Ohio State is headed to a familiar location in is return to the College Football Playoff.
The Buckeyes are the No. 2 team in the final CFP rankings and will play No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl at 8 p.m. on Dec. 28 in Glendale, Ariz. No. 1 LSU will play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl at 4 p.m. the same day, and the winners will square off in New Orleans for the national championship Jan. 13.
Ohio State’s last playoff appearance was also in the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson, and it did not go well for the Buckeyes.
The Tigers won 31-0 three years ago then went on to upset Alabama in the national championship game.
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Ohio State is 6-2 in the Fiesta Bowl and also played in and lost the 2007 BCS National Championship game in Arizona.
The Buckeyes have lost three of their past four trips to the desert, including the white-washing by the Tigers to end the 2017 season.
That is a game burned into the brains of many Ohio State fans, and one some current Buckeyes were a part of.
“It was rough,” fifth-year senior defensive tackle Robert “BB” Landers recalled Sunday. “That was my first season actually playing and I just remember we put in so much hard work and especially with the group of guys we had and we just fell short. So we asked the question, ‘What did we not do. What do we take from this?’
“We put so much blood, sweat and tears into that moment and then got up on the big stage and just didn’t play the way we wanted to or that we should have. It’s one of those moments I’ll never forget, but at the end of the day it’s history. We’ll try to rewrite a new chapter in this book and see what happens.”
The Buckeyes are 2-1 in CFP games, beating Alabama and Oregon to win the title in 2014.
Clemson is in the CFP for the fifth time while Oklahoma is in for the fourth time, and LSU is making its first appearance.
Ohio State was ranked No. 1 in the standings the past two weeks as well as earlier in the year. The Buckeyes lost their hold on it despite holding serve against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday night.
That 34-21 victory over the Badgers was not enough to prevent LSU from moving back to the top of the standings after those Tigers trounced then-No. 4 Georgia 37-10 earlier Saturday.
CFP committee chair Rob Mullens said on a conference call after the rankings were released the committee met until 1 a.m. Saturday night and again in the morning to complete the rankings.
“LSU’s dominating performance against an excellent Georgia team was a final piece of information that influenced the committee’s vote,” Mullens said. “LSU’s wins were against Georgia, Florida, Auburn and Alabama, ranked 5, 9, 12 and 13. The committee favorably compared that to Ohio State’s wins against Wisconsin twice, Penn State, Michigan and Cincinnati, ranked 8, 10, 14 and 21.”
Ohio State Coach Ryan Day confirmed he was disappointed the Buckeyes were not ranked No. 1 when all was said and done but hoped to move on quickly to preparing for the defending national champions.
“I know we’re just proud of what our guys have done,” Day said. “We’ve been done everything we can up to this point, and now it’s time to go play Clemson. I think at this point you can’t look back on those kind of things and we can go back and forth about it, and I know those guys had a hard decision to make. They made it, and we’ve got to move on.
“We can’t worry about that. Again, if we want to go win the whole thing, we have to be able to play everybody, so now we’ve got a chance to go play Clemson.”
Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith, who was on the playoff committee the past two years, said he was not disappointed the Buckeyes lost their spot to LSU despite not losing on the field.
“Because I know (what the selection process is like),” Smith said. “Who knows what the vote was when we were voted No. 1 (in previous weeks). It could have been 7-6. There’s 13 guys and who knows who was recused? I know how razor-thin those decision are. I’m not disappointed we’re No. 2. Sure I think we should be No. 1, but I’m not disappointed at all because those are two good teams.”
Smith also downplayed the idea the committee could have a bias toward the SEC after LSU moved ahead of the Buckeyes and Georgia slid only to fifth despite being blown out by the Tigers in the SEC Championship game.
“The issue is you’ve got two teams that are very close,” Smith said. “We could make the argument, which I think is a good argument, we played three top 10 teams back to back to back and won a championship, but then you look at LSU and their metrics and their stats, their defense has improved.
“So the reality is it’s a tough call. I don’t know if there is an SEC bias in the room. I never witnessed that, but I just think different people had different opinions.”
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