Buckeyes look to break losing habits against Tigers in Sugar Bowl

LEFT: Quarterback Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Clemson Tigers runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium on December 19, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

If the 2021 Sugar Bowl has a feeling of déjà vu to it, there’s a good reason why.

Both Clemson and Ohio State walked this road 12 months ago, meeting in the Fiesta BowI national semifinal of the College Football Playoff. The Tigers won a classic 29-23 game that night in the desert to head back to the national title game.

This year, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will be the site of this CFP semifinal contest on Friday night (8:45 p.m., ESPN). The winner moves on to face the winner of the Alabama-Notre Dame contest in the national championship game on January 11 in Miami.

The Buckeyes are looking to prove they belong in this game after Clemson head coach Dabo Sweeney among others questioned their ranking, in large part due to a schedule of just six games this year caused by the Big Ten’s late start after Coronavirus fears. The Buckeyes will also be looking to exact a certain amount of revenge after they fell just short a year ago against these same Tigers.

For Clemson, the only objective remains a third national title and a fifth finals appearance over the last six seasons. If they do, they’ll have to step up defensively against a potent Buckeyes attack.

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The sports betting information

On FOXBet.com Sportsbook, the Tigers are 7 1/2-point favorites with a money line of -300. (A $300 bet would pay out $100.) The Buckeyes are +245 (a $100 bet pays $245) with the over-under of 67 which indicates a high scoring affair.

Against the number over the past five semifinals the Tigers are 4-1 against the spread. That said, the Tigers are just 5-6 this year ATS and have been favored every time they have walked on the field. The Buckeyes will be an underdog for only the ninth time since 2012.  They are 8-1 in those game with the lone loss coming last year against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

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The history

Clemson has won all four games in this series history, the last two being in the College Football Playoffs. In the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, the underdog Tigers went out and blew out the Buckeyes by a 31-0 score behind DeShaun Watson.

The storylines to watch

The Buckeyes have not faced an offense as potent as the Tigers this season and will need to find a way to keep junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence in check. Lawrence is the prohibitive favorite to be the top choice in this year’s NFL Draft for the Jacksonville Jaguars and for good reason. The Tigers’ lone loss came at Notre Dame with Lawrence sidelined due to COVID-19 19 protocol. Five weeks later in the ACC Championship game Lawrence threw for 322 yards and rushed for another 90 in a 34-10 win over the Irish.

On the Buckeyes side of the ball, quarterback Justin Fields will have to play much better than he did in the Big Ten Championship Game which the Buckeyes won 22-10 over Northwestern. Fields has struggled in Ohio State’s two biggest games- at home against Indiana and in the Big Ten title game against the Wildcats. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is seen as one of the nation’s best at that position and now has obviously watched the Buckeyes last game for any indications of weakness. The Buckeyes will need more than 22 points if they intend on making the championship game.

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