3 big takeaways from Clemson's blowout win over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl

Posted at 8:34 PM, Dec 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-31 22:34:48-05

The Clemson Tigers earned a national championship game rematch in convincing fashion.

Despite being vastly outnumbered by Ohio State fans, the Tigers made short work of the Buckeyes 31-0 in front of over 70,000 fans at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday. It was Clemson's first Fiesta Bowl appearance, while the Buckeyes fell to 5-3 in Fiesta Bowl history.

Clemson moves on to face Alabama, which defeated Washington in the Peach Bowl earlier Saturday, in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Tampa, Florida on Jan. 9.

Here are three big takeaways from Clemson's dominating performance.

1. Deshaun does in the Buckeyes

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson came in a distant second to Louisville QB Lamar Jackson in Heisman Trophy voting -- but on Saturday, he made a compelling case that he's the best college football player in the country.

Watson made a couple mistakes, including an interception on Clemson's opening drive, but he more than atoned for them. His 174 first-half passing yards were more than Ohio State allowed per game this season.

For the game, Watson threw for 259 yards -- 96 of which went to receiver Mike Williams -- and he also ran for 57 yards and a pair of scores. If the same Watson shows up against Alabama, the Tigers could get the payback they seek against the Crimson Tide.

2. Clemson's defense does the job.

Ohio State came into the Fiesta Bowl as the better defensive unit in terms of points and yards allowed per game. But on Saturday, the Tigers put on a defensive clinic to spoil Ohio State's dreams of a second national title in three seasons.

Clemson limited Ohio State to just 111 yards through three quarters, and for the game, Buckeyes QB J.T. Barrett was held to 127 passing yards and threw two interceptions. Defensive end Clelin Ferrell had himself a game; he recorded a sack and three tackles for a loss. The Tigers had 10 total tackles for loss in the game.

Alabama beat Clemson 45-40 in last year's national championship game. Expect a lower-scoring contest this time around.

3. Too many mistakes for the Buckeyes.

As good as the Tigers were on defense, Ohio State shot itself in the foot more than once. The Buckeyes dropped key third-down passes twice in the first half, resulting in punts on both possessions. Kicker Tyler Durbin missed two field-goal attempts in the first quarter. And a Barrett pass that went off the fingertips of Buckeyes receiver Curtis Samuel late in the third quarter led to an interception by Cordrea Tankersley and put the game on ice.

It's rare to see an Urban Meyer-coached team come up so short in the fundamentals department, but that's what happened Saturday, and it led to Meyer's first Fiesta Bowl loss in four games.

The game also marked Meyer's worst defeat as an NCAA head coach and the first time he had ever been shut out.