COLUMBUS, Ohio – Shortened schedule and all, Ohio State is headed back to the College Football Playoff and a familiar foe will be waiting.
Despite playing just six games because of a COVID-19 issues, the third-ranked Buckeyes were picked as the No. 3 seed Sunday by the CFP and will face No. 2 Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day.
The pairing by the CFP selection committee sets up a rematch of last year's semifinal in the Fiesta Bowl. Clemson's Trevor Lawrence bested Justin Fields and the Buckeyes in that one, 29-23. Both quarterbacks, potential Heisman Trophy candidates, will be back for the grudge match in New Orleans.
The playoff committee picked Ohio State (6-0) despite the Big Ten's pandemic-delayed season and the Buckeyes having three scheduled games wiped out because of outbreaks.
Committee chair Gary Barta said the Buckeyes deserved to be No. 3 because they were undefeated, beat two ranked teams (Indiana and Northwestern) and won the Big Ten championship game over the Wildcats. The Big Ten changed a six-game minimum rule so the Buckeyes could play for the conference title.
Barta, the Iowa athletic director, said “there was no dissension in the room” over putting Ohio State in.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he wasn't surprised Ohio State got in with fewer games “because that’s what the committee has demonstrated over the past few weeks. That’s a decision the committee made. We all know Ohio State is an incredibly talented team.”
The loss to Clemson in the playoff last year landed hard and lingered for the Buckeyes, Ohio State coach Ryan Day said on ESPN. The Buckeyes are happy for a chance to avenge it.