370 days later, Ohio State gets another shot at Clemson.
All offseason long, reminders of Clemson’s 29-23 win over Ohio State in last year’s College Football Playoff semifinals were displayed within the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. From the moment Nolan Turner intercepted Justin Fields’ final pass to seal victory in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl between the Buckeyes and the Tigers, getting back to this season’s College Football Playoff and getting a shot at redemption against Clemson has been on the Buckeyes’ minds.
The Buckeyes did what they needed to do to earn that opportunity, winning all six of their games in a truncated regular season full of stops and starts and COVID-19 tests, and their chance for revenge against the Tigers – and to earn a berth in the national championship – will finally come on Friday night.
“This is the reason why everybody worked so hard during that offseason was to get to this opportunity,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “So now we’ve got to go make the best of it.”
Can Ohio State finally beat Clemson?
Ohio State’s previous struggles against the Tigers have been well-documented, as the Buckeyes have lost all four of their previous matchups against Clemson. Three of those losses have come in the last seven years, with the last two coming in the College Football Playoff, including a 31-0 rout by the Tigers in 2016.
As a result, Clemson has achieved a level of hatred in Columbus that only Michigan can rival, as many Buckeyes and their fans have had their sight set all year on beating the Tigers more than anything else. Dabo Swinney’s recent comments questioning whether the Buckeyes belong in this year’s playoff have further stoked the flames, but the hatred has already been simmering for years because of Clemson’s previous wins.
There’s no bigger monkey on Ohio State’s back right now than its winless history against Clemson, which will either make a win on Friday that much more special or a loss that much more heartbreaking.
“We’ve never beat Clemson, so we have to beat that team, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade said this week.
Can the Buckeyes play their best when they need it most?
Ohio State’s coaches and players haven’t been afraid to admit it: If the Buckeyes are going to beat Clemson on Friday, they have to play their best and most complete game of the season.
Fields, after an uncharacteristically poor performance in the Big Ten Championship Game, has to get back to being Justin Fields. Ohio State’s pass defense has to be much better than it was against Indiana, the last time it played a team with a good passing offense. In all phases, Ryan Day says, the Buckeyes need to bring their A-game to beat the best team they’ve played all year.
“I don’t think that we’ve, as a team, played our best game yet,” Day said. “So I think that’s the challenge, and we’re going to have to play that way tomorrow. But that’s everybody. It’s Justin. It’s the O-line. It’s the running backs. It’s the receivers. It’s the entire team.”