The Ohio State Buckeyes pasted Clemson in Friday night’s Sugar Bowl national semifinal, delivering a 49-28 thumping to the team whose coach had voted the Buckeyes outside the top 10.
But Dabo Swinney wasn’t ready to lend any credence to the idea that Ohio State may have used it as an extra boost to prepare against his Tigers – despite evidence to the contrary.
“Eleven? You ranked us 11?” Ohio State offensive lineman Wyatt Davis posted on social media. “Does that make you 12?”
So, Dabo, any part of you wish you could turn back the clock?
“No, I don’t regret any of that,” Swinney said. “Polls have nothing to do with motivation.”
Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert did not necessarily agree.
“We definitely heard what he was saying and used it as motivation,” Ruckert said, “but the stage, the platform of the playoff and the chance to go move on, that’s motivation in itself.”
When a coach pokes the bear – especially when the target is a group of 18- to 22-year-old athletes who are looking for a little something extra – it’s hard to argue that it has no effect.
Swinney said Ohio State has elite talent and that his decision on the USA Today Coaches Poll ranking was made solely because the Buckeyes had played only six games because of pandemic scheduling issues.
“Both teams were highly motivated to play,” Swinney said. “Listen, they’re a great team. That had nothing to do with Ohio State. I said they were good enough to beat us and good enough to win the whole dang thing.
“I didn’t think anybody that didn’t play at least nine games, in my poll, I wasn’t going to put them in the Top 10.”