Tigers and Buckeyes Understand the Playoff Atmosphere

Zach Lentz

CLEMSON — The No. 3 Clemson Tigers are becoming all too familiar with the ins and outs of the College Football Playoff.

As the Tigers prepare for their Saturday, Dec. 28 (8 p.m., ESPN) matchup with the Ohio State Buckeyes in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, there are more media obligations, more distractions and more opportunities to enjoy the bowl game atmosphere.

But the one thing that stands out to Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney is that the playoff games are still football — albeit championship football.

“There's a lot of distractions. There's a lot of things that come with being a part of this, a lot of things that you have to manage that aren't in kind of a normal game,” Swinney said. “But, at the end of the day in championship football, you're playing teams where there's just such small margin for error; it's a few plays. It just comes down to a few plays that make the difference.

"So, you know, you've got to have unbelievable precision with what you do to have a chance to be successful.”

While the team on the other sideline is making a return to the playoff after a one-year hiatus, the 2014 CFP National Champions are familiar with the ins and outs of playoff football — even if their first-year head coach is not.

"I mean, I don't think — the game hasn't changed," Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. "It's just being ready for that moment, and I thought we showed something in the second half that we could overcome a game and just impose our will on teams, and we have to carry that over into this game and show that we can do that and have enough confidence to do that against a team like Clemson.

"But really, our guys see ourselves as being the best in the country. The moment won't be too big for our guys. It's just a matter of keeping our emotions in check and just doing a good job of staying focused."

Both Day and Swinney agree that the mental aspect of playing championship football at this level will, more than likely, decide who advances to the national championship game against the winner of the other semifinal — the LSU Tigers or the Oklahoma Sooners.

“And then you got to handle the adversity,” Swinney said. “You just got to, you just got to hang in there and keep playing and believe that you can get it done down the stretch.

“But it's awesome to be a part of it. You try to just not make it a huge, bigger moment than what it is, try to minimize the distraction. And just the same things that have won will win this game. Just don't have the room for error that sometimes the four teams that are in this might have had in some other games.”