In the nightcap of the College Football Playoff double-dip, the 6-0 Ohio State Buckeyes from the Big Ten take on the 11-1 Clemson Tigers out of the ACC. The Allstate Sugar Bowl will emanate from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, with kickoff set for 8:00 pm EST. This is a rematch from last year's semifinal that saw Clemson come from behind to beat the Buckeyes thanks to a touchdown with under two minutes left in the Fiesta Bowl.
OHIO STATE OUTLOOK
Before the start of the regular season, Big Ten officials ruled that a team had to play a minimum of six games in order to qualify for the conference championship unless the average number of games played by every other team in the conference was five or less. Had that rule stuck, the Buckeyes wouldn't have competed for the Big Ten title and might have been shut out of this semifinal. However, the ruling was relaxed, allowing Ohio State to face and eventually beat, Northwestern to capture the conference crown.
Justin Fields will look to avenge that Fiesta Bowl loss from a year ago, a game in which he threw for 320 yards, but also two costly interceptions, one of which ended their hopes of advancing to the championship. OSU's shortened season did not cost them a spot in the final four this year but did affect Fields' chances at a Heisman Trophy. After many preseason projections, the junior finished 7th in the voting pegged him as a top two or three choice.
Clemson played a full slate of games during their regular season, but quarterback Trevor Lawrence missed two of them after testing positive for COVID-19 in October. The Tigers went 1-1 in his absence but avenged that loss to Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game to secure their spot in this Sugar Bowl. Lawrence did earn a nod as a top-4 finalist for the Heisman Trophy, but the award is expected to go to one of the two Alabama finalists. Lawrence will likely take solace next April when it's expected he'll be selected with the top overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Lawrence's pass to running back Travis Etienne put the Tigers ahead in the semifinal matchup with the Buckeyes last year, and Clemson will heavily rely on both this time around. A preseason Heisman candidate himself, Etienne finished fifth in the ACC in rushing, and his 13 touchdowns were tied for the second-most in the conference.
BETTING LINE AND PICK
Clemson is favored by 7.5 in the Sugar Bowl, with an over/under of 65.5. The experts predict a much closer matchup in this one as opposed to the Rose Bowl, where Alabama is favored by nearly three touchdowns. This will be the fifth time these teams have met and fourth during Dabo Swinney's career at Clemson; 7.5 points is the most either team has ever been favored in the matchup.
The Tigers have never lost to the Buckeyes in four meetings, going 3-0-1 ATS lifetime, but Ohio State is 14-3 ATS as an underdog since 2009, the best cover percentage during that span. Expect a tight battle that either team could pull out in the end.
Pick: Ohio State +7.5