The last time the Ohio State Buckeyes played the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff it was just last year in Tempe, where the Tigers won a thrilling game, 29-23, to advance to the national championship game at the Super Dome in New Orleans.

The time before that when the Bucks and Tigers met in the College Football Playoff the year was 2016, and Ohio State took a shellacking. Clemson administered an embarrassing 31-0 defeat in the very same Fiesta Bowl. It was a matchup in which Ohio State could hardly do anything right, while Clemson seemingly did whatever it wanted until Dabo called off the dogs, or big cats, and let the clock run out. Clemson went on to beat Alabama, 35-31, in the title game. 

These two powerful programs are now set to rematch again in this year’s playoff, this time in the venerable Sugar Bowl down in New Orleans on New Years Day. 

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The Buckeyes are 6-0 this year but have missed three games as a result of Covid-19 protocols. They have been dominant in their victories but at times have shown defensive holes, particularly in the passing game. The Buckeyes have a Heisman Trophy candidate in Justin Fields at quarterback, and a powerful running attack, led most recently by Trey Sermon in the Big Ten Championship game, where he rushed for 331 yards and two touchdowns.

Clemson is 11-1 with a loss at Notre Dame in a game where their Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, was forced to sit out alongside a group of dominant starters as a result of Covid-19 protocols. While the Tigers lost in overtime in South Bend, they avenged the defeat yesterday in dominating fashion, clobbering the Irish 34-10 in the ACC Championship game from Charlotte. 

Clemson will enter this year’s Sugar Bowl the CFP’s number two ranked team, while Ohio State enters in the third spot. The point spread promises to be tight for two teams with remarkably similar statistical production and co-equal track records of regular season dominance. 

Historically, the Tigers have won all four matchups with Ohio State, beginning in the 1978 Gator Bowl when Buckeyes legendary head coach Woody Hayes choke-punched Clemson player Charlie Bauman along the sideline near the end of the game. The Tigers under Charley Pell won that game, 17-15.  Hayes’s infamous burst of rage effectively ended his 27-year run on the sideline in Columbus and sent the great coach out to pasture in ignominy. 

They won again, 40-35, in the 2014 BCS Orange Bowl, and followed it up with the two playoff victories. Now they’re set to play again in the 2020 CFP with a lot on the line. Clemson has the edge historically, but every season is another chance, and a new beginning.