Clemson coach Dabo Swinney dealt Ohio State a hand it performed all evening in a 49-28 blowout within the School 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 Yr’s Day.
Ohio State paired the mixture of respect (or lack thereof) and revenge from final 12 months’s Fiesta Bowl loss for redemption towards 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 need to 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 group, they usually earned it.”
The Buckeyes earned it on the Clemson coach’s expense. Swinney will really feel the brunt of that after placing Ohio State at No. 11 in his remaining Coaches Ballot submissionl a transfer that generated sufficient pregame warmth to soften the Christmas snow in Columbus. The Tigers (10-2) may 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 Massive Ten schedule in a season flipped the other 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 present the Buckeyes that a lot to work with forward of a nationwide semifinal.
Ohio State had a 16-Zero lead in final 12 months’s semifinal on the Fiesta Bowl earlier than coughing it up in a 29-23 loss. That caught, even when the Massive 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 important group. As I mentioned, that had nothing to do with Ohio State. They had been ok 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 group that may match up expertise sensible 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 focused Fields on an 8-yard scramble with 5:57 left within the first half.
Fields did not simply play via it: He threw 4 of his Sugar Bowl-record six landing passes after the hit. Fields hit Chris Olave and Jeremy Ruckert for purple 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 do this: In final 12 months’s CFP championship sport, LSU’s Joe Burrow torched Clemson for 463 passing yards, 58 dashing yards and 6 complete touchdowns. Fields completed with 385 passing yards, 42 dashing yards and 6 TDs.
It was extra than simply Fields. Trey Sermon completed with 193 dashing yards on the heels of a 331-yard sport within the Massive 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 saved the strain on Lawrence within the second half.
It was an entire domination that allowed the Buckeyes to take pleasure in that “11” label. Swinney, who joked earlier within the week that he “might run for governor of Michigan” used the identical technique the Wolverines did in 2018 in the course of the self-proclaimed “Revenge Tour.” The Buckeyes beat Michigan 62-39.
The whole Ohio State program operates on a better stage when dealt the disrespect card. The whole state thrives on that “Ohio vs. the World” mantra. Whereas overdone in terms of the remainder of the Massive Ten, which Ohio State gained the final 4 years, it nonetheless applies on the nationwide stage.
Jim Tressel used it to steer Ohio State to a nationwide title in a 31-24 victory towards No. 1 Miami within the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. Meyer wielded it within the first Playoff, in 2014, when the Buckeyes slid into the No. four spot earlier than upsetting No. 1 Alabama 42-35. That led to a 42-20 victory towards No. 2 Oregon within the CFP championship sport.
Friday was the primary time Day bought to make use of it, and Fields was his ace.
“I believe this efficiency by not solely Justin however this complete group will go down in Ohio State historical past as a landmark sport,” Day mentioned. “We wish to go on and win the nationwide championship, however there have been a whole lot of powerful days over the six final months.”
The hardest problem lies forward. Alabama coach Nick Saban will not 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.four factors per sport.
It provides as much as what could possibly be the most effective sport of the Playoff period since these two groups met the primary time round — one which carries extra weight than something Alabama-Clemson might supply. A couple of area of the nation is concerned this time, and Massive 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 important sport and go win all of it.'”
Possibly No. 11 could be No. 1 in any case.