Ohio State, Clemson primed for showdown in Orange Bowl

MIAMI LAKES, Fla. (AP) — The Bowl Championship Series came calling once again for Ohio State, albeit not the game the Buckeyes wanted.

A day after seeing their national-title

hopes and 24-game winning streak end with a loss in the Big 10

championship game, the seventh-ranked Buckeyes were selected Sunday to

play against No. 12 Clemson in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3.

It’s the 10th BCS berth for the Buckeyes, more than any other school, though one of those appearances was later vacated.

“This team, a lot of these players have

been through a lot of stuff,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “Last

year they went 12-0 and were unable to go play in a bowl game. Now,

their first chance to go play in a bowl game, they’re in a BCS game

against a great team. … This group of kids wants to go win a bowl game

and win their 13th game. That’s what we’re going to work awful hard to

get done.”

Since the start of 2012, both the

Buckeyes (12-1) and Tigers (10-2) rank in the top 10 nationally in terms

of points per game and winning percentage. Combined, they’re 45-5 since

the start of last season, and although both had bigger aspirations,

they still figure to give the Orange Bowl the type of marquee matchup

that bowl games covet.

“I definitely want to congratulate Ohio

State, another great year,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “They were a

couple plays away from playing for the national championship and I’ve

got all the respect in the world for coach Meyer. Looking forward to

spending some time with him down in Miami.”

Still, going to the Orange Bowl may seem like a bit of a consolation prize for both schools.

Both entered the season among the

presumed contenders for the national championship, which will be claimed

by either Florida State or Auburn. Clemson had its chance against

Florida State in Atlantic Coast Conference play — at home, no less —

and got blown out, then fell again to South Carolina in the

regular-season finale.

And if Ohio State had beaten Michigan

State for the Big 10 title on Saturday night, the Buckeyes almost

certainly would have gotten their chance to meet the Seminoles for the

national title.

Instead, the Buckeyes are headed to

Miami Gardens, Fla. — at the stadium where Meyer won his second, and

most recent, national championship. Meyer led the Gators to the title

after the 2006 and 2008 seasons.

“They’re heartbroken but they’re

competitors,” Meyer said, assessing his team’s mood after seeing a

chance to play for the BCS title slip away. “I think the fact they’re

playing in a BCS bowl game against Clemson, that’s going to wake you up

real fast.”

Ohio State finished seventh in the

final BCS rankings. Clemson finished 12th. Both teams have big-time

quarterbacks, with Braxton Miller for the Buckeyes and Tajh Boyd for the

Tigers.

Combined, Miller and Boyd have accounted for 70 touchdowns this season.

“Both quarterbacks are proven winners

and have been for a long time,” Swinney said. “I know Tajh is looking

forward to the challenge in his final game in a Clemson uniform.”

For Clemson, the Orange Bowl trip is a

chance for some vindication. The Tigers were in the game two years ago

after winning the ACC title, and were embarrassed 70-33 by West

Virginia.

“We’re a little bit different team than

when we went down there a couple years ago,” Swinney said. “We had 42

freshmen on that roster, first BCS experience and all that kind of

stuff. We’ve got a lot of guys that have been there. The biggest thing

is, we’ll have a great practice plan, great preparation … but we’re

going to have to play a great ballgame to have a chance to compete with a

team like Ohio State, that’s for sure.”

The Buckeyes will be vying to give

Meyer his fourth 13-1 season since 2006. Clemson could finish 11-2 in

consecutive years with a victory.

The schools have met only once before,

with Clemson winning 17-15 in the 1978 Gator Bowl. It’ll also be the

first time the Tigers have played a Big 10 team since 1990.