Sugar Bowl First Half Notebook: No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State

Ohio State and Clemson are playing in the College Football Playoff for the right to play against Alabama in the national championship. Here are my thoughts from the first half.
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Current Score: Clemson 14, Ohio State 35

Before we go any further, Justin Fields took a nasty shot when Clemson linebacker James Skalski was ejected for targeting. Fields appears to be okay and is still in the game, but has to be playing through some significant pain. Check out the hit here.

Clemson's opening drive was eye-opening. The Tigers made a very clear statement: they intend on getting to the boundaries and aren't interested on running between the tackles very much. They think their speed is an advantage. Trevor Lawrence's touchdown run was a perfect example - Baron Browning played that RPO well, but he couldn't catch up to Lawrence as he raced for the pylon.

8 plays, 82 yards in less than three minutes for a score, thanks to a 26-yard screen pass to Travis Etienne and a 27-yard rainbow down the sideline on 3rd-and-5. The opening drive of the game is the easiest to script, but so far, no issues for Clemson without OC Tony Elliott.

Ohio State went 3-and-out on its first possession, during which it had to call a timeout while Clemson's defense looked out of sync. But the Buckeyes defense quickly forced a punt and I'm sure that settled some of their early game jitters after a tough opening series. I like the way Pete Werner is playing so far in particular.

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In desperate need of someone to make a play and give the offense a chance to take a big deep breath, the Buckeyes raced down the field on three plays. Chris Olave catches the first ball thrown his way, then a great check-down screen to Trey Sermon, followed by a 32-yard stretch run to the left from Sermon and the Buckeyes tie it up.

Clemson's speed is a problem. Travis Etienne is killing the Silver Bullets in the screen game. Ohio State has to figure out a way to limit his big-play ability, even if that means they're going to give up some short ones.

Fields threw his first deep ball of the game right on the money. Garrett Wilson made a great catch to put the Buckeyes in the red zone. Those are the kind of plays that Clemson hasn't given up many times this year and can help swing some momentum in OSU's favor. Fields followed it up by threading the needle to Luke Farrell to tie the game 14-14.

After forcing a second straight punt, Jeremy Ruckert and Justin Fields absolutely nailed a beautiful play design. Ohio State takes their first lead and the offense looks fabulous. Scores on three consecutive possessions and they racked up 241 yards of offense on those three scoring drives.

The Buckeye defense looks really good. After a rocky first drive of the game, Clemson has gone 3-and-out three times in the last four possessions.

Ohio State has completely and totally dominated the second quarter on both sides of the football. The Buckeyes are tougher and they are absorbing (and delivering) some awfully hard hits. I also think the Ohio State defense is feeding off the toughness that Fields is showing when he's out there.

Unreal performance by Justin Fields in the first half. He is 16-18 for 223 yards and 4 TD's, while playing through significant pain. Long way to go, but man the #Buckeyes look good. I wonder if Dabo still thinks he's playing the No. 11 team in the country. 

The Tigers had 34 yards of offense in the second quarter ... the Buckeyes scored 21 points and 229 yards of offense in the second quarter.


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