Ohio State vs. Clemson Predictions, Odds

Sugar Bowl Video Breakdown

  • January 1, 2021
  • By Brian Edwards
  • VegasInsider.com

As of late afternoon on New Year’s Eve, most betting shops had Clemson installed as a 7.5-point favorite vs. Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The total was 66.5 points at most spots, while the Buckeyes were +250 on the money line.

For first-half wagers, most books had the Tigers listed as four-point favorites (with a -115 or -120 price tag attached to it) with a total of 33 or 33.5.

Clemson has a team total of 37.5 points, while Ohio State’s is listed at 29.5 points.

Sugar Bowl Betting Resources

Sugar Bowl Betting Odds

Line Movements

  • Spread: Clemson -7.5
  • Money-Line: Clemson -300 Ohio State +250
  • Total: 66.5

Odds Subject to Change

How to Handicap Ohio State vs. Clemson

When Clemson took its lone defeat this season at Notre Dame by a 47-40 score in double overtime, it was without three-year starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was out after testing positive for COVID-19. Perhaps more importantly on that night in South Bend, several defensive starters like senior LB James Skalski, who had 105 tackles, 10 QB hurries, 4.5 sacks, four passes broken up and three tackles for loss in 2019, were out with injuries.

Tyler Davis, a sophomore defensive tackle who garnered first-team All-ACC honors as a true freshman in 2019, was also out at Notre Dame. Like Skalski, Davis has been back for the last three games. He had two tackles for loss in the rematch, a 34-10 win for Clemson over the Fighting Irish on Dec. 19 at the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte. Skalski contributed five tackles, one sack and one QB hurry in the spread cover vs. Notre Dame as an 11-point ‘chalk.’

With Lawrence, Skalski and Davis back in the mix, I think we’ve seen the real Clemson in its three-game winning streak both SU and ATS since the loss in South Bend. Dabo Swinney’s club has won vs. Pittsburgh (52-17), at Virginia Tech (45-10) and vs. Notre Dame. The Tigers covered the spread by 37 combined points in those three wins.


Clemson’s resume includes quality wins at Wake Forest (37-13), vs. Virginia (41-23), vs. Miami (42-17) and the three most recent wins. Considering that Lawrence was also out vs. Boston College, I still consider that a quality scalp even though the Eagles took the money easily as 26-point road underdogs.

Ohio State doesn’t have much on its resume that stands out. Ryan Day’s team has four wins over teams that finished with a losing record – 52-17 vs. Nebraska, 38-25 at Penn St., 49-27 vs. Rutgers and 52-12 at Michigan State.

The Buckeyes failed to cover the spread in their two games against quality foes. They beat Indiana 42-35 as 21-point home favorites, holding off the Hoosiers with a couple of defensive stands late in the fourth quarter. Shaun Wade’s pick-six in the second half of IU quarterback Michael Penix ended up being crucial.

In the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Dec. 19, Ohio State took a 3-0 lead midway through the opening stanza. Northwestern countered with a go-ahead TD with 4:02 remaining in the first quarter, and the Wildcats held the lead until senior RB Trey Sermon scored on a nine-yard TD run with 2:41 left in the third quarter.

After a field goal extended the Buckeyes’ lead to 16-10, Sermon closed the deal with a three-yard TD run with 4:03 remaining. Ohio State won by a 22-10 count, but it failed to cover as a 16.5-point favorite. The line dropped from -21 to -16.5 late Friday and early Saturday morning. The 32 combined points went ‘under’ the 57 points for an easy winner.

Sermon had a career day with 331 rushing yards and two TDs on 29 carries. However, star QB Justin Fields was ineffective, throwing a pair of interceptions while completing just 12-of-27 passes for 114 yards.

Betting Analysis – Ohio State Buckeyes

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • 2020: 6-0 SU, 3-3 ATS, 3-2-1 O/U

For the season, Fields has completed 72.6 percent of his passes for 1,521 yards with a 15/5 TD-INT ratio. He has 274 rushing yards, five TDs and a 4.1 YPC average. Fields’s favorite target is sophomore WR Garrett Wilson, who has 38 receptions for 621 yards and five TDs. Junior WR Chris Olave has 36 catches for 528 yards and five TDs.

Sermon, a grad transfer from Oklahoma who had 2,076 rushing yards and a 6.1 YPC average in 19 starts for the Sooners from 2017-19, has taken advantage of his lone season in Columbus. Sermon has 675 rushing yards, three TDs and an 8.0 YPC average. Sophomore RB Master Teague has 448 rushing yards, six TDs and a 5.0 YPC average.

Ohio State has been an underdog just once since Day took over for Urban Meyer to start the 2019 campaign. That was in last year’s CFP semifinals loss to Clemson that we’ll hit on in detail below.

Ohio State will be listed as an underdog for the first time this season when it meets Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on Friday. (AP)

Betting Analysis - Clemson Tigers

  • 2020: 10-1 SU, 5-6 ATS, 6-5 O/U

Clemson is ranked 11th nationally in total offense, seventh in passing yards, No. 65 in rushing yards and fourth in scoring with its 44.9 points-per-game average. The Tigers are ranked sixth in the country in total defense, No. 27 at defending the pass, ninth in run defense and 11th in scoring ‘D’ (17.5 PPG).

In nine games, Lawrence has connected on 69.2 percent of his throws for 2,753 yards with a 22/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The future No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft can make plays with his legs, too. Lawrence has produced 211 rushing yards and seven TDs.

With Justyn Ross sidelined for the season with a medical issue, senior WR Amari Rodgers has been Lawrence’s go-to guy. Rodgers has 69 receptions for 966 yards and seven TDs. Senior WR Cornell Powell has more than doubled his three-year numbers in 2020, catching 45 balls for 743 yards and five TDs.

Senior RB Travis Etienne has 44 catches for 524 yards and two TDs. The All-American RB has 882 rushing yards, 13 TDs and a 5.6 yards-per-carry average.

Clemson has only been a single-digit favorite twice since 2018, going 1-1 both SU and ATS with the loss coming in South Bend this season. Since 2017, the Tigers are 5-1 both SU and ATS in six single-digit ‘chalk’ situations.

Historically Speaking


These schools are meeting in the CFP semifinals for the third time. In last year’s Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, Ohio State raced out to a 16-0 lead and forced a Clemson punt more than midway through the second quarter. However, a 15-yard penalty on the Buckeyes on the punt play gave the Tigers new life.

They took full advantage and turned that possession into points with an eight-yard TD run from Etienne with 2:45 left until halftime. After getting a stop, Lawrence showed off his wheels with a 67-yard TD scamper to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 16-14 with 1:10 left before intermission.

Then with 7:54 left in the third quarter, Clemson took its first lead on a 53-yard TD pass from Lawrence to Etienne. Ohio State answered, though, taking a 23-21 advantage on a 23-yard TD pass from Fields to Olave with 11:46 remaining. With 1:49 left, Etienne took a short pass from Lawrence and took it to the house 34 yards.

After Lawrence found Tee Higgins in the end zone for a successful two-point conversion that gave the Tigers a 29-23 lead, Ohio State moved deep into Clemson territory in the final minute. But Nolan Turner intercepted Fields in the red zone to close the show. Swinney’s team took the cash as a 2.5-point favorite, while the 52 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 62-point total.

Lawrence finished the night with 259 passing yards and two TDs without an interception. He also had a team-best 107 rushing yards and one TD on 16 attempts. Etienne had three catches for 98 yards and two TDs, in addition to 36 rushing yards and one score on 10 carries.

Fields threw for 320 yards and one TD, but he was intercepted twice. He was held to 13 rushing yards on 14 attempts.

When these teams met in the 2016 CFP semifinals, Clemson blanked the Buckeyes 31-0 as a one-point underdog. On Jan. 13 of 2014 at the Orange Bowl, Clemson captured a 40-35 win over OSU as a two-point underdog.

Notable Betting Trends

  • Ohio State has been a favorite of at least 10 points in all six of its games. The Buckeyes were favored by 21 points or more four times.
  • The ‘over’ has cashed at a 3-2-1 overall clip for the Buckeyes, who have had two of their six totals close at a number higher than 66.5. The 69 combined points vs. Nebraska fell ‘under’ 69.5, while the 77 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 67.5-point tally vs. Indiana.
  • Since a run of five consecutive ‘overs,’ the ‘under’ has cashed in back-to-back games for Clemson. The ‘over’ is 6-5 overall for the Tigers, who have seen their games average combined scores of 62.4 PPG.
  • Clemson is 7-2 ATS with six outright wins in nine CFP games. This is the Tigers’ sixth consecutive appearance in the CFP. They’re 4-1 both SU and ATS in five semifinal games, winning three of those by margins of 20 (vs. Oklahoma in 2015), 31 (vs. Ohio State in ’16) and 27 points (30-3 vs. Notre Dame in ’18). Swinney’s program took its only semifinal loss to Alabama at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans by a 24-6 count in 2017.
  • Ohio State is making its fourth appearance in the CFP. The Buckeyes won the inaugural CFP in 2014 with wins over Alabama (42-35) and Oregon (42-20) in the finals. Since then, however, the Buckeyes have lost in the semifinals twice to Clemson.

Sugar Bowl Predictions

  • Score Prediction: Clemson 34, Ohio State 21
  • Best Bet: Tigers -7 (Buy the hook)

CFB Playoff Angles – Future Bets

VI Expert Matt Blunt has once again put on his mining helmet and dug up some great analytical numbers for this year’s Final Four.

In Part 1, he provides Positives and Negatives for the below categories:

  • ATS Records
  • 3rd Down Conversion Rate Percentage (Offense)
  • 3rd Down Conversion Rate Percentage (Defense)
  • Heisman Trophy Winners

In Part 2, he breaks down:

  • Takeaways Per Game
  • Giveaways Per Game
  • Penalties Per Game
  • Penalty Yards Per Game

After a complete data mine of the eight categories, his Final Tally crunches the positives and negatives for all four schools and offers up his future wager pick.

Best Bet: Ohio State Buckeyes

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