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Clemson vs. Ohio State Odds & Pick: How to Bet the Sugar Bowl CFP Semifinal Game

Clemson vs. Ohio State Odds & Pick: How to Bet the Sugar Bowl CFP Semifinal Game article feature image

Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Fields.

  • No. 2 vs. No. 3. Clemson vs. Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. A spot in the national championship on the line.
  • The Buckeyes and Tigers previously battled in last year's Fiesta Bowl with the Tigers winning and advancing to the national title game.
  • Collin Wilson explains below which side will have the advantage this time around.

Clemson vs. Ohio State Odds

Clemson Odds
Ohio State Odds
-275 / +230
Time | TV
Friday, 8:45 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday evening and via BetMGM. Get an INSTANT $500 deposit match at BetMGM today.

The long-awaited rematch from last season’s College Football Playoffs Semifinal in the Fiesta Bowl will take place in New Orleans this year.

Clemson survived and advanced past Ohio State after trailing at halftime a year ago. The Buckeyes tallied a 59% postgame win expectancy but were undone by two second-half interceptions.

The latter of the two came with 37 seconds left at the Clemson 23-yard line, sealing Trevor Lawrence’s second consecutive National Championship appearance.

The box score was evenly matched in all areas except the method of attack. Clemson relied heavily on a successful run game powered by Travis Etienne, while Ohio State posted a 52% Success Rate through the arm of Justin Fields.

Those names return for this year’s version of the rivalry set to take place on the fast track of the Superdome, a stark contrast from a slippery field in Glendale.

Both teams finished the season a combined 16-1, but neither was positive in covering the spread. Ohio State did cover two games away from the Horseshoe, but questions linger as to whether or not a team with a six-game schedule belongs in the playoff.

Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney went as far as to rank Ohio State 11th in the Coaches Poll.

From the on-field play to off-field recruiting, there’s no love lost between these coaches and players in what should be one of the best games of the pandemic-scarred 2020 season.

Clemson Tigers

There has not been a lack of drama for Clemson during the 2020 calendar year. LSU pummeled the Tigers in the National Championship game, giving quarterback Trevor Lawrence his first collegiate loss as a starting quarterback.

A sure-fire No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick next spring, Lawrence sat two games with COVID-19 this season, including Clemson’s loss at Notre Dame.

Lawrence returned with a vengeance, throwing over 900 yards in three games against Pitt, Virginia Tech and a rematch with the Irish. Returning to 2019 form was complete in the ACC Championship game, as Lawrence showed off the rushing skills that helped win last year’s Fiesta Bowl.

To the house! Trevor Lawrence w/ the QB-keeper up the middle for the 34-yd rushing TD #Clemson 31 #NotreDame 3 Q3 #CLEMvsND #ACCChampionship

— Sports ②④x⑦ (@B_R_R_D) December 19, 2020

The lack of rush explosiveness had been an issue for Clemson most of the season. Etienne had looked nothing like his former self until a second crack at the Notre Defense. Etienne averaged 12.4 yards per carry and averaged 9.2 yards after contact.

Travis Etienne out here reminding us why he's one of the best 👀

📽️: @ClemsonFB

— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) December 19, 2020

While the offense has experienced a renaissance with Lawrence and Etienne, the defense has continued to excel in trench play and Success Rate.

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables has dialed up another Havoc-heavy season even with the loss of key contributors like Isaiah Simmons.

Top-10 ranks in Line Yards, Sack Rate, and Finishing Drives has led Clemson all season,  but a trend of allowing explosive plays was a new element for Venables. In two fewer games, Clemson has allowed as many 30-plus plays from scrimmage as 2019.

The main culprit is standard downs explosiveness, as Clemson has given up big yardage in early downs. The Tigers rank fourth defensively in Success Rate in standard downs, but a rank of 94th in expected points shows that attacking downfield on first and second down could put points on the board.

Virginia Tech, Boston College and even Syracuse generated more than five yards per play in standard downs against Clemson.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Ryan Day has rolled with the punches through the pandemic, as the Big Ten canceled the season and Fields lobbied to reinstate play.

The conference eventually allowed games to be played while setting rules of a minimum number of games to be played to participate in the conference championship. Due to COVID-19 spikes with teams in the Big Ten, the rules were changed on the fly to secure the Buckeyes’ spot against Northwestern.

In collaboration with #B1G COP/C & Conference office, ADs & SWAs ✅ vote to eliminate game requirement in 2020 #B1GFCG.@NUFBFamily vs. @OhioStateFB in #B1GFCG 🏆
Decision based on competitive analysis regardless of 🏈 Ws or Ls this weekend.


— Big Ten Conference (@bigten) December 9, 2020

Much to the ire of Clemson, Texas A&M and plenty of other folks that wanted the Big Ten excluded from the playoff, Ohio State has made its way to the dance floor. The sample set of data comes with a schedule that includes sub-.500 teams in Michigan State, Rutgers, Nebraska and Penn State.

Ohio State showed plenty of offense with a Success Rate that ranked in the top five in the nation. A rank of second in Line Yards plowed the way for Master Teague and Trey Sermon to establish the ground game, while Fields totaled 20 touchdowns on the ground and through the air.

Against better competition, Fields was picked off twice in the conference title game against Northwestern.

Wowwwww Northwestern's Brandon Joseph pick off Justin Fields with an incredible one-handed interception

— For The Win (@ForTheWin) December 19, 2020

The Buckeyes defense lost plenty to the NFL over the offseason and was expected to take a step back in 2020.

Ohio State still ranked second in Line Yards and top-25 in defensive Havoc. A number of defensive linemen have put up more than 15 quarterback hurries in just six games, while cornerback Sevyn Banks has five pass breakups on 33 targets.

SCOOP AND SCORE 🔥@SevynBanks picks it up and takes it to the house for another @OhioStateFB touchdown!

— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 24, 2020

Betting Analysis & Pick

The loss of Chris Olave for the Big Ten Championship game left Fields to look at unfamiliar targets. Olave and Garrett Wilson account for 60% of Fields’ targets on the shortened season.

The good news for Ohio State is that it should have its full stable of weapons, including Sermon, who put up huge numbers against Northwestern.

Trey Sermon ran for a record 331 yards 😤

— sportsthread (@sportsthread) December 23, 2020

Ohio State lacked the explosive element from the run game all season, as Teague and Sermon averaged less than four yards after contact.

That changed for Sermon, who ran for 331 total yards with 17 avoided tackles and an average of 6.8 yards after contact.

The handicap in the Sugar Bowl centers around the damage the Buckeyes can do in early downs.  Despite ranking top-30 in defensive standard downs Success Rate and explosiveness, Northwestern allowed Ohio State a 64% Success Rate with an average of 8.1 yards per attempt.

Ohio State vs. Clemson Matchup Matrix

The Buckeyes are the top team in the country in standard downs Success Rate, a vulnerable area for the Clemson defense.

Fields’ struggles without his top target in combination with a Clemson rout of Notre Dame has created an inflated market.

Ohio State has the horses to keep up with Clemson on the scoreboard. If the Tigers cannot defend explosiveness, the Buckeyes will advance to the national championship game.

Pick: Ohio State +7 or better.

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