(WTOL) - Ohio State is set to make their eighth appearance in the Fiesta Bowl, but never have the stakes been higher.
Last year, the Buckeyes crushed Notre Dame 44-28 with a big performance by running back Ezekiel Elliot, who had four touchdowns.
This year, Elliot is in the NFL as are eleven other starters from that team. Urban Meyer's squad is still stacked with talented players, but it is experience they lack.
"It's hard. I've tried to put them in as many game situations as possible. Almost half our roster has never been to a bowl game," Meyer said at a press conference Thursday. "It was a little different preparation we've had if you were a veteran team."
The few veterans remaining for Ohio State are working to keep the young Buckeyes motivated for Saturday's playoff game.
"Having the guys who come back and lead these kinda guys and develop them gives a huge credit to the leadership and the coaching," said offensive lineman Bill Price. "Even the young guys have to give those guys a lot of credit for all the hard work those guys put in."
The defense has been working every scenario to preparing for Heisman runner-up Deshaun Watson of Clemson in what may be defensive coordinator Luke Fickell's last game with the Buckeyes.
"[Fickell] taught me everything I know," said Raekwon McMillon. "And all the accomplishments I've had over my short career here at Ohio State, I can truly say Coach Fickell has had a little dabble in everything I've done on the field."
At a pre-game press conference on Friday with Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, Coach Meyer offered up some explanations for his team's success that had nothing to do with superstition.
Ohio State and Clemson battle on the field for the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at 7 p.m. on ESPN. The winner of that game will take on the winner of Alabama and Washington in the Chik-Fil-A Peach Bowl.