College Football
Ohio State vs Clemson
When: 7:00 PM ET, Saturday, December 31, 2016
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona


1. Clemson and Ohio State will meet in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff when they square off Dec. 31 in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. Both teams have been selected for the four-team playoff for the second time in the three-year history. The Tigers reached the national championship game before suffering a 45-40 loss to Alabama last season, while the Buckeyes defeated the Crimson Tide and Oregon en route to the 2014 title.

2. Ohio State is the first team to be selected for the College Football Playoff without winning its conference championship. The Buckeyes missed out on the Big Ten title game thanks to a 24-21 midseason loss at Penn State, but they won their last five games of the regular season, including a double-overtime win over sixth-ranked Michigan. The Nittany Lions defeated Wisconsin 38-31 in the Big Ten championship game but finished at No. 5 in the playoff rankings.

3. For all the big-name offensive stars on both sides, the defenses could end up telling the story. Ohio State ranks in the top six nationally in passing defense, total defense and scoring defense, and the Buckeyes have piled up 19 interceptions – the fourth-most in the country – which bodes well against star Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has thrown 15 interceptions, though only two in the past three games. The Tigers boast a well-balanced unit that ranks ninth in total defense, a necessity against the Buckeyes’ powerful ground game.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Ohio State -3

ABOUT OHIO STATE (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten): The Buckeyes lean on one of the nation’s top running games, averaging 258.3 yards per game on the ground behind the trio of Mike Weber (1,072 yards, 9 TDs), Curtis Samuel (704 yards, 8 TDs) and quarterback J.T. Barrett (847 yards, 9 TDs). Barrett has done a solid imitation of his counterpart Watson, as he has passed for 2,428 yards with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions. The Buckeyes do a good job of pressuring the quarterback – Tyquan Lewis leads the way with 7 1/2 sacks and 10 tackles for loss – and they will need to make Watson uncomfortable to have success slowing down the Tigers.

ABOUT CLEMSON (12-1, 7-1 ACC): The Tigers are tough up front on both sides of the ball, which they hope will help them slow Ohio State’s ground game and force Barrett to try to beat them with his arm. Despite a strong offensive line, Clemson has been inconsistent in its ability to run the ball, though Wayne Gallman (1,002 yards, 15 TDs) has gotten on track late in the season and Watson could look to run more after staying in the pocket more often during the regular season. Watson has a number of capable targets, but the Buckeyes likely will try to lock down star Mike Williams (84 receptions, 1,171 yards, 10 TDs) and make the lesser-known receivers beat them.

PREDICTION: Ohio State 27, Clemson 24

Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W‑L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf Conf
Ohio State 11-1 W5 42.7 14.2 7-0 4-1 2-1 0-0 8-1
Clemson 12-1 W3 40.2 18.4 6-1 6-0 9-1 0-0 8-1
Last Meeting
Ohio State Clemson
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
1/3/14 CLEM 40 OSU 35 427 193 234 576 198 378
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Ohio State B. Miller 66.7 234 2 2
Clemson T. Boyd 77.5 378 5 2
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Ohio State C. Hyde 25 113 4.5 1
Clemson T. Boyd 20 127 6.4 1
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Ohio State P. Brown 8 116 14.5 0
Clemson S. Watkins 16 227 14.2 2
Touchdowns Player TD
Ohio State C. Hyde 2
Clemson M. Bryant 2
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Ohio State J. Barrett 61.8 2428 24 5
Clemson D. Watson 67.6 3914 37 15
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Ohio State M. Weber 177 1072 6.1 9
Clemson W. Gallman 196 1002 5.1 15
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Ohio State C. Samuel 65 822 12.6 7
Clemson M. Williams 84 1171 13.9 10
Touchdowns Player TD
Ohio State C. Samuel 15
Clemson W. Gallman 15
Quickchart Matchup
Ohio State Ohio State Off vs  Clemson Clemson Def
Ohio State 479.5 yards
Clemson 313.9 yards
Ohio State 5.5 yards/rush
Clemson 3.5 yards/rush
Ohio State 7.1 yards/attempt
Clemson 5.9 yards/attempt
Clemson Clemson Off vs  Ohio State Ohio State Def
Clemson 506 yards
Ohio State 286 yards
Clemson 4.5 yards/rush
Ohio State 3.4 yards/rush
Clemson 8.1 yards/attempt
Ohio State 5.4 yards/attempt