Ohio State football | Buckeyes arrive in Phoenix, ready to prepare for Fiesta Bowl playoff game against Clemson

Bill Rabinowitz
Ohio State players and staff arrive in Phoenix on Sunday in preparation for Saturday night's game against Clemson. [Patrick Breen/Arizona Republic]

PHOENIX — Christmas came early for the Ohio State Buckeyes. It had to.

Now it's back to work.

After three days off for players to spend time with their families and presumably celebrate the holiday, the Buckeyes reconvened on Sunday for a 3½-hour charter flight to Phoenix. On Saturday, Ohio State will play defending national champion Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal in the Fiesta Bowl.

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The Buckeyes wasted no time getting back to the grind after their Boeing 777 landed. After a short news conference with coach Ryan Day, center Josh Myers and defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton, Ohio State's players and coaches got on buses for an hour-long practice at Notre Dame Prep.

“I think we were excited to get back here,” Myers said. “We got time to spend with our families, and now it's back to business. I'm excited to stretch after that long plane ride.”

Asked about the status of quarterback Justin Fields and cornerback Shaun Wade, Day said the team is healthy. Fields played through a sprained knee the last two games. Wade didn't play against Michigan because of an unspecified injury but did play against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.

“We're expecting to be at full strength,” Day said. “The injury report coming off of last week was excellent. Everybody was practicing. After three more days of rest, we should be at full strength.”

The Buckeyes had only three weeks between the Big Ten title game and the Fiesta Bowl, so the schedule has been compressed. But Day is comfortable with where his team stands with the game approaching.

“Feel great,” he said. “I think our guys are going to come back today refreshed, reenergized. We've got a lot of time to game plan. We've been working at it the last couple of days, and now we've got, really, six days to get ready for this game, which is great.”

The Buckeyes are making their ninth Fiesta Bowl appearance, the most of any team. They don't need to be reminded of their last appearance, a 31-0 loss to Clemson in a playoff semifinal three years ago.

“That game, we didn't play very well,” said Hamilton, a freshman on that team. “But this time around, I feel like we're going to play good.”

The Buckeyes will have to. Clemson is riding a 28-game winning streak. Then again, Ohio State has won 19 in a row. Never before have two 13-0 teams met in the CFP semifinals.

No wonder there's so much anticipation for Saturday's game.


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