It bears repeating that the Tigers (13-0), the national champions two of the last three seasons, are the only team in the bracket with players on their roster who’ve participated in a national championship game. The Buckeyes haven’t been back to the College Football Playoff final since winning the thing after the 2014 season, which is eons ago in college football.
Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney, meanwhile, has three final appearances and those two titles to his name. He won the last on the arm of quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was then just a freshman and put together another great season as a sophomore. He’s thrown for 3,172 yards and 34 touchdowns, and hasn’t thrown an interception since the middle of October, though he has eight on the season. Running back Travis Etienne, who himself has played in three playoff games, has eight 100-yard games this season and has rushed for 1,500 yards with 17 touchdowns.
Swinney is hoping that combination, plus a defense that leads the nation in both yards and points allowed, will contain Ohio State, which has proved the ability to open up a big lead in a moment’s notice. Quarterback Justin Fields has thrown for 2,953 yards (the least of any quarterback in the playoff) and 40 touchdowns with one single, solitary interception. Five receivers — K.J. Hill, Chris Olave, Binjimen Victor, Garrett Wilson and Austin Mack — have at least 20 catches. Running back J.K. Dobbins, likely a future NFL ball carrier, has rushed for 1,829 yards (the most of any back in the playoff) and 20 touchdowns.
Ohio State won all 13 of its games this season by double digits, becoming just the second Football Bowl Subdivision team, along with Florida State in 2013, to start a season with 13 straight double-digit wins.