To start the new year on Friday, are any college football fans up for a little deja vu? No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State will meet in a College Football Playoff semifinal for the second time in as many years and the third time in the seven-year history of the tournament. The first meeting came during the 2016 season when Clemson beat the Buckeyes 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl.
For Ohio State, it's a chance at redemption as the Buckeyes look to avenge the loss in last year's semifinals to the Tigers. Ohio State led 16-0 in the first half before Clemson stormed back to win 29-23. The Buckeyes are looking to advance to their first national title game since the 2014 season.
For Clemson, a win over the Buckeyes would mean a fifth CFP National Championship Game in six years. It's been an amazing run for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers and has come with expectations of not only winning on Saturday night, but dominating. Can the Tigers pull off the feat and head to Miami for the title game or will the Buckeyes pull the upset and get revenge for last season? Let's take a closer look at the storylines to follow for this semifinal matchup.
Clemson: The Clemson program has reached a point where you almost feel like you can ignore it during the regular season because you know it's going to win the ACC and make the College Football Playoff. Well, there was a little bit of doubt this year due to Notre Dame's presence in the conference, but even when the Fighting Irish beat Clemson 47-40, you still thought they would have to do it a second time. That meeting went much better for the Tigers as they beat the Irish 34-10 with Trevor Lawrence back behind center. Now they're back in the College Football Playoff for the sixth time (tied with Alabama for the most appearances) in its seven-year history and are looking to win their seventh playoff game. Doing so would put the Tigers in the title game for the fifth time.
Ohio State: It was a strange season for Ohio State, even by the strange standards of college football in 2020 as a whole. First, the Buckeyes had their season postponed by the Big Ten, only for the conference to do a 180 on the decision. Then after getting off to a hot start, the Buckeyes season was delayed again when their game against Maryland was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns with the Terrapins. They came back and struggled against a top 10 Indiana team but won. The next week their game against Illinois was canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak on the Buckeyes. Again they'd return for a game -- a 52-12 blowout of Michigan State -- before the regular-season finale against Michigan was canceled due to COVID-19. It was a stop and start season that made it difficult for the Buckeyes to get into a rhythm. Now they enter the playoff having played only six games and facing a Clemson team that's been a pain in their rear.
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Game: Sugar Bowl -- College Football Playoff semifinal
Date: Friday, Jan. 1 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome -- New Orleans
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Sugar Bowl prediction, picks
I'm not sure why Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has been so willing to provide Ohio State with bulletin board material the last few weeks, but he's not shy about it. Swinney is adamant about his belief that Ohio State shouldn't have been selected for the College Football Playoff because it only played six games. Now, we all know that if had it been Clemson who had been limited to only six games, Swinney would not be arguing his team didn't belong. Still, it doesn't mean he's wrong. It is advantageous for the Buckeyes to only have to play six games, but I don't think it's enough of an advantage that they win this game. When Clemson has Lawrence, it has looked like the juggernaut we all expected it to be. Ohio State looked terrific in its first three games but has been inconsistent since with Justin Fields especially struggling to find his confidence. Unless Fields reverts to his elite form, it's hard to imagine the Buckeyes keeping this game within a touchdown. Pick: Clemson -7.5 | Clemson 31, Ohio State 21
So who wins Clemson vs. Ohio State? And which side of the spread is hitting in over 50% of simulations? Visit SportsLine right now to see which side of the Ohio State vs. Clemson spread you need to jump on, all from the computer model that has crushed its college football picks, and find out.