They Just Can’t Beat Us
By Makenna Biehl
Whenever Clemson and Ohio State face each other, fans know it’s going to be a good game; however, Clemson fans are starting to see the rivalry more like domination. Clemson football leads the series versus Ohio State 4-0, the most recent win being at this past year’s College Football Playoffs. Since 1978, there have been high expectations for the matchups between the two teams, and you can see it through all of the pre-game hype. Weeks leading up to the games, there is always the debate of who’s going to take the victory, and the underdogs from South Carolina have proven that they deserve to be on top.
The first meeting between the two teams was on December 29, 1978, at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, after Clemson’s first 10-win season. Clemson was up 17-15 and almost closed the game, but Clemson quarterback Steve Fuller fumbled the pitchout on Ohio State’s 36-yard line. It was now Ohio State’s chance to take over the game. However, Buckeye quarterback Art Schlichter threw a pass that was picked off by nose guard Charlie Bauman. Bauman ran the ball out of bounds on the Ohio State sideline, where Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes then threw a punch at Bauman’s throat. Clemson was able to run out the clock to take the win, and Hayes was soon fired shortly after the game. Not only did Ohio State lose the game, but they also lost one of their most dominating coaches.
The teams didn’t meet again until January 3, 2014, at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. They both went into the game as the second-best teams in their conferences. It was a highly offensive game, and the teams collectively put up more than 1,000 yards of offense. Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins also set the Orange Bowl record in receptions (16) and receiving yards (227). There were six lead changes throughout the game, but Clemson took the final lead when Tajh Boyd threw a touchdown pass to Stanton Seckinger to bring the score to 40-35 with six minutes left. With a little over a minute remaining in the game, the Tigers ran out the clock after intercepting a pass by Ohio State quarterback, Braxton Miller.
The most iconic matchup had to have been when the teams met at the Fiesta Bowl on December 31, 2016, in Glendale, Arizona. The ACC Champion Clemson Tigers were coming out of a 12-1 season after playing 11 of the 13 bowl teams that year. The Buckeyes just lost their conference, but they still had a 3.5-point favorite over the Tigers. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson threw two touchdowns and ran for another while the defense held down Ohio State to only nine first downs throughout the game. This resulted in the Tigers winning 31-0, gifting Urban Meyer the first shutout loss of his career. The Clemson Tigers then went on to face the Alabama Crimson Tide in the national championship, where they gained the program’s second national title.
Finally, the most recent faceoff between Clemson and Ohio State was at the Fiesta Bowl on December 28, 2019, in Glendale, Arizona. The No. 3 seed Tigers played against the No. 2 seed Buckeyes for a spot in the College Football National Championship game against the LSU Tigers in New Orleans. Ohio State had a 16-0 lead late in the second quarter until Clemson pulled out two touchdown drives in the final three minutes of the half, bringing the score to 16-14. Late at the end of the third quarter was the call that Ohio State fans will not stop talking about for years. The Tigers were up 21-16 when Jeff Okudah of Ohio State stripped the ball from Justyn Ross, and then Jordan Fuller scooped and scored, which meant the Buckeyes would take the lead. However, after video review, the officials ruled the catch incomplete. In a nailbiter, Trevor Lawrence threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Travis Etienne, and Nolan Turner secured the win with an interception in the end zone to complete the game. This meant the Tigers were bringing in their fourth victory over the Buckeyes, and they were headed to face LSU at the National Championship.
The Clemson versus Ohio State rivalry has always been strong; however, it’s expected to be even bigger this year. The Tigers will be entering the 2020 season as the No. 1 seed with the Buckeyes just behind them as No. 2; this means that the teams will be battling all season as they move closer to the National Championship, where you could expect to see them face each other again.