For the first time since the 2016 season, the Ohio State Buckeyes are participating in the College Football Playoff. At 13-0, champions of the Big Ten, and the No. 2 seed in the playoff, Ohio State has to be considered the favorite for its semifinal matchup, right?
Standing directly in the path of Ohio State's national championship dreams are the Clemson Tigers. Clemson, the defending national champions, also are undefeated and are considered a slight favorite over the Buckeyes (2.5 points) just a few days before their Dec. 28 showdown in the Fiesta Bowl out in Glendale, Ariz. Also factoring into this game? Clemson has won all three times the teams have played, the most recent being a 31-0 victory over the Buckeyes in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, which also was played in Glendale (then University of Phoenix Stadium, now State Farm Stadium) and was a playoff semifinal.
Even with the oddsmakers and history against them, Ohio State is coming into this game well-prepared and capable of beating Clemson.
5 Reasons Why Ohio State Will Win the Fiesta Bowl
1. These are not the 2016 Ohio State Buckeyes
As cliche as that may sound, it is something that needs to be brought up for all of the doubters and naysayers. The 2016 Ohio State team that came into the College Football Playoff were not even winners of the Big Ten and featured J.T. Barrett at quarterback. While Barrett was a great quarterback for the Buckeyes, his skills as a passer were not nearly at the level of current Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields. Fields is not only a threat with his legs, but he also can accurately and decisively sling the ball all over the field, something Barrett was not nearly as capable of doing.
2. Ohio State's defensive line
By now, the entire college football world is well aware of Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young, and rightfully so. Young is arguably the best defensive player in college football, and Clemson will no doubt double- or triple-team Young in this game. While focusing on Young, it may help free up teammates such as Davon Hamilton, Jashon Cornell, and Robert Landers so they can make plays. Hamilton, Cornell, and Landers are all underrated pass rushers as interior linemen and may be able to win one-on-one matchups against Clemson's offensive line or other blockers.
3. Ohio State's coaching staff
Give credit to Ryan Day and his assistants for making necessary adjustments at halftime or during games throughout this season. Against Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Ohio State had defensive challenges that were causing angst and worry among Buckeye fans, but the coaches and players quickly regrouped and were able to clamp down on what was previously working against them. Clemson is going to get yards and points, but the defensive coaching staff may be able to figure out ways to frustrate and confuse Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
4. Has Clemson truly been tested?
Everyone points to the one-point escape at North Carolina by Clemson, but the reality is the Tigers have largely been blowing teams out throughout the season. Those easy wins, combined with the 2016 rout of the Buckeyes, may lead to some overconfidence by the defending national champions in this one. Conversely, Ohio State has been challenged over the latter portion of the season and will be ready for whatever the Tigers may throw at them.
5. Ohio State is going with the gray on the jersey sleeves
Say what you want, but Ohio State is going back with a throwback look that pays homage to the 1968 national championship-winning team. They also are similar to what the Buckeyes wore when they beat Oregon 42-20 in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Jan. 12, 2015. Call it superstition, but the Buckeyes are calling upon some powerful mojo that seems to have worked for them over the years.