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Five Major Storylines for Ohio State, Clemson CFP Rematch

Here are the biggest storylines going into the Sugar Bowl between Ohio State and Clemson.

The Ohio State Buckeyes haven't forgotten what it felt like one year ago today.

In fact, the loss to the Clemson Tigers fueled them all offseason and despite the strangest of journeys between then and now, fate has brought the Buckeyes and Tigers back on the same stage with so many of the same faces for a rematch in the College Football Playoff.

A shot at redemption felt like a long-off dream just a few months ago considering the season nearly never started in the first place. But now that both teams have earned their spots in the CFP, there are some incredibly dramatic storylines. 

Here are our favorite five storylines going into Friday's Sugar Bowl.

The Controversy Resurrected

There's no other way around it - Ohio State absolutely felt slighted last year when they had a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown taken off the board. Clemson receiver Justyn Ross caught a pass from Trevor Lawrence, took three steps with possession of the ball and had it stripped by Jeff Okudah. Jordan Fuller picked it up and ran the ball into the end zone and they play was ruled a touchdown. But upon further review, the referees decided that Ross "didn't complete the process of the catch" and the score was wrongfully taken away from Ohio State. That touchdown gave Ohio State a 23-21 lead when it happened, and the Buckeyes wound up losing the game by six points.

Not that it helped make things any better, but two days later Big Ten Supervisor of Officials Bill Carollo said the SEC officials that worked the game blew the call. Head coach Ryan Day was rightfully incensed at the reversal. Did it ultimately cost Ohio State a chance to play LSU for the national championship? You can't ever say so definitively, but you won't find an Ohio State fan anywhere on the planet that would say otherwise.

Top Notch Quarterbacks Meet Again

There is no better QB rivalry in college football right now than the one between Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. Heck, it started long before Fields transferred to Ohio State - the two grew up less than an hour from each other in the greater Atlanta area and have both lived up to the incredible hype that's surrounded them since their high school days. 

Last year, Fields was a Heisman finalist. This year, Lawrence is up for the award. Fields has lost just one game as a starting quarterback in his college career - last year to Lawrence and the Tigers. Lawrence has also lost just once in three seasons as a starter, too. After winning the national title as a freshman, he lost last year's title game to LSU. Both players were at the forefront of the national #WeWantToPlay movement across college football as the Power 5 conferences grappled with the pandemic and how to handle their seasons.

Here's Trevor Lawrence on the relationship that he and Fields have developed.

Lawrence and Fields are expected to both be among the first names called in the upcoming NFL Draft, so one of the two is very likely playing his final college football game. This has all the makings of an incredible performance for both players.

Plenty of Bulletin Board Material

Not that either one of these two teams really need it, but the Buckeyes and Tigers have had some additional fuel that I'm sure hasn't gone unnoticed.

The whole thing started when Dabo Swinney flip-flopped on his stance from earlier in the season that he wouldn't be upset if a Big Ten team made the playoffs despite having played fewer games.

Over the last two weeks, Swinney has ranked the Buckeyes No. 11 in his coaches poll and doubled down on why he thinks Ohio State didn't deserve a spot in the CFP because the Buckeyes only played six games.

Swinney also said he thinks Clemson has a game-planning advantage, which caused Ohio State Offensive Coordinator Kevin Wilson to respond on Twitter.

Both fan bases have been pretty forward with their thoughts on social media - it's pretty obvious they don't like each other.

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Trying to Get Over the Hump

The Buckeyes have never beaten Clemson in four tries, but it feels worse than that because three of them have come recently. Buckeye fans won't soon forget Woody Hayes' final game as the head coach in 1978, but with three losses since Jan. 2014 (and all in extremely disappointing fashion) to Clemson, there's talk of this game becoming more of a rivalry than even some teams within the Big Ten.

Here's Ryan Day on whether he views Clemson as a rival.

Will CoVID Impact the Game?

Ohio State had 22 players out of the Big Ten Championship game against Northwestern for a variety of reasons, but the majority of those players are believed to have missed that game because they were either diagnosed with CoVID-19 or were have deemed a close contact with someone who had contracted the virus.

Ryan Day said he's gotten "a bunch" of players back and the Buckeyes appear to be on track to have a healthy group available for the Sugar Bowl (knock on wood). But as Wyatt Davis pointed out to the media on Monday, the scariest thing about this season is how quickly things can go from normal to disastrous. With kickoff now just one day away, anyone who tests positive here on out would certainly be unavailable on Friday.

It's already made a fairly substantial impact on the Tigers. Clemson Offensive Coordinator Tony Elliott tested positive and will not be on the sidelines. He did not travel with the team on Wednesday down to New Orleans. QB Coach and Passing game coordinator Brandon Streeter will call the plays. Streeter is in his 13th year with the program.

The teams will release their game day status reports on Friday morning.


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