Day excited for ‘big challenge’ against the defending champs
Ryan Day is getting ready to make his first appearance in the College Football Playoff in his first full season as Ohio State’s head coach, and his team’s opponent is the defending national champions.
The College Football Playoff announced today that the second-ranked Buckeyes (13-0) will face third-seeded Clemson (13-0) in the CFP semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl, which is set for 8 p.m. Dec. 28 in Glendale, Arizona, and will be televised by ESPN.
Day was a quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers when Ohio State was last in the playoff in 2016, when the Buckeyes were blanked by Clemson in a 31-0 defeat. The Tigers, of course, went on to beat Alabama in the national championship game that season.
“I just want to say what an honor it is for us to be going to the Fiesta Bowl, one of the most prestigious bowls in the entire country,” Day said during the Fiesta Bowl coaches teleconference Sunday. “The reputation precedes itself and we’re really excited about getting to Arizona.”
This is only the second game in the FBS this season where two of the top-three ranked teams will meet, the other being when then-No. 2 LSU won a shootout at No. 3 Alabama, 46-41, on Nov. 9.
For Dabo Swinney’s Clemson squad, this will mark its fifth straight appearance in the College Football Playoffs, which ties Alabama (five) for the most CFP berths in the CFP era (since 2014).
Since the aforementioned victory over Ohio State three years ago, the Tigers have gone 41-2 and won two national titles.
“I just want to say congratulations to Coach Swinney and Clemson for an unbelievable season,” Day said. “I have the utmost and we have the utmost respect for what they’ve done, not only winning national championships but then continuing that excellence. It’s very hard when you’re the top dog and everyone’s giving you their best shot to continue to do what they’ve done. So, nothing but again the utmost respect for those guys, and then looking forward to a big challenge because not only are they talented but they’re very well coached.
“But our team is excited about this challenge and we’re excited to have an opportunity to play in the playoffs and we’re working hard towards this goal. I thought we finished the season strong, especially the last three games, and we’re looking forward to preparing for this game and getting up to Arizona.”
When Day turns on the tape and scouts Clemson, he sees a team loaded with playmakers on both sides of the ball led by star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who is 24-0 as a starter and has 3,172 yards passing with 34 passing touchdowns and just eight interceptions this season.
The Tigers are No. 1 in the country in both scoring defense (10.6 points per game) and total defense (244.7 yards per game) while also ranking No. 4 nationally in scoring offense (4.65 points per game) and No. 3 in total offense (547.7 yards per game).
“First off you see a tremendous amount of talent,” Day said. “On the offensive side, Trevor Lawrence is as good of quarterback as there is in the country and he’s done it on the biggest stages, and obviously one of the winningest quarterbacks he’ll go down in the history of college football when it’s all said and done. (Travis) Etienne is as explosive running back as there in the country, and those receivers, Tee Higgins and (Justyn) Ross and those guys are just dynamic on the perimeter. They stress you out in a lot of different ways on offense. They do a great job of it and they’re sound, but they also stress you out and make you defend the entire field.
“And then defense, they’re very difficult to prepare for. Multiple fronts, multiple blitzes. I think Brent Venables does as good of job as anybody in the country. They’re very talented but schematically very sound, and again those guys play really hard.”
Although Ohio State has five top-25 wins on its resume, including three top-15 wins in the last three games over No. 10 Penn State, No. 14 Michigan and No. 8 Wisconsin, Day does not think his team’s experience in big games this season will be a factor against Clemson, which has also played in plenty of marquee matchups in recent memory.
“I think both teams have played in big games,” Day said. “You don’t go to Ohio State or Clemson without playing in big games. It’s just kind of how it goes. So, I don’t think the stage will be too big for either side, and our guys and certainly Clemson’s guys have played in this situation before. So, I don’t think that will factor in.”
Put some Clemson on your Christmas Tree this year. Clemson Christmas Decorations from Clemson Variety & Frame