Isaiah Simmons has been named the Butkus Award winner, presented annually to the nation’s top linebacker. (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and Ohio State head coach Ryan Day took part in a conference call to preview the College Football Playoff semifinal between their teams at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ari. Kickoff has been set for 8 p.m., EST, on Dec. 28th.

Swinney and Day exchanged compliments for each other’s teams on the call, with good reason. Both Clemson and Ohio State completed perfect regular seasons followed by double-digit victories in their conference championship games. The similarities don’t end there.
Ohio State’s offense put up 48.7 points/game and limited its opponents to 12.5. A point differential of 36.2.
Clemson’s offense put up 46.5 points/game and limited its opponents to 10.6 A point differential of 35.9.
The Buckeyes gave up just 2.82 yards/rush. The Tigers gave up just 2.97 yards/rush.
Both teams feature highly recruited 20-year-old quarterbacks from the state of Georgia (Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence).
Ohio State’s star running back J.K. Dobbins has rushed for 1,829 yards and 20 touchdowns on 6.5 yards/rush this season.
Clemson star running back Travis Etienne, the two-time ACC Player of the Year, has rushed for 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns on an astounding 8.2 yards/carry this season.
Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young has 16.5 sacks in just 11 games and is a finalist for the Bednarik Award.
Tigers linebacker Isaiah Simmons, also a finalist for the Bednarik Award, has already taken the honors for the Butkus Award for the nation’s top linebacker.

The Tigers and the Buckeyes last met at the end of the 2016 season at the Fiesta Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff semifinals. Deshaun Watson and Clemson trampled Urban Meyer’s squad that day, 31-0. The oddsmakers see a more equitable matchup this time around. The Tigers have been installed as 2-point favorites.

Key comments from Fiesta Bowl conference call

  • Swinney: Still waiting on word for eligibility of TE Braden Galloway for Fiesta Bowl (suspended for one year before playoffs last season for testing positive for Ostarine). “If he’s available, we’ll use him.”
  • Swinney on competing in the College Football Playoff without Alabama, his alma mater, involved: Don’t feel bad for them. They’ll be back soon. It didn’t work out for them, but they’ll be back.
  • Ohio State coach Ryan Day: Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is as good as they come. Does a great job schematically, but also at getting his guys to play hard.
  • Swinney: I don’t think we learned anything from close game at UNC. It just confirmed what we already knew. If you lose the turnover battle, give up big plays and don’t do the little things like protect your gaps, you can lose.
  • Day: In favor of reworking CFP to include all five Power 5 conference champions. Said that’s a discussion for the offseason, but he’d be in favor of rewarding conference champions with a shot at the title.
  • Swinney: Ohio State is really good in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Very impressed with QB (Justin Fields) and RB (J.K. Dobbins).
  • Swinney on strength of ACC and facing prospect of tight game: We had one close one at UNC and our players responded …. There’s only 3 undefeated teams. So difficult to win every game. Our league has ten bowl teams and our track record speaks for itself.

Fiesta Bowl conference call with Dabo Swinney and Ryan Day