Clemson coach Dabo Swinney dealt Ohio State a hand it performed all night time in a 49-28 blowout within the Faculty Soccer Playoff semifinal on the Sugar Bowl.
You will not discover a “No. 11” in a 52-card deck, however the Buckeyes used that as motivation in a 21-point victory on New 12 months’s Day.
Ohio State paired the mix of respect (or lack thereof) and revenge from final yr’s Fiesta Bowl loss for redemption in opposition to the Tigers. Now, the Buckeyes (7-0) advance to the CFP championship sport for the primary time for the reason that inaugural four-team playoff in 2014. No. 1 Alabama (12-0) can be ready on Jan. 11 in Miami.
“You must give Ohio State credit score for that,” Swinney mentioned in his postgame information convention. “They had been superior. They completely dominated the road of scrimmage. … They had been the higher staff, they usually earned it.”
The Buckeyes earned it on the Clemson coach’s expense. Swinney will feel the brunt of that after placing Ohio State at No. 11 in his last Coaches Ballot submissionl a transfer that generated sufficient pregame warmth to soften the Christmas snow in Columbus. The Tigers (10-2) might need gotten away with that if it had been Notre Dame, Texas A&M or Cincinnati.
There have been different groups critics noticed as extra deserving than the Buckeyes, who performed a six-game Large Ten schedule in a season flipped the wrong way up by the COVID-19 pandemic. None of these groups is in Ohio State’s weight class, nonetheless, and Swinney ought to have identified higher than to offer the Buckeyes that a lot to work with forward of a nationwide semifinal.
Ohio State had a 16-0 lead in final yr’s semifinal on the Fiesta Bowl earlier than coughing it up in a 29-23 loss. That caught, even when the Large Ten canceled its season on Aug. 11 earlier than later reversing course. The Buckeyes had three video games canceled due to COVID-19 — together with its rivalry sport with Michigan — and its Playoff credentials had been questioned each step of the best way.
Swinney performed proper into that narrative, and he did not again down from the ballot controversy afterward.
“I do not remorse any of that,” Swinney mentioned. “Polls don’t have anything to do with motivation. Each groups had been extremely motivated to play. They’re an amazing staff. As I mentioned, that had nothing to do with Ohio State. They had been adequate to beat us. Adequate to win the entire dang factor.'”
The Buckeyes is perhaps the third wheel within the CFP period with Alabama and Clemson over a seven-year cycle, however they’re the solely staff that may match up expertise smart with these two packages on an every-year foundation. On Friday, the Tigers had been those who could not match up.
Quarterback Justin Fields led a 35-point first-half eruption that gave the Buckeyes a commanding three-touchdown lead on the half. He accomplished 16 of 18 passes for 223 yards within the first half alone. That took on one other stage after Clemson linebacker James Skalski targeted Fields on an 8-yard scramble with 5:57 left within the first half.
Fields did not simply play by way of it: He threw 4 of his Sugar Bowl-record six landing passes after the hit. Fields hit Chris Olave and Jeremy Ruckert for crimson zone scores within the first half, then dialed deep-shot touchdowns to Olave and Jameson Williams within the second half. He outdueled Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who completed 33 of 48 for 400 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Fields, who has only one loss as a starter, handed Lawrence his second. Let’s put that in perspective, utilizing the one different quarterback to try this: In final yr’s CFP championship sport, LSU’s Joe Burrow torched Clemson for 463 passing yards, 58 speeding yards and 6 whole touchdowns. Fields completed with 385 passing yards, 42 speeding yards and 6 TDs.
It was extra than simply Fields. Trey Sermon completed with 193 speeding yards on the heels of a 331-yard game in the Big Ten championship. Ohio State’s protection compelled three straight Clemson punts within the first half, which turned the momentum. The Buckeyes compelled two turnovers and stored the strain on Lawrence within the second half.
It was a whole domination that allowed the Buckeyes to indulge in that “11” label. Swinney, who joked earlier within the week that he “may run for governor of Michigan” used the identical technique the Wolverines did in 2018 through the self-proclaimed “Revenge Tour.” The Buckeyes beat Michigan 62-39.
Your entire Ohio State program operates on the next stage when dealt the disrespect card. Your entire state thrives on that “Ohio vs. the World” mantra. Whereas overdone in the case of the remainder of the Large Ten, which Ohio State gained the final 4 years, it nonetheless applies on the nationwide stage.
Jim Tressel used it to guide Ohio State to a nationwide title in a 31-24 victory in opposition to No. 1 Miami within the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. Meyer wielded it within the first Playoff, in 2014, when the Buckeyes slid into the No. 4 spot earlier than upsetting No. 1 Alabama 42-35. That led to a 42-20 victory in opposition to No. 2 Oregon within the CFP championship sport.
Friday was the primary time Day acquired to make use of it, and Fields was his ace.
“I believe this efficiency by not solely Justin however this entire staff will go down in Ohio State historical past as a landmark sport,” Day mentioned. “We need to go on and win the nationwide championship, however there have been a whole lot of robust days over the six final months.”
The hardest problem lies forward. Alabama coach Nick Saban shouldn’t be going to supply that sort of bulletin-board materials. The Crimson Tide have performed in 4 nationwide championship video games since that Sugar Bowl loss to the Buckeyes in 2014.
Ohio State is the one program Saban hasn’t overwhelmed within the CFP championship sport. Alabama has been ready for that rematch with the Buckeyes, too, and it’s armed with three of the top-five Heisman vote-getters in Najee Harris, Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith.
The Crimson Tide averages 48.2 factors per sport. The Buckeyes are at 43.4 factors per sport.
It provides as much as what might be the perfect sport of the Playoff period since these two groups met the primary time round — one which carries extra weight than something Alabama-Clemson may supply. A couple of area of the nation is concerned this time, and Large Ten-SEC matchups include simply as a lot warmth.
Day mentioned Swinney, who performed at Alabama, confirmed that respect within the post-game handshake.
“Dabo has been nothing however skilled to me,” Day mentioned. “He mentioned, ‘Have an amazing sport and go win all of it.'”
Possibly No. 11 could be No. 1 in spite of everything.