Over the final portion of the regular season, there was a race between LSU and Ohio State to get the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. It wasn't to get top overall billing in and of itself. The main reason they both wanted to be on top of the final ranking is that they would avoid playing the Clemson Tigers in the first round.
As it turned out, Ohio State drew the short straw. Here's why it will not end well for the Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 28 in State Farm Stadium out in Glendale, Ariz.
5 Reasons Why Clemson Will Win the Fiesta Bowl
1. Ability to protect Trevor Lawrence
Led by Chase Young, Ohio State leads the nation with 51 sacks. But Clemson has done an outstanding job of protecting the quarterback this year, allowing just one sack per game, good for fifth nationally. If you give Lawrence time to throw, especially considering the roll he has been on since the Louisville game, the Tigers will score a lot of points. Jack Coan had a big first half for Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game against Ohio State and Michigan's Shea Patterson threw for 305 yards in the Buckeyes' regular-season finale. Their passing attacks are nothing like the one featured by Clemson and a clean Lawrence will put up big numbers.
2. Balance with Travis Etienne
It's not just Trevor Lawrence and his receivers that make the Clemson offense explosive. Etienne had an incredible second half of the season, averaging more than seven yards per rushing attempt in six of his last eight games. On the season, his 8.2 yards per carry average leads the nation. As a result, Clemson actually ranked higher in rushing yardage (10th) than they did in passing production (20th). Ohio State played three tough teams down the stretch in Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. But none of them have Clemson's big-play offensive balance.
3. Slowing down J.K. Dobbins
With all due respect to Heisman finalist Justin Fields, the first thing Clemson has to do defensively is control the Buckeyes' star running back. In the three big wins to end the season, Dobbins went for 157, 211, and 172 rushing yards. But the Clemson defense has been very stingy against the run as of late. In the past six games, no team has gone over 150 yards on the ground with FCS opponent Wofford and their option attack leading the way with 139. Also, Florida State was the last team to average better than four yards per carry against the Tigers and in that game, a 40-yard touchdown run in the final minutes of a 45-7 game skewed the number. The nation's No. 9 rush defense will be ready for Dobbins.
4. Clemson has the nation's top pass defense
Ohio State must be able to run the ball because Clemson's pass defense is special. The Tigers lead the nation in fewest passing yards allowed per game as well as opponent's completion percentage, yards per attempt, and quarterback rating. Fields has quality receivers in Chris Olave, K.J. Hill, and Binjimen Victor, but they are not necessarily the strength of the unit. An Ohio State offense that has to throw plays right into Clemson's hands.
5. Dabo Swinney again has his team peaking at the right time
It's like we've seen this movie several times. Clemson wins its early-season games but perhaps not as comfortably as many expect. Somewhere in the middle of the year, there's a scare. Sometimes, the scare even results in a loss. That test serves as a wakeup call for the Tigers, who then go to another level the rest of the year. Well, it happened again this year. The Clemson head coach has his team prepared once again and this time with the added chip of dropping two spots in the polls despite blowing out every opponent save that one at the end of September.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.