COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Urban Meyer gets around to studying Clemson, he should recognize the names that makeup the Tigers’ roster.
After all, he recruited many of them.
Over the course of the past three seasons, no two teams in college football have come closer to emulating the success of Alabama than Ohio State and Clemson. The prosperity the two Fiesta Bowl opponents and playoff participants have found on the field starts off of it, where the Buckeyes and Tigers have become accustomed to bumping into one another on the recruiting trail.
“I know exactly the players because I bet (that) on both of our rosters, Clemson and Ohio State were in that conversation — and Alabama,” Meyer said on Sunday. “They’re loaded.”
According to the 247Sports talent composite rankings, the Buckeyes possess the country’s fourth-most talented roster from a recruiting standpoint this season while the Tigers lay claim to the nation’s 10th-most talent. The Crimson Tide, unsurprisingly, rank first.
With a 39-3 record, Alabama has asserted itself as college football’s most dominant program the past three seasons. In that same span, Ohio State has compiled a 37-3 record while Clemson has gone 36-5.
How have the Buckeyes and Tigers been able to stay on the heels of Alabama? Again, it all comes down to talent.
“It all starts with personnel,” Meyer said. “I haven’t seen it, but I’m going to find out the next few days. I would imagine them and Alabama would be the No. 1 teams as far as NFL prospects in the country right now.”
The Buckeyes are in that conversation as well. According to Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller’s most recent big board, Ohio State lays claim to four top-50 players while Clemson is credited with three. The Crimson Tide lead the country with six.
Although Alabama has signed the nation’s top-ranked class in each of the past six years, the Buckeyes and Tigers typically haven’t been far behind — all while recruiting from the same pool of players.
Ohio State beat out Clemson for the likes of Raekwon McMillan, Curtis Samuel and Jalyn Holmes. The Tigers got the better of the Buckeyes when it came to Deshaun Watson, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence.
The on-field results for both programs speak for themselves. In the three-year history of the College Football Playoff, both Ohio State and Clemson have made two appearances. Only Alabama has been a part of all three.
Assuming the No. 1 Crimson Tide take care of No. 4 Washington in their Peach Bowl semifinal showdown, the Buckeyes and Tigers will be playing for the right to try to topple the Crimson Tide on the line. The stakes are as literal as they are metaphorical.
In the playoff era, no two teams have been as evenly matched as Ohio State and Clemson have been, nor have any other teams been as close to reaching Alabama’s place on the college football pantheon. The Buckeyes beat Alabama in the 2014 playoff but were unable to defend their national title in 2015. That was the same year the Tigers came within five points of beating the Tide for the national title.
Perhaps fittingly, the last matchup between Ohio State and Clemson played a large part in each team getting to this point. With a 40-35 victory over the Buckeyes in the 2014 Orange Bowl, the Tigers legitimized their status as a national power. Ohio State, meanwhile, realized it was in need of a defensive overhaul after surrendering 227 receiving yards to Sammy Watkins.
“We know them, have a lot of respect for them. We lost that game. It was a great game,” Meyer said. “We know exactly what we’re getting into.”
Meyer knows because there’s no shortage of similarities between his own team and its upcoming opponent.
Just look at the rosters.