The College Football Playoff era has already given us two semifinal matchups between the Clemson Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes. For a second year in a row, the two heavyweight programs will collide for a shot at the national title game when they meet in New Orleans on New Year’s Day.
How Clemson got to the Sugar Bowl
As most expected before the season began, Clemson cruised through the 2020 ACC schedule to take home their sixth consecutive league title and subsequently, sixth straight trip to the College Football Playoff.
The season wasn’t totally perfect for Dabo Swinney’s Tigers, as a positive COVID-19 diagnosis mid-season for star quarterback Trevor Lawrence forced him to miss the highly anticipated matchup with Notre Dame in South Bend. While backup freshman QB DJ Uiagalelei showed his potential as a future star for the Tigers, they ultimately fell 47-40 to the Fighting Irish in double overtime.
With a healthy Lawrence back on the field later in the month, the Tigers rolled through their final two regular season game against Pitt (52-17) and Virginia Tech (45-10) before ultimately blasting Notre Dame 34-10 in the rematch in the ACC title game.
How Ohio State got to the Sugar Bowl
While the sight of Ohio State participating in the College Football Playoff is normal, their inclusion in this particular one was a topic of controversy to the point where Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has publicly decried their inclusion.
This of course is due to the fact that the Buckeyes were only able to play six games through the 2020 season, a result of the combination the Big Ten’s abbreviated 2020 schedule due to COVID-19 and subsequent games being outright canceled due to, well, COVID-19.
OSU ran through Nebraska, Penn State and Rutgers to open the season before being tested by surprise team Indiana in a 42-35 nailbiter. They were able to get a 52-12 stomping of Michigan State in but not after multiple games, including their annual blood rivalry with Michigan, were canceled.
The Big Ten ultimately decided to relax qualifier rules to allow the Justin Fields-led squad to compete in the conference championship game, a contest that saw them struggle for three quarters against Northwestern but ultimately pull away for a 22-10 victory. They will now head into the Superdome looking to not only avenge last year’s semifinal loss Clemson, but prove they belong in this year’s field.