COLUMBUS — Getting into the College Football Playoff for a semifinal match-up against Clemson wasn’t the only good news for Ohio State on Sunday.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day said the fourth-quarter hand injury Justin Fields suffered in the Big Ten championship game against Northwestern is not serious. “Justin will be fine,” Day said on Sunday.
And after the Big Ten reduced the number of days a player must sit out following a positive test for COVID-19 to 17 days from 21 days on Sunday there were reports OSU thinks it can get No. 1 receiver Chris Olave back for the game against Clemson.
Olave was one of 22 players listed as unavailable by Ohio State for its 22-10 win over Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game Saturday.
Ohio State, No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings last week, moved up to No. 3 in the final standings.
Alabama is No. 1, Clemson is No. 2 an Notre Dame is No.4. Alabama will play Notre Dame on Jan. 1 in the other semifinal in Dallas. The championship game will be Jan. 11 in Miami.
Ohio State-Clemson is a rematch of one of the playoff semifinals from last season. And it is probably a match-up OSU was hoping for after its controversial 29-23 loss to the Tigers in that game.
“Coming off that game we didn’t get over it in just one day. It took time,” Day said during a Sugar Bowl coaches Zoom press conference on Sunday.
The most controversial moment of last year’s game was a replay review that overturned a ruling where the officials on the field said Ohio State had stripped the ball from a Clemson receiver and scored a touchdown late in the game.
A close second was a targeting call on Shaun Wade when he sacked Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and was ejected from the game in the second quarter.
The sack came on third down with Ohio State leading 16-0. But instead of having to punt, Clemson kept the ball and scored its first touchdown soon after Wade’s ejection.
“We’re gonna have to play our best game of the season, which I’m not sure if we’ve quite played yet,” Day said during an interview on ESPN on Sunday. “There’s just been so many things and different disruptions that have happened for us this year, but we’re really hoping to get everybody healthy, and if we can get everybody in one piece here as we get into this game.
“The journey we’ve gone on as a program to get back right here, to have another chance to play Clemson in this game is like you couldn’t even make it up,” he said during Sunday’s Zoom conference.
“Some of the best storytellers of all time couldn’t have come up with this story. But here we are.”
Lawrence is back to lead Clemson, which lost to LSU in last season’s national championship game. He has thrown for 2,753 yards and 22 touchdowns this season in nine games. He missed two games because of COVID-19 related issues.
The rest of the Top 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings were: 5. Texas A&M; 6. Oklahoma; 7. Florida; 8. Cincinnati; 9. Georgia; 10. Iowa State. Indiana was No. 11 and Northwestern was No. 14.