Countdown to Kickoff: Fiesta Bowl

Countdown to Kickoff: Fiesta Bowl

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Countdown to Kickoff: Fiesta Bowl

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No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 2 Ohio State

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In one of the most anticipated games of the College Football Playoff era, No. 3 Clemson plays No. 2 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl Saturday with a trip to the national championship game on the line.

The winner will play the winner of the Peach Bowl in Atlanta between LSU and Oklahoma, which will be played earlier in the day.

Game Information

Where: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

Records: Clemson 13-0, 8-0 ACC; Ohio State 13-0, 8-0 Big Ten

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

TV: ESPN (Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Maria Taylor and Tom Rinaldi)

Radio: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Brad Scott, Reggie Merriweather)

Latest Line: Clemson minus-2 points

Series History

  • OVERALL: Clemson leads series, 3-0
  • HOME: NA
  • ROAD: NA
  • NEUTRAL: 3-0
  • LAST MEETING: Dec. 31, 2016 (31-0, Clemson)
  • STREAK: Clemson, Won 3

Three story lines

Clemson enters its fifth consecutive College Football Playoff in search of the program’s fourth national championship and with hopes of becoming the first repeat national champion in the CFP era. The Tigers would become the first back-to-back champion since Alabama’s consecutive titles in BCS National Championship Games in 2011-12. The title would be Clemson’s third in four years, which would place the Tigers with the 2009-12 Alabama Crimson Tide and 1994-97 Nebraska Cornhuskers as the only FBS programs in the AP poll era to accomplish the feat.

Clemson bulldozed its way through the majority of its 2019 campaign, posting a 13-0 record for only the third time in school history (2015, 2018 and 2019). Clemson has outscored its opponents, 605-138, an average margin of 35.9 points per game, outpacing the school record of 35.3 established by Coach John Heisman’s squad in Clemson’s fifth year of football in 1900. Along the way, Clemson has collected a national-best 11 wins against Power Five opponents, and even with the inclusion of a one-point conference road win in September, Clemson won those 11 games against Power Five opponents by an average of 34.5 points.

Though Ohio State enters the Fiesta Bowl with 924 all-time victories, second-most in FBS history, the Buckeyes remain winless in three all-time meetings with Clemson. All three previous matchups have come in postseason play, including the 1978 Gator Bowl, 2014 Orange Bowl and 2016 Fiesta Bowl. This year’s contest will be a rematch of the teams’ most recent meeting in 2016 in Clemson’s only previous Fiesta Bowl appearance. Every meeting between the two programs has come with both squads ranked the top 20 in the AP Poll. This will mark the second straight time that the teams will meet with both squads in the top three.

Ohio State’s three players to watch

Justin Fields, QB: Fields was a Heisman Trophy Finalist after he accounted for 50 touchdowns this season. He has thrown just one interception this year to go along with 40 touchdown passes. He has completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 2,953 yards. He is averaging 227.2 yards through the air. He has rushed for 471 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. He has also lost nine fumbles.

J.K. Dobbins, RB: Dobbins was a finalist for the Doak Walker Award after rushing for 1,829 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also has 17 catches for 200 yards and two more scores. He is averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

Chase Young, DE: Young was a Heisman Finalist and won every defensive end and national defensive player of the year award. He led the nation with 16.5 sacks and finished third in tackles for loss with 21. He also has forced six fumbles and has 44 tackles overall, including 31 solo tackles.

Prediction:

I have gone back and forth with this pick all week. I see areas where the Buckeyes can exploit Clemson on offense and defense, especially at the line of scrimmage. However, Ohio State has not seen the level of team speed of Clemson’s caliber anywhere in the Big Ten. The bases of my pick comes off the matchup where I think the Tigers can win and win often. Though the Buckeyes are extremely talented at the corner positions, their weakness on defense lies with their safeties where Clemson will have an opportunity to make plays with Tee Higgins, Justin Ross and Amari Rodgers.

Score prediction: Clemson 37, Ohio State 33

–Clemson’s Athletic Communication department contributed to this story

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