-22 turnover margin.
Final grades won't be posted until Friday, but Swinney is optimistic nobody will be declared academically ineligible for the Orange Bowl.
Last year three Tigers, including receiver Martavis Bryant, did not make the trip to Atlanta for failing to meet academic requirements.
"It looks like we're not going to have any casualties," Swinney said. "I'm hesitant to say 100 percent until we know for sure, but it looks good."
Swinney credited director of player personnel Jeff Davis and the rest of the support staff for getting the players the help they need, when they need it.
"There's not many surprises in our structure, because of our structure. We have a lot of hands and a lot of eyes on these guys," Swinney said. "Vickery Hall does a tremendous job, and there's a lot of communication. We have to support what they're trying to do over there, and vice versa.
"We've got great communication, great relationships, but great accountability is the main thing. They've got to work. If you don't go to class, you don't play."
Eye on the future
Swinney was asked which young players are most promising based on bowl practices, and he had a few predominant answers.
"Man, Wayne Gallman, Wayne Gallman. Wow," Swinney said, raving. "Dorian O'Daniel. Today, those were two guys that jumped (out)."
Both redshirting freshmen, Gallman is a running back, and O'Daniel is a linebacker. Both positions lose key leaders to graduation in Roderick McDowell and Spencer Shuey.
Swinney also praised defensive tackle Scott Pagano, and offensive linemen Tyrone Crowder and Maverick Morris.
"I'm excited about those guys. It's fun," Swinney said. "(Wide receiver) Adrien Dunn, a kid that walked on here from Daniel (High School), man, he made a heck of a play out there. It's fun to see those guys get out there and compete.
"We got some young guys that's got some bulldog in them now, and I'm excited. It's going to be a fun spring around here with some of these guys."
The Tigers won't practice Friday, hosting approximately 200 underprivileged children for a community service project.
Saturday is a return to practice, before players are released for Christmas break. They'll return the following Thursday for a couple days of walk-through, before flying to Miami on Dec. 29.
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