College Football Playoffs: The Semi-Final in the Desert

Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl. Credit:

We are nearly 24 hours away and a collision course between the #2 and the #3 team in the nation. The battle in the desert will pit Ohio State against the reigning champion Clemson against each other with a championship game up for grabs.

This contest seems like must-watch tv and the stakes and pride are also up for grabs. For the Buckeyes, they are 0-3 all time versus Clemson with the two losses being fresh in the minds of Buckeyes fans across the nation.

The 2014 Orange Bowl ended in a Clemson comeback and the Buckeyes fell 40-35. In 2016 at the same venue in Glendale, the JT Barrett led team failed to score in a 31-0 shutout that hurt their credibility. The Big Ten has failed to score a single point in the last two appearances with the last time a point was scored, the Buckeyes won it all.

This is a game of matchups and the coaching should be the determining factor in the end, but the build-up has been quite one-sided. Every analysts and every talking head on sports outlets are giving the Buckeyes no shot to dethrone Clemson. ESPN has been killing the Buckeyes and FOX has went to bat for them, but opinions are only opinions. It is up to the Buckeyes to take care of business and shock the world once again.

I will be taking a look into the x-factors and matchups that make this game so exciting. There are many twists and turns, and there are many storylines that intertwine and make this matchup a great one.

Two former five-star quarterbacks, Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence. Credit: 10tv.COM

Battle of the Five Star Quarterbacks

The Quarterback is arguably one of the most important positions in football and both of these teams have studs at the position. Fields and Lawrence took high school rankings and excelled. Lawrence has stuck with Clemson and being one of the stars on the offense. Fields committed to Georgia, played sparingly and ended up developing into a star at Ohio State.

Their paths will cross once again with an appearance in the title game up for grabs. Lawrence has been off, but he has carved up teams even though he turns the ball over. Fields has been the focal point, but he has caught a few licks and he is somewhat hobbled for the contest against Clemson. 80-85% is low but I don’t think he will be running a ton, but you never know.

This matchup will come down to the coaching and the overall team mentality when dealing with turnovers and executing. Both barely turn the ball over, but the body language will tell the story by the end of the game tomorrow.

Clemson Offensive Line walking out to the field. Credit:

Trench Warfare

For the most part, Dabo Sweeney’s pitch of Urban Meyer retiring came to fruition. He was the top rated player in the state of Ohio and he slipped through and spurned the hometown team to play for the Clemson Tigers. Fast forward two seasons, fate seemed to play a part and it pitted the teams against each other.

This o-line has been stingy with sacks and through the regular season they have allowed 1 sack per game and they are tied for 5th in the nation. For comparison purposes, Ohio State is ranked 94th in the nation allowing 2.38 sacks per game. To be fair, the competition and caliber of defenses they have faced is questionable, but hey, stats are stats and they could use the numerous slights as an added edge to disrupt this offense.

The Buckeyes and Chase Young thrive on pressuring the quarterback and ruining offensive game plans and they are tied for best in the nation along with Pitt and SMU with 51 sacks through 12 games, averaging 3.92 per game. Clemson is 22nd in the nation with 37 and 2.85 per game. Whoever wins in the trenches will win this contest. I sense a motivated Buckeyes team, especially at the line of scrimmage. I could be wrong, but I can feel that crazy look in the players’ eyes.

Dobbins breaking through the Wolverine defense on a career day. Credit:

Underdog Mentality

Dobbins is third in the nation in rushing behind Chubba Hubbard of Oklahoma State and Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin and it seems like he is the third wheel in this contest. Building up to the game, he used the “most disrespected team in the nation” interview and he might go off like Zeke did in 2015. As I stated earlier, this game, the build up and the hype–it is eerily similar to the 2015 run with no one giving the Buckeyes a shot.

Channel after channel, analyst after analyst–same saying. “Clemson will defeat the Buckeyes with a minimum margin of 14 points–easily”. The Buckeyes as you know overcame a slow start and won it all that year. This team has the horses to do the same thing, but the balance cannot be understated.

The Dobbins and Fields combination has worked and he will be leaned upon heavily with Fields being dinged up with a knee injury. So expect a heavy dose of Dobbins and passing.

Ohio State DB’s celebrating a turnover. Credit:

Best In America

In what was one of the most head-scratching moments of the season, ESPN said to pick on Shaun Wade cause he is the weak man in the DB rotation. What?! A projected first round pick seems to get picked-on as the slot corner, but he also holds his own when called upon. His pops knows of the slander and I am positive that bulletin board material is posted, but that is just one out of the two starters who weren’t mentioned. The other, Damon Arnette is the enforcer in the DB room and he might feel some way after not even being mentioned. Okudah will also come with the juice because he will fight for his brothers. It’ll be a battle, but it will be a fun contest of wills.

Jordan Fuller will look to be the eraser with the Linebackers in between. The seams have been the a concern and with the new scheme, we have seen less splash plays at the beginning of the season, but they’ve been coming more frequently the last three games. Is that concern? Maybe or maybe not, but they will be ready. Freiermuth really had a decent game and his size and speed were a factor, but this group of receivers should be a good challenge. Five stars against five stars will be something great to watch.

Matchups To Watch

  • Fields vs Lawrence
  • The Trench Battle
  • Clemson WR’s vs Ohio State CB’s
  • Dobbins vs Etienne
  • Young vs Carman
  • Ohio State LB’s vs Clemson TE’s
  • Coach Day’s Lack of Experience vs Coach Sweeney’s Experience


I am honestly torn in this one. I want revenge, like 31-0 type of revenge, but I don’t know. The hype and the snubs won out in the end and I have a feeling Ohio State is the team peaking at the right time. The narratives and the disrespect will be the tipping point.

The Ohio State Buckeyes defeat the Clemson Tigers 45-35


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