Fiesta Bowl Preview: Swinney says Buckeyes have been "unbelievable"


by - Senior Writer -
Clemson and Ohio St. face off in the Fiesta Bowl
Clemson and Ohio St. face off in the Fiesta Bowl

The College Football Playoff and the Fiesta Bowl announced today that the third-seeded Clemson Tigers will face the second-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 28.

The selection marks Clemson’s fifth consecutive College Football Playoff (CFP) appearance. With the selection, Clemson ties Alabama (five) for the most CFP berths in history.

Both head coaches spoke on a teleconference with the media about the game, with Ohio State’s Ryan Day by saying the Buckeyes have a ton of respect for the Tigers.

“First off, I just want to say what an honor it is for us to be going to the Fiesta Bowl, one of the most prestigious bowls in the entire country, and its reputation precedes itself. And we are really excited about getting to Arizona,” Day said. “I just want to say congratulations to Coach Swinney and Clemson for an unbelievable season. And I have the utmost -- and we have the utmost respect for what they've done, not only winning national championships but then continuing that excellence. It's very hard when you are the top dog, and everyone is giving you the best shot to continue to do what they've done.

“So nothing but, again, the utmost respect for those guys and looking forward to a big challenge. Not only are they talented, but they're very well-coached. Our team is excited about this challenge. We are excited to have an opportunity to play in the playoffs, and been working hard towards this goal. I thought we finished the season strong, especially the last three games. And we are looking forward to preparing for this game, getting out to Arizona.”

Dabo Swinney said he was looking forward to the experience.

“Congratulations to Coach Day and the Buckeyes. They've been unbelievable. Just one of the most dominant teams every week all year long,” Swinney said. “And that's an unbelievable accomplishment. Talented on both sides of the ball. Just two great programs that I know that will have great will to win, and it's going to be an awesome environment and a great game. No doubt about it. It's a blessing to be a part of it. We're thankful. And just really looking forward to the whole experience out there. So appreciate everyone being on today.”

Clemson has been in a fourth-quarter game once this season – in late September against UNC – and Swinney was asked what it will be like to be in a close game this late in the season.

“Well, we did have one close game against North Carolina and had to battle ourselves off to find a way to win. So we have had one close game,” Swinney said. “But at the end of the day, this is a new season. And both teams have earned their way here. It's not easy to win. There are only three undefeated teams out there. There's a lot of leagues. There's no undefeated MAC or Sun Belt or Conference USA or any other league. I don't care what league you're in, it's incredibly difficult to win, to win them all. And our league has got 10 bowl teams, has been very competitive. We've got a track record over the last nine years that kind of speaks for itself.

“And I think our team, in particular, has shown up with great focus and preparation each week with great respect for every opponent and have found a way to win. So you can only play the schedule that you got, and that's what we've done. And we've earned the right to get into the postseason. And we know at this point, you're playing the best of the best. It doesn't really matter if you are ranked first, second, third, or fourth. This is the four best teams that has played throughout the season. And these games are usually just a few plays. We know that the margin for error is very small and it's going to take 60 minutes of great football to have a chance.”

Swinney said he has seen Ohio State play several times this season.

“I think they played a lot of noon games this year. I have had a chance to see them several times with the way our schedule has been,” he said. “And it's just impressive. I mean, impressive. Just built in the trenches. They're good up front on both sides. They've got as good a player there is in college football coming off the edge. Their quarterback has been amazing. They've got great skill outside and great backs that can run the ball. So this is a very complete team, very well-coached. And it's going to be a challenge.”

Other notes

On Braden Galloway and if he expects Galloway to play

“Yeah, still waiting on just confirmation of his clearance. So hopefully we'll get that and if he's available, we'll use him.”

Coach Day on Clemson’s talent

“Well, first off, you see a tremendous amount of talent. On the offensive side, Trevor Lawrence is as good a quarterback as there is in the country, and he's been on the biggest stages and obviously one of the winningest quarterbacks that will go down in the history of college football when it's all said and done. Etienne is as good a running back as there is in the country. And then those receivers, Higgins and Ross and those guys are just dynamic on the perimeter. And they stretch you out a lot of different ways on offense, and they do a great job of it. They're sound, but they also stretch you out by making you defend the entire field. And then on defense, very, very difficult to prepare for multiple fronts, multiple blitzes. I think Brent Venables does as good as anybody in the country. Again, very talented, but he's schematically very sound and they get those guys to play really, really hard.”

Swinney on Alabama not participating in the Playoff

“Don't feel bad. They will be back real soon. They will be fine. They are an unbelievable team. Coach [Nick] Saban's track record speaks for itself. It didn't work out for them this year. But I'll guarantee you, they'll be back. No doubt.”

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