NCAA Football Sugar Bowl: Clemson/Ohio State Preview

by Big Al Staff

The second College Football Semifinals contest is a rematch from last season. Clemson rallied from a 16-0 first-half deficit to defeat Ohio State by a 29-23 score in the Fiesta Bowl on December 28th as a 2.5-point favorite with a total of 62. The Tigers would then lose in the National Championship Game to LSU by a 42-25 score.

Clemson won their first seven games before a showdown with Notre Dame in South Bend on November 7th. Playing without junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence who was out after testing positive for COVID, the Tigers played with true freshman D.J. Uigalelei at quarterback to lose in double-overtime, 47-40. Clemson rebounded to crush Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech by a combined 97-27 score before getting their opportunity for revenge against the Fighting Irish in the ACC Championship Game.

Lawrence was back for the rematch with the Irish, and he led the Tigers to a 34-10 victory in the ACC Championship Game as an 11.5-point favorite. He completed 25 of 36 passes for 322 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while adding another 90 rushing yards with a touchdown on the ground. The junior has completed 69.2% of his passes for 2753 yards this season with 22 touchdown passes and only four interceptions in nine games. He also ran for seven touchdowns.

Clemson is playing in their sixth straight College Football Playoff under head coach Dabo Swinney. The Tigers reached the National Championship Game in four of their five opportunities. This football team has lost only six times since 2015. Clemson scored 44.9 points-per-game, and they averaged 507.6 yards-per-game. Those numbers ranked third and tenth best in the nation. The Tigers held their opponents to 17.5 points-per-game along with 298.5 yards-per-game, 11th, and fifth-best in the country.

Ohio State thought they would not have the opportunity to reach the playoffs again this season when the Big Ten canceled their season because of COVID. When the conference reversed that decision, the Buckeyes won their first three games of the season before COVID caused the cancelation of their game with Maryland on November 4th. Ohio State will later see games with Illinois and Michigan canceled because of COVID issues with those opponents before they experienced their own outbreak before the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern on December 19th. The Buckeyes were without 22 players in that game, including top wide receiver Chris Glave and linebacker Baron Browning.

After trailing by a 10-6 halftime score, Ohio State rallied in the second half to defeat the Wildcats by a 22-10 score to place them in the College Football Playoffs. Running back Trey Sermon stepped up to rush for 331 yards to lead the Buckeyes to victory. His effort helped overcome an underwhelming perforce for junior quarterback Justin Fields who completed only 12 of 27 passes for 114 yards with two interceptions. Fields was without some of his favorite targets because of COVID, and there are reports that he suffered a thumb injury that may carry over into this game.

Fields completed 72.6% of his passes this season for 1521 yards with 15 touchdowns. He ran for another 274 yards with five touchdowns. Fields led an offense that averaged 6.1 yards-per-play to gain 516 yards against Clemson in their semifinals’ classic last year.

The initial Big Ten regulations required a 21-day quarantine for any of their players exposed to COVID. This requirement has since been reduced to allow the 22 Buckeyes who missed the Big Ten Championship Game to be eligible to play in this game. Clemson will be without safety Nolan Thomas for the first half of this game because of the targeting penalty he incurred against Notre Dame. Defensive lineman Xavier Thomas is questionable with an undisclosed injury. Tigers’ offensive coordinator Tony Elliott will not be on the field after he tested positive for COVID. Quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter will call the plays on offense.

BetAnySports lists Clemson as a 7-point favorite with the total set at 67.5. The game is at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. ESPN broadcasts the game with kickoff set for 8 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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