The rematch in the Sugar Bowl is on.
Ohio State and Clemson learned on Sunday that they'll meet on Jan. 1 in the College Football semifinal with the winner playing either No. 1 Alabama or No. 4 Notre Dame for a national title. Four hours after the announcement, the head coaches from both teams – Ryan Day and Dabo Swinney – joined the media for 10 minutes apiece to discuss the matchup.
A bullet-point rundown of what each of them had to say (with video soon on the way):
- "Everyone here is very, very excited about the opportunity to play in the Sugar Bowl. It's been a unique season in so many ways." Says he has an "unbelievable amount of respect" for Swinney and the Clemson program.
- Day says he thinks it's "fairest" for teams to have to win their respective conference in order to be eligible for the playoff but calls it unrealistic in a four-team system.
- He says Trevor Lawrence is "very, very athletic" and it didn't surprise him that much how well he ran the ball last year versus the Buckeyes.
- Asked about injuries: "The good thing for us is we haven't played in that many games." He says most of the issues have been COVID-19-related rather than with injuries.
- Day with a short answer on Justin Fields' thumb injury: "Justin will be fine."
- On the Clemson loss last year: "We just didn't get over it in one day. That took time."... "The goal was to get back in this situation." He says the journey to get back to that point is "just amazing" and says some of the best story-tellers of all-time couldn't have come up with this.
- "We're going to need to play our best game to beat these guys."
- Asked about how them playing just six games impact them in the College Football Playoff: "I don't know because it's never really been done before." He says it'll ultimately come down to execution and toughness. "Both teams are going to play hard. I mean, everything's on the line. It's who executes better."
- Day says some guys who missed Saturday's game might be helped by a reduction of the Big Ten's 21-day rule: "Guys like Chris and Baron and some guys we'll find out when we get the final word on."
- "I think we have an opportunity to write one of the greatest stories in the history of college football."
- Part of his opening statement: "To have a chance to be in the playoffs is a very special opportunity for our team. It's an incredible opportunity any year, but especially this year."
- "We look forward to competing against a great Ohio State team. We all know how talented they are, how well-coached they are."
- Swinney If you're going to pick the four best year in a year out, there's probably six or seven teams out there that really have a shot every year." He says he includes Ohio State, Notre Dame, Alabama and Clemson among those teams.
- "I didn't have a problem with the BCS, even though it was just two teams." He says the playoff has "taken that and made it better."
- Swinney on if he thinks the Buckeyes are a rival to Clemson: "Ohio State? Absolutely. If we're playing Ohio State, it's a playoff or a BCS bowl back in 2013 in the Orange Bowl. Any time we play Ohio State, it's probably some type of meaning." He says he respects Ryan Day and how he operates his program, and notes Ohio State is a team the Tigers compete with both on the field and in recruiting.
- He thought Clemson's "most complete game" of the season was played on Saturday against Notre Dame in the ACC championship game.
- If Swinney thinks a team has an edge if they play more or fewer games: "I think the games matter. I think the mental and physical toll of a season, there's nobody out there that would say somebody who's played 11 games versus somebody who's played six is better physically." He says "it's been a grind" both physically and mentally.
- He says the more the playoff expands, the less games matter. He worries about the regular season mattering and teams resting players. "I'm a little bit more of a traditional guy."
- Swinney says he's grateful Clemson has been able to play. "I know football brings joy to a lot of folks."