CFP Sugar Bowl Prediction: Ohio State vs. Clemson Odds

Payton Matthews | Updated Dec 30, 2020

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson, 2020

Trevor Lawrence has lost just one game as a starter in his career – last season’s national championship matchup vs. LSU.

January 01, 2021, 8:00 PM ET
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The College Football Playoff on New Year’s Day concludes with the Sugar Bowl from New Orleans as No. 3 Ohio State and No. 2 Clemson stage a rematch from last season’s CFP. The Tigers are 7.5-point favourites on the college football odds with a total of 66.

The winner here will almost surely face No. 1 Alabama in the national title game Jan. 11 from Miami. Obviously, injuries, results, etc., would change things but early projections would have the Tide around -10 vs. Ohio State and -4 vs. Clemson.

Allstate Sugar Bowl Betting Analysis

It’s extremely rare for Ohio State to be at least a 7.5-point underdog. It hasn’t happened in a regular-season game since 2011 at Michigan and last occurred on New Year’s Day 2015 in the first edition of the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes were the No. 4 seed and were +7.5 vs. No. 1 Alabama, also in the Sugar Bowl. Ohio State won that and then knocked off No. 2 Oregon to win its last national championship.

It’s Ohio State’s fourth trip to the CFP semifinals, and a third seed has yet to win it all – every other seed has. OSU is +500 do so this time. Clemson is in the CFP for the sixth year in a row and those six appearances tie Alabama for the most all-time. The Tigers have won it twice and are +250.

These schools met in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal last season with No. 3 Clemson a 2.5-point favorite over No. 2 Ohio State. The Tigers won a fantastic game, 29-23. Trevor Lawrence hit running back Travis Etienne on the go-ahead 34-yard touchdown pass with 1:49 remaining. Justin Fields drove the Buckeyes, who once led 16-0, back down the field but was intercepted in the Clemson end zone with 37 seconds remaining. That remains Ohio State’s lone loss under Coach Ryan Day.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Had the Big Ten stuck to its original rule of mandating a minimum of six conference games played for a school to eligible to play in the Big Ten Championship Game, then Ohio State wouldn’t even be here. The Buckeyes had games vs. Maryland, Illinois and Michigan cancelled. However, following the Michigan news, the conference altered the rule and let the 5-0 Buckeyes play in the conference title game. OSU was pushed in that, beating No. 14 Northwestern 22-10 – easily the fewest points the Buckeyes have scored this season.

Fields was dealing with an injured thumb and missing top wideout Chris Olave due to COVID-19 protocols, and the quarterback had his worst game as a Buckeye in completing just 12 of 27 for 114 yards and two picks – albeit against a very good defence. Most expect Fields to still be the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The star vs. Northwestern was Oklahoma transfer running back Trey Sermon, who blew up for 331 yards rushing and two scores on 29 carries. That yardage was a school record – Ohio State has had some pretty good running backs – and the most all-time in any conference championship game.

It’s a bit hard to judge this year’s Buckeyes with so few games, but they don’t appear nearly as good as last season’s team. Ohio State is 5-2 ATS in its past seven as a neutral-site underdog.

Clemson Tigers

This will be the final collegiate game for two of the best players not just in Clemson history but ACC history in quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne. Lawrence has lost just one game as a starter in his career – last season’s national championship matchup vs. LSU. Lawrence is considered the best QB prospect from an NFL standpoint since John Elway and is a lock to go No. 1 overall in April to either the Jaguars or Jets.

Clemson did lose a game in double overtime this year at Notre Dame, but Lawrence was out due to COVID-19. He could have a big game against OSU secondary that ranked last in the Big Ten in pass defense. Notre Dame’s defence was better than Ohio State’s this year, and Lawrence threw for 322 yards and two scores and rushed for 90 yards and a TD in the 34-10 ACC title game win. Like Lawrence, Etienne is up for several major awards, and Etienne has accounted for 15 touchdowns this season and is the only running back in the nation with over 500 receiving yards. Etienne is the ACC’s all-time leader in rushing and career touchdowns. The Tigers rank fourth nationally in scoring at 44.9 ppg and allow only 17.5 ppg.

That said, this Clemson team probably isn’t as good as last year’s, either, after losing several guys to the NFL Draft and also lost top returning wideout Justyn Ross over the summer to a spinal issue that may force him to give up football. Clemson is 6-0 ATS in its past six games as a neutral-site favourite.

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