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Last Updated: December 28, 2020

Preview of College Football Playoff Semifinal Sugar Bowl: Clemson vs. Ohio State

Introduction

The 2020 – 2021 NCAA College Football Playoff Semifinals kick off on New Year’s Day when the number 2 ranked Clemson University Tigers face off against the number 3 ranked Ohio State University Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl. The winner of this game will advance to the 2020 – 2021 NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship game, and they will play the winner of the other CFP Semifinal match up between the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Miami on Monday, January 11th, 2021.

Contextual Details of the Sugar Bowl

The 2020 – 2021 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Sugar Bowl game is presented by Allstate. The much anticipated gridiron battle will take place on Friday, January 1st, 2021 at 8:00 ET. This contest between the Clemson Tigers (#2) and the Ohio State Buckeyes (#3) will take place from the Mercedes – Benz Superdome located in New Orleans, Louisiana which is the home of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints. The game will be nationally televised by ESPN, or it can be streamed through the ESPN App.

Analysis and Breakdown of the 2020 – 2021 Sugar Bowl

The 2020 – 2021 Sugar Bowl is actually a rematch from last season’s 2019 – 2020 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Playstation Fiesta Bowl which was a highly entertaining and exciting battle between the Clemson Tigers and the Ohio State Buckeyes. In that match up last year the Ohio State Buckeyes went up big early as they led 16 to 0 at one point in the game, but that was all for nothing as the Tiger’s quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, rallied Clemson back from that large deficit.

Lawrence threw a bullet resulting in a 34 yard touchdown pass to Travis Etienne with only 1:49 left to go in the contest. The Ohio State Buckeyes did have a last minute chance to win the game, but that opportunity was spoiled when the Clemson safety, Nolan Turner, intercepted the Buckeye’s quarterback Justin Fields' pass in the end zone with 37 seconds remaining. Following this Fiesta Bowl game, Ohio State's Chris Olave admitted that he broke off the route as he thought that Fields was going to scramble. This was the Ohio State Buckeyes first loss under their new head coach, Ryan Day.

Due to the fact that the Big Ten Conference decided to wait until the tail end of October to begin their season because of the Covid – 19 pandemic issues, the Ohio State Buckeyes only played a total of six games. Three of their scheduled 9 games were also cancelled for reasons linked to the threat of the coronavirus. The Clemson Tigers have played close to twice as many games, and their only loss came when they faced the # 4 ranked Notre Dame without the Clemson Tigers’ best player in Trevor Lawrence as he was sidelined due to him testing positive for Covid – 19.

Lawrence and his opposing quarterback of the Ohio State Buckeyes, Justin Fields, are currently the top two quarterbacks available to be selected in the 2021 NFL draft according to the college football analysts at ESPN. Look for Lawrence to most likely go as the first QB taken in the 2021 NFL draft followed shortly after by Fields.

The Clemson Tigers superstar starting quarterback in Lawrence began his college football career by winning his first 25 starts. He has now compiled an overall record of 34 wins and 1 loss which came against the amazing LSU Tigers led by Joe Burrow during last year’s College Football Playoff National Championship game where LSU won with a huge margin of victory. Trevor has completed 69.2 % of his pass attempts while throwing 22 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions at this point. Look for Lawrence to tear up the Ohio State Buckeyes secondary in this year’s Sugar Bowl as OSU’s secondary ranked dead last in pass defense in the Big Ten throughout their shortened 2020 – 2021 NCAA college football season.

The starting signal caller for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Fields, will have to play extremely well on New Year’s Day for his team to advance to the National Championship game which will be played at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on Monday, January 11th, 2021 at 8:00 pm ET. Justin previously transferred from the University of Georgia to OSU, and in last season’s Fiesta Bowl against the Clemson Tigers he completed 30 of his 46 pass attempts for 320 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, Fields tossed up two interceptions in the second half on that contest which allowed for Clemson to come back and win the huge CFP semifinal game.

Both of the two times that Fields has faced a solid defense this season he did not play particularly well. He gave up three interceptions in Ohio State’s 42 to 35 win over the Indiana Hoosiers, and against the Northwestern Wildcats in last week’s Big Ten championship game Fields went 12 for 27 for only 114 yards and two interceptions even though OSU won the game 22 to 10. Currently Justin is 4th in the FBS in completion percentage, and he leads the Big 10 conference in quarterback rating.

Look for the Clemson Tiger’s young yet explosive pass rushing defensive line to compete strongly against the outstanding and big Ohio State Buckeyes’ offensive line. If Clemson’s defensive pass rush can get to Fields causing chaos and or turnovers it may be detrimental to the Ohio State Buckeye’s chances of advancing to the National Championship game.

One question that is still up in the air at the moment is if the Ohio State Buckeyes will be without their leading wide receiver in Chris Olave, their linebacker Baron Browning, their punter in Drue Chrisman, and others that were unavailable to play in last week’s Big Ten championship game. Hopefully OSU will have all of their top players clear the Covid – 19 protocol in order to participate in this season’s Sugar Bowl on the 1st of January, 2021.

Odds to Win the NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship Game

According to Intertops Sportsbook as of 12/25/2020 these are the odds to win the 2020 – 2021 NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship Game:

  • Alabama -167
  • Clemson +225
  • Ohio State +500
  • Notre Dame +2500

Predictions

In the 2020 – 2021 Rose Bowl I have a very strong feeling that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are going to be way overmatched and outcoached resulting in a heavy win for the Alabama Crimson Tide. In the 2020 – 2021 Sugar Bowl I believe the Clemson Tigers led by their dynamic star quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, will squeak by the Ohio State Buckeyes in a close one. This would once again pair up the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Clemson Tigers in the 2020 – 2021 NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship game, and in that match up I would have to take Alabama. Roll Tide!

Top Teams Left Out of the College Football Playoffs

  • The Texas A & M Aggies (8 – 1)
  • The Oklahoma Sooners (8 – 2)
  • The Cincinnati Bearcats (9 – 0)
  • The Indiana Hoosiers (6 – 1)
  • The Florida Gators (8 – 3)
  • The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (11 – 0)
  • The Georgia Bulldogs (7 – 2)

Media Statements

As it is stated in the protocol, "The committee's task will be to select the best teams."

According to the College Football Playoff selection committee, "Wins by each team is certainly important in weighing its ranking, but it is not the only factor."

"Seven straight SEC wins," the head coach of the Texas A & M Aggies, Jimbo Fisher, emphasized. "Some schools ain't even playing seven games."

"I still believe [we're a top-four team]," Fisher proclaimed. "But that's my opinion on it and I'm very biased, and other people have other opinions, and that's what makes the world go 'round."

Kellen Mond tweeted:

K M o n d

@TheKellenMond

“Texas A&M has no quality wins.”

“All of these SEC teams that are “MEDIOCRE” in the media’s eyes would run the table in some of these other leagues. Only a few teams out of the SEC can really play in the SEC.”

11:36 AM · Dec 20, 2020 from College Station, TX

"We knew that that was going to be a problem, and we were addressing it along the way," the College Football Playoff chairman, Gary Barta, explained. "But in the end, there was not dissension in the room about naming Ohio State in that third spot."

"That was the big thing about this season: The people who played 10 and 11 games had to survive the grind," the head coach of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide, Nick Saban, exclaimed. "And the grind of this season was a whole lot different than any other season. That's why I thought those teams should be rewarded.

"But I think Ohio State has a great team, and they probably deserved to be in the playoff as well based on the quality of team that they have."

"We're much better prepared than we were in 2012 in terms of the physicality on both lines," says the head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Brian Kelly. "I think we have the ability to move the football, certainly. ... We've been humbled about the way we play, and this team has always come back with a resilience and an edge about them, and they will against Alabama."

"The margin for error is tiny when you play a team like Clemson," the Ohio State Buckeyes head coach, Ryan Day, pointed out. "So we have to learn from what happened last year and win all those 50-50 plays. We have to do a great job in all three phases. We've got to do a great job in the red zone. We've got to do a great job on third down. We have to do all those things that matter in big games, and if we do that, it will give us our best chance."

Sources:

“College Football Playoff 2020: Semifinal matchups, rankings, key dates, TV listings and analysis”, espn.com, December 20, 2020.

“College Football Playoff preview: Keys to Alabama-Notre Dame, Clemson-Ohio State”, Mark Schlabach, espn.com, December 20, 2020.

“Alabama Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers, Ohio State Buckeyes, Notre Dame Fighting Irish to play in CFP semifinals”, Alex Scarborough, espn.com, December 20, 2020.

“Clemson Tigers School History”, sports-reference.com, December 25, 2020.

“Ohio State Buckeyes School History”,sports-reference.com, December 25, 2020.

“Clemson Tigers – Stats”, cbssports.com, December 25, 2020.

“Ohio State Buckeyes – Stats”, cbssports.com, December 25, 2020.


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