Ohio State finishes second in College Football Playoff rankings, will meet Clemson

Bill Rabinowitz
Ohio State receivers, from left, Austin Mack, K.J. Hill, Chris Olave and Binjimen Victor, celebrate with the Big Ten championship trophy after the Buckeyes’ 34-21 win over Wisconsin clinched a spot in the College Football Playoff. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

Second-seeded Ohio State will play No. 3 Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals at 8 p.m. on Dec. 28 at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, the CFP selection committee announced on Sunday.

The other semifinalists are top-seeded LSU and No. 4 Oklahoma, who will meet at 4 p.m. on the same day at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

The two semifinal winners will meet for the national championship at 8 p.m. on Jan. 13 in New Orleans.

The Buckeyes entered the weekend ranked No. 1 because the 13-member committee said it considered them the most complete team in college football. Ohio State hadn’t trailed by more than six points until Wisconsin took a 21-7 halftime lead in the Big Ten championship game Saturday night in Indianapolis.

The Buckeyes outscored Wisconsin 27-0 in the second half for a 34-21 victory. Afterward, they lobbied to retain the No. 1 spot in the ranking.

“I think when you look at our resume, beating Wisconsin when they’re a top-10 team twice in one year, and then again this three-game stretch was unlike I think any team has had in the country,” coach Ryan Day said, referring to late regular-season wins over Penn State and Michigan.

But the other two undefeated teams – LSU and Clemson – had lopsided conference championship victories, putting the Buckeyes’ top spot in jeopardy. No. 2 LSU routed No. 4 Georgia 37-10 in the Southeastern Conference title game and No. 3 Clemson rolled past No. 23 Virginia 62-17 for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

Earning the No. 1 spot is significant because it meant avoiding a semifinal matchup with Clemson, the defending national champion and winner of 28 consecutive games.

Oklahoma earned the No. 4 spot by beating Baylor 30-23 in overtime in the Big 12 championship.

The Buckeyes had opened first in the CFP rankings, on Nov. 5. LSU gained the No. 1 spot the next week after beating Alabama and held the position for two weeks.

But Ohio State regained No. 1 after its 11-point victory over Penn State on Nov. 23 and held it after a 29-point win at Michigan a week later.


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