Football

Ranked 11th In Dabo Swinney’s Poll, These Buckeyes Got Sweet Revenge Against Clemson – And Will Now Play For A Title On The 11th

NEW ORLEANS – Me thinks the man named Dabo protested a bit too much by poking the bear, or rather a team of extremely motivated Buckeyes, just one time too many.

He had dissed them for weeks, both directly and indirectly. He claimed they were undeserving of a College Football Playoff berth because of their skinny resume’. He even ranked them way down at No.11.

Well, that team that wasn’t even in his top-10 on his coaches’ poll ballot just crushed his ACC champion Clemson Tigers in Friday night’s Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Talk about revenge from last year’s heart-breaking 29-23 loss in the Fiesta Bowl. This was revenge, retribution, payback and then some. This was a year and four days in the making.

And it came in emphatic fashion.

Such as, we will put an exclamation point after this score 49-28!

At one point, after falling behind 14-7, Ohio State scored 28 straight points. The Buckeyes had punted on their first possession and then … well, I will let Dabo explain it:

“They had five straight touchdown drives,” Swinney said. “Yep, they just kicked our butt … period.”

There’s more to it than that.

“Well, they were the better team and they earned it,” he added. “They were awesome. They just dominated the line of scrimmage.”

The Tigers’ defense couldn’t steal Ohio State’s offensive signs on this night, mainly because they didn’t have the time. The Buckeyes’ offense just went warped-speed, lightning fast, from getting whatever play was signaled until snapping the ball, which then usually led to a huge chunk of yardage, whether it was through the air or on the ground.

When it was all over, the Ohio State had rolled up 639 yards, the third-most Clemson had allowed in school history.

Quarterback Justin Fields was simply brilliant, playing through the pain of a shot to the ribs from the second quarter, completing 22-of-28 passes for 385 yards and a school-record six touchdowns for bowl games.

“Justin was incredible,” Day said. “He took a big shot and just kept battling.”

And now, the Buckeyes are no longer winless lifetime against Clemson, beating the Tigers so soundly after losing their previous four meetings, all in bowl games.

“We showed our character tonight,” Ryan Day said. “And we played our hearts out.”

Swinney would deny this, but I really think one thing is obvious in the aftermath of this beat-down. He was overconfident. And since his team feeds off his emotions so closely, his players probably were too. They remembered how they had rallied from that 16-0 deficit a year ago in the deficit and surely figured that 2019 Ohio State was much better than this one.

Ohio State, playing without running back Master Teague and left guard Harry Miller on offense, and defensive ends Zach Harrison and Tyler Friday because of the Big Ten’s Covid-19 protocol. They were down 16 players in all and there is no word on whether any of them will be eligible for the College Football Playoff championship game.

And many other teammates left this hard-hitting affair with serious bumps and bruises. Fields took a shot to the ribs by Clemson linebacker James Skalski in the second quarter that resulted in review-initiated targeting call that eliminated the leader of the Tigers’ defense from the game. Fields stayed down on the field for a long time and then gutted out the rest of the game in pain. All-American guard Wyatt Davis sustained a lower leg injury and limped off the field at one point. Trey Sermon, who rushed for 193 yards and one touchdown, also got banged up a bit.

But none of those injuries appear too serious, save for Fields’ tender ribs. He had entered the game with a bruised thumb on his throwing hand.

And how ironic it was, considering a targeting call on cornerback Shaun Wade against Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence turned the momentum a year ago. This time, the targeting call gave the Buckeyes’ a crucial first down and continued their momentum.

Now that 11th-ranked team on Swinney’s last ballot will head to Miami and a date with No. 1 Alabama on Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium.

“No, I don’t regret it,” Swinney said of his ballot. “I don’t regret any of that. Both teams were motivated to play. I said they were good enough to beat us. And they did. We wanted it to end in Miami and to ride off into the sunset there, but it wasn’t to be.”

Riding off into the sunset of this crazy 2020 season will be left up to either the Crimson Tide or the Buckeyes.

There now will be 10 days of many more questions. Will Fields’ ribs heal enough for him to be able to play 100 percent? Can this Buckeyes’ team which has played only seven games be able to keep up with the juggernaut Crimson Tide? And will Nick Saban pitch a fit that his team actually has to face a seven-win team for the right to win a national championship?

If you have not noticed, the Buckeyes don’t care much for these questions. They just have to answer this one, “Where are they right now?”

Still playing for one.

And one win away from history for another.

And they just couldn’t care less who complains about it.

[Editor’s Note: Jeff Snook, a 1982 graduate from the Ohio State School of Journalism, has written 14 books on college football.]

[Photo courtesy of FOX College Football Twitter]

One Response

  1. Like your writing style! Thanks and I agree that Clemson was overconfident. That monkey feels so good coming off of our collective backs. Go Bucks!

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