The Fiesta Bowl has featured some exciting, competitive games over the years. The last time Ohio State and Clemson met in the game was not one of them.
In 2016, the Tigers recorded a 31-0 victory over the Buckeyes in a College Football Playoff semifinal matchup. Three years later, the teams will meet again at that stage in the Fiesta Bowl.
Both Ohio State and Clemson are 13-0 entering this contest. The Buckeyes won the Big Ten championship, while the Tigers cruised to the ACC title.
2019 Fiesta Bowl Information
Date: Saturday, Dec. 28
Site: State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Odds (via Caesars): Clemson -2.5
Justin Fields has been impressive in his first season at Ohio State. The Buckeyes quarterback, who was named a Heisman Trophy finalist, transferred from Georgia, and he's making the most of his opportunity at his new school.
Even when Fields was dealing with an injury, he played well. He aggravated his MCL sprain in Ohio State's regular-season finale. Then, in the Big Ten Championship Game, he went 19-for-31 for 299 yards and three touchdowns against Wisconsin to lead the Buckeyes to the conference title.
As for the Fiesta Bowl, Fields' injury won't be a concern. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has said his quarterback is at 100 percent heading into the game. But even if Fields weren't, he's shown what he can do at a little less.
"But the way that he played without having a full week of practice is incredible," Day said, according to Austin Ward of Lettermen Row. "His heart is like I've never seen before. The way he came out to play goes to show you that."
Fields will have a tough task in the Fiesta Bowl, though, going up against Clemson's defense, which ranks first in the country with only 244.7 total yards allowed per game.
The Tigers rolled for most of the season. In the first five weeks, they had two games decided by a maximum of 14 points, including a 21-20 victory at North Carolina on Sept. 28. After that, they never won by less than 31 points in their past eight games. That included Clemson's 62-17 win over Virginia in the ACC Championship Game.
Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney knows exactly what the difference was during his team's first five games compared to the rest of their dominant season.
"You give up a couple of big plays," Swinney said, according to Phil Harrison of USA Today (h/t the Greenville News). "You don't do the little things right, hit your gas, tackle, anybody can beat you. And for us, we were having too many turnovers, that's the one thing, the first five games of the season."
This year's Fiesta Bowl should be much closer than the last time the game featured an Ohio State-Clemson matchup. It's quite likely that it will start as a defensive battle, as these teams have the two best defenses in the nation.
But the difference will be Fields and the Buckeyes' playmakers on offense. They have endured a difficult Big Ten schedule, especially over their past few games, and that's going to help them when taking on the Tigers.
Expect Fields and Ohio State to capitalize on some big plays in the second half and pull away for a win to advance to the CFP National Championship Game.
Prediction: Ohio State 24, Clemson 17