PREVIEW: PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
Dec. 21, 2016

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No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Clemson
Saturday, December 31st, 2016, 7 p.m. ET
University of Phoenix Stadium (63,400), Glendale, AZ

TV: ESPN
Chris Fowler (Play-By-Play)
Kirk Herbstreit (Analyst)
Sam Ponder (Sideline)
Tom Rinaldi (Sideline)

Radio: WBNS FM (97.1 The Fan) The Urban Meyer pregame show airs 30 minutes prior to kickoff. Paul Keels will call the action with former Buckeye Jim Lachey and Matt Andrews on the sidelines. The game can also be heard nationally on ESPN Radio with Bill Rosinski, David Norrie and Ian Fitzsimmons and on Sirius/XM College Sports Nation channel 84.

FIRST AND 10

  • Ohio State is making its second appearance in the College Football Playoff after winning the inaugural national championship in 2014, defeating No. 1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and No. 2 Oregon in the championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
  • Ohio State is averaging 42.7 points per game, tops in the Big Ten and ninth-best in the FBS. The Buckeyes have totaled 512 points through 12 games this season, the third most in school history.
  • Ohio State has allowed an average of just 12.3 points over the past four games. The Buckeyes lead the nation in pass efficiency defense (91.43), rank second in defensive TDs (7) and total TDs allowed (15), third in fewest points allowed (14.2) and turnover margin (+1.33) and are fourth with 19 interceptions. The Buckeyes set a school record this season with seven interceptions returned for TDs -- three of those by Malik Hooker.
  • Center Pat Elflein and safety Malik Hooker became the first pair of unanimous Buckeye All-Americans and the first duo in the Big Ten Conference since Eddie George and Orlando Pace in 1995.
  • RB Mike Weber is just the third Ohio State freshman to rush for 1,000 yards, joining Robert Smith (1990) and Maurice Clarett (2002).
  • J.T. Barrett, who holds the Ohio State career record for touchdowns responsible for (100), is six shy of the conference record of 106 held by Purdue's Drew Brees.
  • Urban Meyer is 13-4 in games played in December/January and has won the last four.
  • Meyer's teams are 10-2 all-time in bowl games, including a 3-1 record for Ohio State in bowl games.
  • Meyer is 45-3 in his head coaching career with more than a week to prepare for an opponent
  • Meyer has the highest career winning percentage (.854) among active coaches with at least 10 years at an FBS school.

OHIO STATE VS. CLEMSON
Ohio State, the No. 3 seed, is in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff for the second time in its three-year existence and will play No. 2 Clemson at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. This is just the third meeting on the gridiron between the two schools:

First Meeting: 1978 Gator Bowl

  • Clemson 17, Ohio State 15

Clemson prevailed, 17-15, in Jacksonville, Fla., when Charlie Bauman intercepted an Art Schlichter pass in the final seconds of a game that would be the final for Woody Hayes after 28 years as Ohio State head coach, 205 wins, five national championships and 13 Big Ten titles.

Second Meeting: 2014 Orange Bowl

  • Clemson 40, Ohio State 35

Ohio State and Clemson met three years ago in the Discover Orange Bowl, a game the Tigers won 40-35 behind the running and passing of quarterback Taj Boyd (505 total yards & 6 TDs) and the receiving of Sammy Watkins. Braxton Miller led the Buckeyes with 269 total yards and four touchdowns (two rushing; two passing).

ONLY THREE BUCKEYES PLAYED
Ohio State has only three players available for this matchup against Clemson who played in the 2013 game. Dontre Wilson had three carries for 24 yards, one reception and a 25-yard kickoff return. Cameron Johnston punted five times for a 48.2-yard average with three punts downed I20. And Pat Elflein played along the offensive line in a reserve role.

OHIO STATE: FIRST NON-CHAMPION SELECTED
Ohio State is the first non-conference champion to be selected by the CFP committee for the playoffs. The committee had chosen eight conference champions in its first two playoffs, including a resurgent Ohio State team in 2014 that defeated Wisconsin, 59-0, in the Big Ten title game for its 11th consecutive win that vaulted it from No. 5 in the CFP poll to No. 4 and a semifinal matchup with No. 1 Alabama.

3-1 RECORD VS. CFP TOP 10
A 3-1 record vs. Top 10 teams in the current CFP rankings was the key factor to include Ohio State in the playoffs. The Buckeyes defeated No. 7 Oklahoma by 21 points on the road in September; defeated No. 8 Wisconsin, champion of the Big Ten west division, on the road in overtime in October; and they defeated their rivals, No. 6 Michigan, in double overtime to cap its 11-1 season. Ohio State also defeated Nebraska, 62-3, when the Cornhuskers were ranked No. 10 by the CFP committee.

The Buckeyes' only loss came on the road to the Big Ten champion, No. 5 Penn State, 24-21 in a second consecutive nationally-televised night game on the road after playing at Wisconsin the previous week.

URBAN AND DABO
This will be the second matchup between teams coached by Urban Meyer and Dabo Swinney, who have led their team's on similar trajectories the past five years with Ohio State 61-5 and Clemson 58-9. That 40-35 Orange Bowl win for Clemson over Ohio State in 2014 has Swinney positioned as one of only eight coaches with a winning record over Meyer. He and six others -- Bob Pruett, Terry Hoeppner, Joe Novak, Jim Leavitt, Lloyd Carr and Jimbo Fisher -- are 1-0 vs. Meyer with Tommy Tuberville 2-1. Tuberville is one of only five to coach multiple wins over Meyer's teams. Meyer has a 165-28 record as a head coach.

Coaches with Multiple Wins vs. Meyer

  • Les Miles (LSU) -- 3-3
  • Nick Saban (Alabama) -- 2-2
  • Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) -- 2-3
  • Tommy Tuberville (Auburn/UC) -- 2-1
  • Steve Spurrier (South Carolina) -- 2-4
  • All other coaches -- 152-17

OHIO STATE: RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW
The Buckeyes have won five consecutive games and boast the nation's No. 5 total defense (282.3 yards per game allowed), including the No. 1 pass efficiency defense and the No. 3 scoring defense (14.2). Ohio State is also 21st nationally in total offense behind a Top 10 ground game -- ninth at 258.3 yards per game -- and the fifth highest possession time: 33:55.

THAT WAS THEN. THIS IS NOW.
Ohio State entered the 2016 season with the nation's fewest returning starters -- six -- and one of the youngest teams with 43 scholarship freshman who had yet to play in a college game. The team had 90 combined starts on offense -- with 74 from the trio of QB J.T. Barrett and linemen Pat Elflein and Billy Price -- and just 44 on defense with DE Tyquan Lewis and LB Raekwon McMillan owning 13 apiece and CB Gareon Conley with 14 starts.

Ohio State will enter the Fiesta Bowl with start stats that have swelled to 222 on offense and 176 on offense and with 30 of those freshman, including 11 true freshman, getting playing time this year. There are 17 players who have started all 12 games this year and 21 players with double-digit starts. (Note: see pages 7 and 8 in this release packet for detailed start stats.)

BUCKEYES IN BOWLS
Ohio State will be playing in its 47th post-season bowl game and is 22-24 with three consecutive victories in such games. Only two teams -- Marshall (5) and South Carolina (4) -- have more consecutive bowl wins than Ohio State's three, with Arkansas, Missouri, Navy, Syracuse and Utah also at three. Ohio State is 2-0 in College Football Playoff games and 3-0 in New Year's 6 bowl games.