APTOPIX Playoff Fiesta Bowl Football

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney celebrates after the team's Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifianl against Ohio State, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. Clemson won 31-0 to advance to the BCS championship game against Alabama.

The last time the Clemson Tigers met the Ohio State Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff semifinal it led to one of the most lopsided wins in the short history of the playoffs — a 31-0 shutout by the Tigers in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.

The two programs are set to meet again in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona, and the question is simple: Will the Tigers blank (or at least dominate) the Buckeyes again?

The last time the two programs met was in 2016. The Tiger roster featured names like Wayne Gallman, Jordan Leggett, Artavis Scott, Mike Williams and a quarterback named Deshaun Watson.

The Buckeyes, under former head coach Urban Meyer, had no answer for the offensive prowess or the defensive power of the Tigers. In fact, head coach Dabo Swinney told the media, "I watched a lot of film on the Buckeyes and I knew it wouldn't be close. I knew they hadn't faced a team like we had all season."

This season, the Buckeyes feature a dynamic offense, led by quarterback Justin Fields and running back J.K. Dobbins. And a defense led by dynamic defensive end Chase Young.

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In fact, both Fields and Young will be in New York on Saturday as finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

However, even after finishing the regular season at 13-0, defeating three ranked teams in a row to end the 2019 season, Ohio State still finds itself listed as the underdog in the matchup with the Tigers this season.

The Tigers have not played the type of schedule that the Buckeyes have faced, having only played one team currently ranked in the CFP rankings.

But, the Tigers are playing the best football of any team in the nation to end the season, have been dominant in record-setting fashion in their last seven games, and have the best quarterback, running back and wide receiver in the nation.

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Trevor Lawrence, since the second quarter of their game against Louisville, has amassed 20 touchdowns, no interceptions and is completing more than 70% of his passes. Running back Travis Etienne is the ACC's all-time leader in touchdowns, rushing touchdowns and is currently only .2 yards away from being the NCAA's all-time leader in yards-per-carry, and wide receiver Tee Higgins has emerged as the clear-cut No.1 wide receiver in the nation.

This defense is better than the one that held the Buckeyes scoreless in 2016, as they currently rank first in scoring defense, ninth in rush defense, first in pass defense and first in total defense.

While the Buckeyes will have their thoughts on revenge and proving they were slighted by the CFP committee - after they were dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 in their final rankings - the Tigers have been on a mission all season long.

That mission is 30-0. Anyone who has listened to Swinney talk the last 11 years knows that he is a proponent of not looking ahead, keeping a "windshield mentality" and treating each game as the biggest one of the season.

But this season, at numerous times, he has mentioned the idea of going 30-0, after last season's team became the first team in modern football history to go 15-0.

When the final whistle blows in the Arizona desert this season, one gets the sense that Swinney may be able to again say that the Buckeyes had not faced a team like Clemson.

And while the chants may not be "O-H-31-0" from Clemson fans this year, as they were in 2016, O-H-38-14 will still feel just as satisfying.

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Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia. He is editor of www.ClemsonMaven.io


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