Photo: Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS, LA – Universally maligned for their conference starting late, playing six games and being ranked No.11 by Clemson Tigers head coach, Dabo Swinney, the third-ranked Buckeyes exorcised the demons from last year’s CFP semifinal with a emphatic 49-28 thrashing of the Tigers.

Clearly playing with a chip on their shoulder from the start, the Buckeyes played with a sense of physicality and vengeance.

In what feel eerily similar to the Buckeye’s  shocking 2014 CFP run to their school’s eight tile when they upset heavily-favored Alabama in this very same building, Ohio State’s defense smothered projected top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft in Trevor Lawrence all night. 

One key to Ohio State’s win last night was containing New Orleans-area native in Tigers TB, Travis Etienne, whom last year, gashed Ohio State out in Glendale, to 32 yards on ten carries and one touchdown. 

In last year’s matchup, there were two controversial calls that turned the tide for Clemson in their 29-23 victory.

The questionable targeting call on Buckeyes DB Shaun Wade on Lawrence and the Justyn Ross catch/strip-fumble by DB Jeff Okudah, return for a TD by Jordan Fuller, that briefly gave Ohio State a 22-21 lead, before being overturned.

This time around, down in Clemson’s proverbial house of horrors, where they lost to LSU, and are 0-3 all-time, the bad voodoo of the Bayou found them again, as this time, they would be on the receiving end of some game-changing calls.

Already down starting safety, Nolan Turner for a half due to a targeting penalty from the ACC title game vs. Notre Dame, starting MLB James Skalski would be ejected for targeting on Buckeyes QB Justin Fields for leading with his helmet into the rib area.

The loss of Skalski would prove huge during Ohio State’s 21-point eruption in the second quarter, facilitated by the brilliance of Fields’ record-setting Sugar Bowl performance.

Questioned and widely criticized for shaky performances vs. Indiana and Northwestern in the B1G title game, and also whether or not he is a top-five pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the former Georgia transfer silenced all his critics in going 22-28 for 385 yards and six touchdowns.

If there was one player that single-handily improved his stock overnight, it was Fields, who may have vaulted past the aforementioned Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson into the discussion of being the first QB taken overall.

For one night down in the Big Easy, none of that mattered as the Buckeyes main goal was to erase the bad taste of that loss out in the desert. And they accomplished that, in true tough-minded, Ohio Against The World fashion.

As they now turn their focus to facing the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide down in Miami, while they have accomplished getting a measure of revenge, the greater task of restoring their conference’s sullied name in knocking off the greatest college football head coach in this generation, in Nick Saban, a second time would make it all the more sweeter.

Also published on Medium.

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