Day vs. Dabo: Part II is almost here.
We’re about 36 hours away from Ohio State and Clemson kicking off in its redux from the Tigers’ 29-23 Fiesta Bowl victory in 2019.
Ryan Day and Dabo Swinney took to the virtual podium on Thursday morning for a joint press conference ahead of the College Football Playoff rematch.
A bullet-point rundown of what the two head coaches had to say:
- Despite being an underdog for only the third time since 2016, Day says that doesn’t provide any extra motivation for Ohio State: “Our guys are excited for this game no matter what. … You’re in the CFP and playing for a national championship. We don’t need much more motivation than that.”
- Day says last year’s loss to Clemson was “fresh in our minds” and used as motivation, but he says the motivation of that loss became a bit less important as the Buckeyes’ season came into question during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Day: “The highest motivating thing for us is we’ll have the opportunity to tell a great story.”
- Day on Ohio State being healthy and at full strength for the game: “Full strength is a floating target.” Said the players who were out for the Northwestern game are “working their way back into it … but to say 100 percent, it’s different this year.”
- J.K. Dobbins was the bell cow back in 2019, so the split between Master Teague and Trey Sermon has “been different,” Day says. And after an up-and-down season for both, Day believes they’re both getting into a rhythm: “To see the way (Trey) ran in his last game was awesome.”
- With Swinney having ranked Ohio State No. 11 in his coaches’ poll, Day admits that he’s happy Swinney was not on the College Football Playoff selection committee, but he didn’t directly answer Swinney having ranked them outside the top 10.
- He believes winning the line of scrimmage is of utmost importance for Ohio State to have a chance to win.
- Being out of routine on a daily basis in such a routine-based sport, Day says it has hurt the program for not being able to “look guys in the eyes and tell them what’s coming next.” He says they are no longer taking anything for granted and that they “have a lot to still be thankful for.”
- The Buckeye defense is confident it has figured things out since the Indiana game: “It’s a great question. How do you know when you’ve only played six games? The only way you find out is by playing. … But we go against each other in practice every day. … There’s been great improvement in that area, but the real test will be tomorrow.”
- Day on being the underdog: “Those are peoples’ opinions. What matters is that we got out and play.”
- On the importance of Justin Fields to bounce back and play his best game against Clemson: “I don’t think we’ve, as a team, played our best game yet. … I’m not sure Justin has, either, but that’s the challenge. But that’s everybody.” He says it will be a collective effort but that Fields is “gonna have to play well, certainly, and he knows that.”
- Swinney says Clemson is “motivated by winning just as much as by losing.” He says that winning a national championship makes it want to go out and win another one, just as much as losing in the national title game like it did against LSU: “We certainly learn from our memories.”
- Swinney on offensive coordinator Tony Elliott being unavailable for the Sugar Bowl: “We’re certainly going to miss Tony,” but how will it impact Clemson? “You can ask me that after the game.”
- Swinney says Clemson is only missing two players who did not make the trip, including one walk-on and one scholarship player. Clemson and Ohio State’s status reports will not be released until Friday.
- He says that the Tigers have been forced to make a ton of adjustments during an uncertain season “but we’ve found a way to still find joy in the journey.” He says Clemson has “started more guys than at any time, ever.”
- Clemson’s recruiting was also “very, very different” this season. Swinney says the Tigers have a couple guys moving to campus next week that he’s “never met in person.
- C.J. Spiller is handling running back rotation with Tony Elliott being out, while Swinney and assistant coach Brandon Streeter will be coaching the quarterbacks in tandem.
- The Tigers are rarely an underdog. He says whether being a favorite or an underdog, they “stay focused like we always have.”
- On Trevor Lawrence: “He’s as good as there’s ever been, that’s for sure. He’s the greatest winner I’ve ever been around. He’s 34-1. He’s been incredible.”