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Fearless Rick's 2016 College Football Picks - National Semi-Final late game

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Bowl Games Natyional Semi-Final Picks - late game

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All times Eastern

College Football Playoff semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
#3 Ohio State (-3 1/2, 60 1/2) vs. #2 Clemson, 7:00 pm, ESPN, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
- There's plenty of controversy to this game, from Ohio State's choice as the #3 seed in the national championship playoffs to Clemson's seemingly underperforming throughout the 2016 campaign.

Both teams come into this semi-final with just one loss. The Buckeyes fell short at Penn State in late October, 24-21, but finished up with five straight wins including a 30-27 OT win over a stubborn Michigan team. But, due to the Penn State loss, the Buckeyes did not go to the conference championship - Penn State did, and won - though they were picked by the championship committee as one of the final four.

Ohio State is a high-profile program loaded with top recruits and superior athletes, but their record against good teams and ranked teams, though perfect beyond Penn State, is not exactly the stuff of championship dreams. They defeated Wisconsin, 30-23, in overtime, and had a scare in a 17-16 win at Michigan State. Northwestern was a few plays away from a major upset following the Penn State loss, the Wildcats dropping a 24-20 decision in Columbus.

For Clemson, this is a reprise of 2015, when they captured the ACC conference title and entered the national playoff, winning big over Oklahoma in the semi-final, 37-17, before eventually losing to Alabama, 45-40. If anything, the Tigers feel they belong, despite the noise and discomfort from critics in the media.

After a 9-0 start including a number of close calls (Auburn, 19-13; Troy, 30-24; Louisville, 42-36; NC State, 24-17 OT; Florida State, 37-34), the Tiger's fortunes turned sour on November 12, when their defense could not find an answer for Pittsburgh's gun and fun offense, dropping a 43-42 decision on their home turf.



Undeterred, the Tigers regrouped with convincing wins over Wake Forest and South Carolina before topping Virginia Tech in the ACC title game, 42-35, implying that perhaps the lone loss of the season provided a wake-up call for players and coaches alike.

Despite the criticism, both teams are very good and capable of winning a national championship on their best behavior. Statistically, they're close. Ohio State was the 9th-highest scoring team in the country, averaging 42.7 ppg. Clemson checks in at #14, 40.2 ppg.

On defense, the Buckeyes again have the edge. They're ranked #3 in scoring defense, allowing an average of 14.2 points per contest. Clemson isn't far off. At #12, the Tigers allowed 18.4 points per game. Those numbers are close enough to be influenced by defensive scores, and special team oddities like blocked kicks and missed extra points, making this contest too close to call and indicating the likelihood of a close battle throughout.

Coin Flip: Clemson

Rick's Pick: Tigers 30 Buckeyes 27

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