The (6-0) Ohio State Buckeyes and the (10-1) Clemson Tigers are meeting once again in the College Football Playoff semifinals in a rematch from last season when the Tigers beat the Buckeyes 29-23. The teams will play on Friday in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
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— ESPN (@espn) December 28, 2020
The 2020 college football season has been unlike any other, with different conferences starting at different times and teams playing different amounts of games. The No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes have only played six Big Ten games, winning them all. Many believe the Buckeyes should not be in the College Football Playoffs because they have not endured one of the toughest, most bizarre grinds that other teams went through.
Clemson’s coach Dabo Swinney is one of the people that think the Buckeyes are ranked too high, as he ranked Ohio State No. 11 in his AP Coaches Poll earlier this week.
“There is no question Ohio State is good enough to beat us, any of us, to be a national champion. I didn’t rank anybody that didn’t play nine games or more in the top 10. That’s why they were 11. … I have all the respect in the world for Ohio State,” he said, via CBS Sports.
Neither Dabo nor Nick Saban had Ohio State in the top four in their final Coaches Poll ballots.
Swinney had the Buckeyes at No. 11 👀 pic.twitter.com/iSX1c1LChW
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 21, 2020
No. 3 Ohio State vs No. 2 Clemson – Game Information
What: Allstate Sugar Bowl – College Football Playoffs semifinals
When: Friday, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Forcast: 60°F and partly sunny
ESPN’s MegaCast coverage of the #CFBPlayoff Semifinals returns:
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) December 28, 2020
Ohio State vs Clemson -History
The Sugar Bowl will mark the fifth meeting between Clemson and Ohio State. While this series has seen close games, it has been one-sided in the Tigers’ favor. Clemson holds a 4-0 record over Ohio State.
Clemson 17, Ohio State 15 (Gator Bowl) — Dec. 29, 1978
This was supposedly the game that put Clemson on the national stage and helped their school become a serious contender for years to come. This is also the infamous game that ended the great coaching career of Ohio State’s coach Woody Hayes. Hayes was caught on National TV throwing a punch at Clemson’s nose guard Charlie Bauman, after a huge interception by Bauman that practically sealed the game. Hayes was fired the next day, ending his storied 27-year tenure with Ohio State.
Clemson 40, Ohio State 35 (Orange Bowl) — Jan. 3, 2014
Both the Buckeyes and Tigers finished second in their conference and entered the Orange Bowl with their high-powered offenses on display. The teams collectively accounted for more than 1,000 yards of offense. Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins set an Orange Bowl record with 227 receiving yards, and the Tigers went on to beat Alabama to capture the school’s second National Title.
Clemson 31, Ohio State 0 (Fiesta Bowl – CFP Semifinal) — Dec. 31, 2016
Clemson entered the Fiesta Bowl and College Football Playoff as the ACC champion at 12-1, having played 11 of 13 bowl teams. Ohio State came in as 3.5-point favorites and the first team to make the playoffs without winning its conference. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as Clemson held Ohio State to nine first downs and handed head coach Urban Meyer the first shutout loss of his career.
Clemson 29, Ohio State 23 (Fiesta Bowl – CFP Semifinal) — Dec. 28, 2019
Both teams entered last year’s Fiesta Bowl and College Football Playoff at 13-0. The Buckeyes jumped out to an early 16-0 second-quarter lead which was erased with 21 unanswered points by Clemson to take the lead in the third quarter. Ohio State pulled ahead when QB Justin Fields threw a 23-yard touchdown. Trevor Lawrence answered with a 34-yard scoring strike to Travis Etienne with less than two minutes to play. Tigers’ safety Nolan Turner ended any chances of a Buckeyes’ comeback when he intercepted Fields’ pass in the fourth. Clemson went on to lose to future 2020 No. 1 overall-pick Joe Burrow and LSU in the National Championship game.
One of the worst calls in the history of college football. This is the game Ohio State lost when we played Clemson and the refs. https://t.co/ZWwWzIaUW9
— Chad Fisher (@cfisheronline) December 27, 2020
Big 10 Championship – Ohio State 22, Northwestern 10
Ohio State traveled to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game without their best receiver Chris Olave (Olave is expected back for the Sugar Bowl). Their starting running back Master Teague left the game in the first half with an undisclosed injury, and Fields sprained his thumb on his throwing hand during the game. The Buckeyes were still able to find a way to win by feeding the ball to Oklahoma-transfer RB Trey Simmons who ended up having a career day (331 yards and 2 TDs). Northwestern has one of the nations best defenses which gave Ohio State some trouble, but the depth and skill of the Buckeyes were just too much for the Wildcats — who did not record a single point in the second half.
ACC Championship – Clemson 34, Notre Dame 10
The most anticipated rematch of the college football season happened to be for the ACC Championship. Lawrence and other key defensive players did not play in the Tigers loss to the Fighting Irish earlier in the season which was avenged in the title game. Lawrence had 412 yards of offense and three touchdowns, Etienne ran for 124 yards and a score and No. 4 Clemson destroyed No. 2 Notre Dame 34-10 to win its sixth straight ACC title.
Both the Tigers and the Buckeyes held their last opponents to 10 points, but there seems to be a large gap in their last two opponents. No. 4 Notre Dame is (10-1) and playing No. 1 Alabama in the CFP. No. 14 Northwestern is (6-2) and playing (6-4) Auburn in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl. The Wildcats are not playing at the level of football that Notre Dame has shown this season.
No. 3 Ohio State vs No. 2 Clemson – Key Matchups
Most games these days come down to who’s quarterback plays better, not always who has the better stats, but the QB who can run the offense efficiently and without turnovers. The 2021 Fiesta Bowl features two of the country’s best college QBs in Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields.
🚨 YOUR 2020 HEISMAN FINALISTS 🚨
-DeVonta Smith pic.twitter.com/cUPaQIDBHI
— ESPN (@espn) December 25, 2020
Lawrence, a Heisman finalist, is the favorite to be picked No. 1 by the Jacksonville Jaguars next year, because he has proven to be constantly dominant with his arms and legs throughout his three years with Clemson. Fields has also boasted a great collegiate career and will most likely be QB2 or QB3 in next year’s draft and would be in the Heisman talk if he played more games this year. I believe this is just the beginning of a rivalry between these two QBs for years to come.
Justin Fields: 70.5% of his passing yards occurred before the catch since 2019
Highest % in College Football pic.twitter.com/cO4H1jbwX6
— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 28, 2020
Lawrence outplayed Fields the first time they faced each other in last year’s Fiesta Bowl. Lawrence is having the better season this year as well. Fields struggled in his last game out against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game, throwing for only 114 yards with two INTs and zero touchdowns. Lawrence, on the other hand, was lights-out in the ACC Championship against Notre Dame, throwing for 322 yards and two TDs and one INT.
Ohio State’s ability to run the ball.
Ohio State running back Trey Sermon ran the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title with a school-record 331 yards rushing. Sermon’s 331 yards were the most rushing yards in any conference championship game in FBS history and broke Ohio State’s single-game record, previously held by 1995 Heisman Trophy-winner Eddie George.
Clemson has been susceptible to the run all season long. In their one loss to Notre Dame, the Tigers gave up 208 yards on the ground and only rushed for 38 yards. Overall Clemson has done well against the run this year holding opponents to under 100 yards per game on average. Ohio State comes into the game ranked No. 5 in the country averaging 275.7 rushing yards per game. If the Buckeyes can get the rushing attack going early then the passing game should open up and this game could be anyone’s for the taking.
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) December 24, 2020
Ohio State’s pass defense vs Clemson’s passing attack
Buckeyes’ CB Shaun Wade and the rest of their secondary need to play their best game of the season if they want to have a chance to play for a National Title. Ohio State has not been very good against the pass this year after losing three secondary pieces to the NFL this past offseason. Wade wants some revenge after he was ejected in his last game against Clemson for a horrible targeting call. If Ohio State’s poor pass defense continues against Lawrence then college-football’s best QB will make short work of them and you can say good-night to the Buckeyes.
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) December 16, 2020
Clemson is averaging 343.8 passing yards per game. Lawrence is surrounded by dangerous weapons that can take short passes to the house in a blink of an eye. Clemson’s No. 1 WR Amari Rodgers has 996 receiving yards this seven TDs this season, while do-it-all RB Travis Etienne has added 524 receiving yards and two TDs through the air. It is very difficult for any defense to try to take these guys away while trying to contain the Tigers other top-level weapons.
Ohio State DT Haskell Garrett: Highest-graded defensive lineman in 2020 (92.1) pic.twitter.com/8RDPgsuukW
— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 25, 2020
No. 3 Ohio State vs No. 2 Clemson — Betting Breakdown
|Team||Point Spread||Moneyline||Over/Under||Team Totals|
|Ohio State||+7½ -115||+250||66½ -110o||30|
|Clemson||-7½ -105||-300||66½ -110u||37|
Simply by playing in five more games, the (10-1) Clemson Tigers come in as obvious favorites over the (6-0) Ohio State Buckeyes. The Tigers also sport one of the nation’s top-defenses, ranking No. 2 with 44 sacks and No. 10 in points allowed at 17.5. They definitely seem like one of the nation’s top-two teams once again this year.
No. 3 Ohio State vs No. 2 Clemson — Moneyline
I honestly think Ohio State can win against Clemson but I would not bet on it. Trevor Lawrence is 34-1 as Clemson’s starting quarterback and he has continually proved to be the difference over top-opponents. Clemson will be headed to their fifth CFP National Championship.
Moneyline pick: Clemson -300
No. 3 Ohio State vs No. 2 Clemson — Point Spread
Historically the Buckeyes have played their best when they have been doubted as one of the nations best teams – circa 2002 National Title game against Miami and both of the 2015 CFP games. Talent wise the Buckeyes matchup with the Tigers, and if anyone is prepared to play toe-to-toe with Lawrence, it’s Justin Fields. You know he has been gearing up for this rematch all year.
Point spread pick: Ohio State + 7½ -115
No. 3 Ohio State vs No. 2 Clemson — Over/Under
This game is certainly bound to have it’s back and forth haymaker punches that swing momentum that any football fan would enjoy watching. 66½ points seems like a lot of points for two very-good defenses.
Over/Under pick: Under 66½ -110
No. 3 Ohio State vs No. 2 Clemson — Final score prediction
Ultimately this game, like most football games, will be won in the trenches. Ohio State seems to have the edge when it comes to the big guys up front, but it is hard to tell because of the different competitions that these two teams have played all year. The Buckeyes can win this game if they can turn this game into a dog-fight and play physically at the point of attack. Dabo Swinney and the Tigers’ experience will prove to be the difference in this one.