Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day (L), quarterback Justin Fields (1) and linebacker Tuf Borland (R) celebrate with the Sugar Bowl Classic trophy after defeating Clemson 49-28 in the Sugar Bowl on Friday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 2 (UPI) -- The third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes beat the No. 2 Clemson Tigers 49-28 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl to punch their ticket to the national championship game.
The Buckeyes (7-0) overcame two early deficits in the first quarter and pulled away in the second frame to set up a highly anticipated meeting against the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff finale.
It is the Buckeyes' first trip to the CFP title game since the inaugural playoff. Ohio State will face No. 1 Alabama on Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
"Now we've got an opportunity to win the whole thing, and then you've got an opportunity to write one of the best stories in college football history," Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields outdueled Clemson star signal-caller Trevor Lawrence in what could have been their final head-to-head meeting at the college level, with both projected to be taken early in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Fields, who powered through an apparent rib injury for more than half the game, threw a Sugar Bowl-record six touchdown passes to avenge the Buckeyes' CFP semifinal loss to the Tigers last year. He went 22 for 28 with 385 yards and added eight carries for 42 yards.
"I took a big shot [to my ribs] ... but what really kept me going was my brothers, and my love for them," Fields said. "I'd do anything for these guys."
Lawrence was 33 for 48 for 400 yards and recorded three total touchdowns against the Buckeyes. If Lawrence declares for the draft, he will conclude his Clemson career with a 34-2 record and one national title victory.
Clemson scored on its opening drive and then went up 14-7 following rushing touchdowns from Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne in the first quarter.
From there, the Buckeyes took control and didn't look back. Fields tossed touchdown passes to tight ends Luke Farrell and Jeremy Ruckert on back-to-back drives to give Ohio State a 21-14 advantage in the second quarter.
Fields found receiver Chris Olave for a 9-yard score with under six minutes left before halftime to make it 28-14. With 11 seconds remaining, Ruckert hauled in his second touchdown to boost the Buckeyes' lead to 35-14 at the break.
Clemson, operating without offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, exchanged touchdowns with Ohio State in the third and fourth quarters, but the Tigers (10-2) couldn't mount a comeback to reach another championship game.