SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Kirk Herbstreit called Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson the best player in college football and predicted Urban Meyer could have a few surprises ready for Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl when he talked with a small group of media at the bowl’s media day on Thursday.
“I think Deshaun Watson, in my opinion, is the best player in the country this year. He’s a guy who has been around for three years. He understands their system. He understands coverages,” Herbstreit said.
“He understands how to get out of a bad play and into a good play. He knows how to maximize a good play and make it a great play. The kid just does it all.”
The former Ohio State quarterback will be an analyst on ESPN’s coverage of the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff semifinal on Saturday night.
Herbstreit’s belief Ohio State might have installed some new things offensively comes from the struggles the Buckeyes had much of the season, including their last two regular-season games.
OSU beat Michigan State 17-16 and scored 17 points in regulation in a 30-27 double-overtime win over Michigan. Barrett ran the ball 24 times against the Spartans and 30 times in the Michigan game.
“I just have a feeling. Four weeks to prepare. Everybody knows about Curtis Samuel. All the film shows you that you have to stop Curtis Samuel. All the film shows you that you have to stop J.T. Barrett. It’s Urban Meyer,” Herbstreit said.
“He knows the way they played against Michigan State and against Michigan is not going to cut it in this game. Their passing game is going to have to be much better if they’re going to win this game because Clemson has had four weeks to prepare for quarterback runs and Curtis Samuel.
“If I’m defending Ohio State, based on the way they finished the season, I’m loading up on stopping them and their ability to run the football, especially with J.T. Barrett. What I really want to try to be able to do is get them into some obvious passing situations and then I’m going to account for Curtis Samuel.
“I’d want to see if J.T. Barrett can make plays consistently for four quarters without going in the passing game to Curtis Samuel. Who else can make plays and make me pay for that? Until they show me they can do that consistently down the field, I’m going to continue to put pressure on their running game and put pressure on Curtis Samuel.”
“If Ohio State wins, somebody is going to be making plays that hasn’t been making them the last seven or eight weeks,” he said.
The other match-up that Herbstreit thinks could be interesting is Ohio State’s defense against Clemson’s passing game.
Watson has thrown for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns and six receivers have caught 29 passes or more, led by Mike Williams with 84. Tight end Jordan Leggett, with 38 catches, could also play a big role.
“How they defend those two guys (Williams and Leggett) will say a lot about who wins the game,” Herbstreit said.
Reach Jim Naveau at The Lima News at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.