When Clemson beat Ohio State in last year’s College Football Playoff, Bryan Bresee was back at his home in Damascus, Md., watching the game with his friends.
“It was definitely a game you could not take your eyes off the TV for,” the Clemson defensive tackle said.
After falling behind 16-0, the Tigers rallied to outscore the Buckeyes 29-7 over the final 37 minutes of the game for a 29-23 come-from-behind victory, advancing them to a fourth national championship game appearance in five years.
Clemson (10-1) is again one win away from playing for another national championship and for the third time in the College Football Playoff era, it is the Buckeyes who stand in its way, as the second-ranked Tigers play No. 3 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day in New Orleans.
“Ohio State is a good team,” Bresee said. “It is going to be a tough challenge, just like any game that we have had. As long as we prepare the right way and do everything that we need to, we should be alright.”
Linebacker Baylon Spector remembers last year’s Fiesta Bowl well. It was the coming out party for the Clemson backer, as he showed the football world what he is capable of doing in a big game. He had two sacks in the game and was constant wrecking ball in the Buckeyes’ backfield.
But that was last year. Justin Fields is back at quarterback for Ohio State, but they have a new running back and an offense that still seems to be trying to find its identity.
The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in points, rushing yards, and total yards, averaging 42.5 points, 275.7 rushing yards and 529.2 total yards per game. However, the passing game is fifth, at a modest 253.5 yards.
OSU does lead the conference in third down conversions, though, converting on 51.3 percent of their opportunities.
Fields is completing 72.6 percent of his passes for 1,521 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. He is averaging 9.3 yards per attempt.
Running back Trey Sermon leads the Buckeyes on the ground, and leads the Big Ten, with 112.5 yards per game. However, 331 of his 675 yards came against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game.
“They bring a ton to the table,” Spector said. “They run the ball really well. They are a great team. Justin Fields is a very unique player. He brings a lot to the table. He brings the running game, so you have to contain him.”
Ohio State (6-0) will likely get the services of wide receiver Chris Olave back after he missed the Northwestern game due to COVID. Olave is second on the team with 36 catches for 528 yards and five touchdowns, while averaging 14.7 yards per catch.
Garrett Wilson leads the team with 38 catches for 621 yards and five touchdowns. He is averaging 16.3 yards per catch. No one after Wilson and Olave has caught more than nine passes for the Buckeyes.
“Their wideouts are really good and unique,” Spector said. “Look, these guys have been on this stage, too. They know what it is like.”
And if it is like last year’s game, it should be another great game.
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