11-1 Clemson beat #23 Virginia Tech 42-35 to win its first back-to-back ACC Titles in 28 years. The Tigers have won 16 ACC Titles, more than any other school. Florida State has won 15 ACC Titles. The College Football Playoff Selection Committee ranked Clemson #2, pitting the ACC Champion against #3 Ohio State in the College Football Playoff at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl on December 31 in Glendale, Arizona--the site of last year's National Championship Game in which the Tigers lost to Alabama. The contest will kickoff at 7:00 p.m. eastern time on the New Year’s Eve date and will be televised by ESPN. Defending National Champion Alabama will play #4 Washington in the Atlanta Semifinal, so there will potentially be a National Championship rematch between Clemson and Alabama in Tampa, Florida.
Clemson was ranked second in the final College Football Playoff Poll released on Sunday, while Ohio State was ranked third. The teams had been ranked in reverse order in the previous poll, but the Tigers won the ACC Championship Saturday evening with a 42-35 win over Virginia Tech, while the 11-1 Buckeyes were idle.
Clemson will enter the postseason with a 12-1 record after winning the ACC title for the 16th time, the second year in a row on Saturday. It marks the first time Clemson has won a conference championship in consecutive years since 1988.
Clemson’s schedule included 11 games against bowl teams with 10 of the contests resulting in a Tiger victory, including six away from home. Clemson leads the nation in games and wins over teams in bowl games this year.
This will be the third meeting between Clemson and Ohio State. The Tigers have won the previous two, a 17-15 win in the 1978 Gator Bowl, and the 40-35 win in the 2013 season Orange Bowl. Those are two of the landmark victories in Clemson history. Ohio State was ranked seventh by AP entering the 2014 Orange Bowl and 20th entering the 1978 game in Jacksonville. It as the first win over a Big Ten team at the time.
As far as strength of schedule, Clemson opponents are 76-46 this year when not playing Clemson, a .623 mark, third best in the nation. Ohio State opponents have a .625 winning percentage when not playing the Buckeyes this year, second best in the nation. Meyer is first in terms of winning percentage among active FBS coaches (.855), while Swinney is seventh.
“We look forward to playing on the big stage,” said Head Coach Dabo Swinney on Sunday after his team was selected to the College Football Playoff for the second consecutive year. “We are thankful to be selected because there were a lot of teams in contention. We all realize how hard it is to make the playoff and to do it in consecutive years is a great accomplishment.”
This will be the second meeting against Ohio State in the last four years after the programs had met just once in history prior to the 2013 season. Clemson defeated Ohio State, 40-35 behind 505 yards of total offense from quarterback Tajh Boyd on January 3, 2014 in the Orange Bowl.
“We have great respect for the Ohio State program and Coach Urban Meyer,” said Swinney. “He is one of the great coaches in our profession.”
The semifinal meeting will be a battle of teams that excel on both sides of the football. Clemson is 15th in the nation in scoring offense (40.2) and 12th in scoring defense (18.4). Clemson is also 13th in total offense (505.7) and ninth in total defense (314). Ohio State is ninth in scoring offense at 42.7 points per game and third in scoring defense, allowing just 14.2 points per game. The Buckeyes average 480 yards per game and give up just 282 yards per game.
The two teams have experienced quarterbacks. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is fifth in the nation in touchdown passes with a school record 37, and is sixth in total passing yards with 3914. He is also in the top 10 in the nation in completion percentage (9th) and completions per game (7th). He is also eighth in total offense with 342 yards per game.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett has completed 62 percent of his passes this year for 24 touchdown and he has had 10 rushing scores.
CFP Top-25 Rankings: