“The” Ohio State University’s top defensive lineman did not travel with his teammates to Miami and may not play in the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl against Clemson.
Noah Spence – a 6-foot-3, 247-pound sophomore defensive end from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – is reportedly dealing with “personal issues.”
“He didn’t fly down with us,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer told reporters this week. “He’s working through some personal issues at home.”
Meyer added that he “hopes” Spence will be able to play on Friday.
Spence has been the undisputed leader of the Buckeyes’ retooled defensive line in 2013 – recording eight sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. If the first team All-Big Ten performer is unable to play, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd could find himself with more time to find his favorite targets in offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ up-tempo offense (most notably All-American junior wideout Sammy Watkins).
And make no mistake, in this game tenths of seconds will count …
Making matters worse for Ohio State? Starting cornerback Bradley Roby and starting linebacker Curtis Grant are battling injuries and may not play against the Tigers, either.
Meyer’s Buckeyes (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten) were undefeated heading into the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State earlier this month, but a loss to the Spartans knocked them out of the BCS National Championship game and into the Orange Bowl against Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC). Despite these key injuries, oddsmakers have installed Ohio State as a 2.5-point favorite over the Tigers.
Kickoff from Miami’s Sun Life Stadium is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EST Friday with ESPN televising the game nationally.
UPDATE: Spence has been suspended for three games for violating an unspecified Big Ten rule. His suspension will include the Orange Bowl game against Clemson.