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Ohio State defeats Clemson to advance to College Football Playoff championship

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields carries the ball during a 49-28 victory over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields carries the ball during a 49-28 victory over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on Friday.
(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

NEW ORLEANS — Justin Fields threw six touchdown passes to outshine Trevor Lawrence and No. 3 Ohio State avenged last season’s painful College Football Playoff loss to Clemson with a 49-28 victory in the Sugar Bowl semifinal Saturday night.

The Buckeyes (7-0) head to the CFP title game for the first time since the inaugural playoff to face No. 1 Alabama on Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida. Ohio State beat the Crimson Tide in the semifinals on the way to the 2014 national championship.

In a matchup of quarterback prodigies from Georgia, Fields might have given the Jacksonville Jaguars something to think about what do to with that first pick in the NFL draft. Lawrence is the presumptive No. 1, but Fields outplayed him on this night, going 22 for 28 for 385 yards. He set a Sugar Bowl record for TD passes and did it playing more than half the game after taking a vicious shot the side that forced him to miss a play and spend time in the medical tent.

Alabama’s Mac Jones threw four touchdown passes and fellow Heisman Trophy finalist DeVonta Smith caught three of them in a 31-14 win over Notre Dame.

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Lawrence was 33 for 48 for 400 yards and three total touchdowns in what is expected to be the junior’s final college game. His final pass was intercepted, but Clemson (10-2) went 34-2 in his starts and won a national title when he was a freshman.

The third meeting between Clemson and Ohio State in the playoff, and fourth bowl matchup since the 2013 season, was a game the Buckeyes had been pointing toward ever since a 29-23 loss to Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl last year.

That score was everywhere the Buckeyes turned in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus this year.

A chance for revenge was nearly derailed when the Big Ten canceled fall football in August because of the pandemic. An abbreviated Big Ten season caused more headaches, with the Buckeyes having three games canceled because of COVID-19 issues, including their own outbreak.

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The playoff committee still liked Ohio State enough to put the Buckeyes in the final four, despite much griping from various parts of the country, including Clemson.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day talked all week about what a great story it would be for the Buckeyes to survive this rollercoaster of a season and still reach their goal.


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