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Another Face-Off: Buckeyes set for Playoff matchup with Clemson for third time since 2017

Another Face-Off: Buckeyes set for Playoff matchup with Clemson for third time since 2017

Jack McLaughlin

Sure, Indiana is a good team—they fought tooth and nail against OSU this year, in a game that came down to the final play. Northwestern, too, stood their ground during the Big Ten title game, and even held a four-point lead over the Big Ten East champs at halftime. 

Neither of these teams, however, are in the same league as Clemson, Ohio State’s opponent in the Sugar Bowl, which will serve as the semifinal round of the College Football Playoff and is set for kickoff at 8 p.m. on Jan. 1.

Led by quarterback Trevor Lawrence—likely the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft—the second-ranked Tigers are 10-1 on the season, with their only loss of the year coming to Notre Dame (the fourth seed in the CFB playoff) during an early November matchup that saw  Lawrence sidelined due to COVID. When the two teams met again in the ACC Championship on Dec. 19, a game that Lawrence did play in, the Tigers handed out a 34-10 drubbing of the Fighting Irish.

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Since the first few years of the College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes and the Tigers have become something of inter-conference rivals, and OSU fans know all too well the damage a Clemson team can inflict. Last year in the semifinal round, OSU lost to Clemson 29-23, and before that, in 2017 under Urban Meyer, the Tigers shellacked the Buckeyes 31-0. Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day noted the teams’ familiarity with each other, and how this necessitates more pregame work for the Bucks. 

“And they know us very well; they always have really good schemes. We’ll have to do a really good job preparing so when we get out there Friday night we’re anticipating as opposed to reacting,” he said.

In fact, It was the Buckeyes’ 2017 loss against Clemson that caused Meyer to shuffle his staff, making moves that would bring his eventual replacement, Ryan Day, to Columbus as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

“Yeah, I was with the 49ers at the time, and I had a few conversations with coach, and jumped at the opportunity to come to Ohio State, not knowing exactly what was in store.” said Day during a Dec. 28 press conference. “Certainly didn’t in my wildest dreams think I’d be sitting where I am right now, but I guess that’s college football.” 

And heading into the Sugar Bowl, it’s clear there’s been no love lost between both teams. In the season’s final coaches poll, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney ranked Ohio State 11th in the nation. While he later clarified this was in large part due to the fact that the Buckeyes have only played six games this season and the other Playoff teams have seen 11 contests, this will likely become bulletin board material for the Buckeyes.

Will this prove to be the extra motivation OSU needs to finally erase the orange and white smear on their College Football Playoff record? We’ll find out Friday.

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