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GLENDALE, ARIZ.—Deshaun Watson ran for two touchdowns and threw another and No. 3 Clemson crushed No. 2 Ohio State 31-0 Saturday night in the Fiesta Bowl to set up a rematch with Alabama for the College Football Playoff national championship.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney had sold his team on making this a redemptive trip to the desert by winning at the site where they lost to Alabama in the national title game last season. With that taken care of, Clemson (13-1) now gets another crack at the top-ranked Crimson Tide in Tampa, Florida, on Jan. 9. The teams that started the season ranked Nos. 1 and 2 will most certainly ended it that way, too.
In what figures to be Watson’s final college game, he will try to lead Clemson to its first national title since 1981. The junior and Heisman Trophy runner-up passed for 259 yards and ran for 57 against the Buckeyes (11-2), who could not keep Clemson’s big and quick defensive line out of their backfield.
Freshman Clelin Ferrell had a sack among his three tackles for loss and Clemson allowed only 215 yards and nine first downs. The Buckeyes were shut out for the first time since 1993 against Michigan and Urban Meyer had one of his teams held scoreless for the first time in 194 games as a head coach.
Watson made it 24-0 with 2:06 left in the third quarter when he faked a pitch, cut through a hole and into the end zone from 7 yards out. He hopped through the back of the end zone and did a little dance in front of the Ohio State section.
The rest was a formality.
Much the way Alabama’s defence suffocated Washington in the day’s first semifinal, Clemson gave Ohio State no options. The Buckeyes came in averaging 258 yards rushing per game and finished with 88. J.T. Barrett threw for 127 yards and was intercepted twice.
The sellout crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium of 71,279 had far more Ohio State scarlet than Clemson orange at kickoff, but by the halfway point in the fourth quarter Tigers fans mostly had the place to themselves.