The second of the two CFP semifinals has the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes colliding with the No. 3 Clemson Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl. Both teams carry perfect 13-0 records into this game with Clemson pounding Virginia 62-17 in the ACC championship game, while Ohio State needed to overcome a 21-7 halftime deficit to beat Wisconsin 34-21 in the Big Ten championship game. The Tigers are a slight 2-point favorite with the total coming in at 63 points.
Fiesta Bowl Odds Analysis
It was a little surprising to see Clemson open as a 2-point favorite – and that number has remained the same – considering that Ohio State was the No. 1 team in the nation heading into the conference championships and was the favorite to win the national title. There has been a small buy on the total as it opened at 62.5 and climbed a half-point to 63.
Ohio State News & Notes
For the first time this season, the Buckeyes faced some adversity in the Big Ten championship game. Ohio State trailed Wisconsin 21-7 at halftime but outscored the Badgers 27-0 in the second half to claim a 34-21 victory. Due to that rough half and despite a ferocious comeback, Ohio State fell from first to second both in the rankings and on the oddsboard to win the national title.
The Buckeyes were dangerous on both sides of the ball this season, finishing first in the nation by scoring 48.7 points per game while ranking in a second-place tie for fewest ppg allowed at 12.5. They were able to do this against the fifth-toughest strength of schedule in college football.
Quarterback Justin Fields had a great season in his first year as a starter, throwing for 2,953 yards with a remarkable 40 touchdowns to just one interception, but much of the offense comes from the run game, where J.K. Dobbins collected 1,829 yards with 20 majors.
This will be the first time that Ohio State has been an underdog this season after the Buckeyes compiled an average winning margin of 36.2 this year.
Clemson News & Notes
After a scare at UNC in Week 5, Clemson smashed its competition down the stretch and is poised to contend for back-to-back national championships. The Tigers escaped disaster with a narrow 21-20 victory over the Tar Heels and then outscored opponents 415-78 in the next eight games. The biggest knock on Clemson is that it played just the 77th-toughest strength of schedule and faced only two ranked opponents – No. 12 Texas A&M and No. 23 Virginia.
The Tigers have surrendered the fewest points per game in the nation at 10.6 and allowed more than two touchdowns just once this season, in the UNC game.
Meanwhile, the Clemson offense topped 40 points in 10 of its 13 games, led by quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his two favorite receivers, Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. Junior running back Travis Etienne reached 1,500 rushing yards for the second straight year.
Betting Pick: Ohio State +2
I don’t trust Clemson’s body of work this season with the Tigers set to play a much tougher team that has been going up against tough competition all year long. It is hard for teams to kick into a higher gear against strong teams when they haven’t faced such tests. I expect the Buckeyes to jump out to an early lead and hold on for the victory.