College Sports

Clemson will play Ohio State in first round of playoffs

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney (right) celebrates with quarterback Deshaun Watson after the Tigers beat Virginia Tech Saturday for the ACC championship.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney (right) celebrates with quarterback Deshaun Watson after the Tigers beat Virginia Tech Saturday for the ACC championship. AP

Second-seeded Clemson will play third seed Ohio State Dec. 31 in Glendale, Ariz., in one of two semifinals of the four-team College Football Playoffs.

The other semifinal matches top seed Alabama and fourth seed Washington in Atlanta. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. in Atlanta and 7 p.m. in Glendale.

The Tigers and Buckeyes last played in the 2014 Orange Bowl under these same coaches – Dabo Swinney for Clemson and Urban Meyer for Ohio State. The Tigers won that game 40-35.

The Tigers are 12-1 following Saturday night’s 42-35 victory over Virginia Tech in the ACC Football Championship Game in Orlando, Fla. The Tigers’ only loss was to Pittsburgh at home, 43-42, on a late-game field goal by the Panthers.

Clemson has one of the most talented offenses in the country. In addition to Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Tigers include wide receiver Mike Williams, running back Wayne Gallman and tight end Jordan Leggett. Each of those four players is elite on a national scale in college football.

Ohio State, 11-1, did not advance to the Big 10 championship game. The Buckeyes’ only loss is to Big 10 champ Penn State. The Buckeyes are coming off a 30-27 victory over arch rival Michigan.

This is Clemson’s second consecutive trip to the four-team playoff. The Tigers beat Oklahoma in a semifinal in South Florida and advanced undefeated into the national championship matchup with Alabama at University of Phoenix Stadium, the same facility for the Clemson-Ohio State semifinal.

The Crimson Tide edged Clemson 45-40 for the national championship. Months later, Alabama coach Nick Saban called Watson the best player in college football since Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton played for Auburn.

Alabama is 13-0 after crushing Florida Saturday in the SEC championship game, 54-16.

Washington 12-1, beat Colorado 41-10 in the Pac-12 title game in Santa Clara, Calif.

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell

College Football Playoffs

First round, Dec. 31

Peach Bowl (Atlanta): Washington (12-1, Pac-12) vs Alabama (13-0, SEC), 3 p.m.

Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Ariz.): Clemson (12-1, ACC) vs. Ohio State (11-1, Big Ten), 7 p.m.

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