GLENDALE, Ariz. — The two quarterbacks planned it this way.

A couple of summers ago, when Deshaun Watson and J.T. Barrett worked together as counselors at an elite passing camp, they mused about one day facing off in the College Football Playoff.

“It was like, hopefully I’ll see you at the end,” Barrett recalled. “And sure enough we’re here.”

Watson will lead No. 2 Clemson against Barrett and No. 3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl – a playoff semifinal – Saturday night.

Their showdown pits the Tigers’ mostly passing offense against a Buckeyes offense that dominates with a punishing ground game and run-pass option. The day the matchup was announced, Barrett sent Watson a text: I’ll see you in Arizona, brother.

“Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Watson said. “Just to be able to see him live and compete against one another.”

But it won’t be all smiles and pats on the back.

Not only will both teams compete for a spot in the national championship game, each quarterback has a score to settle that reaches beyond their summertime friendship.

It wouldn’t seem that Watson has anything left to prove. He’s been a Heisman Trophy finalist the last two seasons, and recently collected the Johnny Unitas and Davey O’Brien awards as the nation’s top passer.

His 9,484 yards and 86 touchdown passes help explain how he amassed a 30-3 record in less than three seasons as a starter.

But Watson still feels the sting of last January’s 45-40 loss to Alabama in the national final, at the same stadium where Saturday’s semifinal will be held.

“You want to finish on top,” he said. “Not just to get in the playoffs but to finish the deal.”

With the Tigers ranked second in the preseason Associated Press media poll, Watson and his teammates occasionally struggled with expectations.

Their regular season was marred by an upset loss to Pittsburgh, and unexpected close calls against Troy and North Carolina State.

The passing game has been partly to blame, not quite as strong as it was in the 2015-16 playoff run. Critics pointed out that Watson’s 15 interceptions are tied for fourth-most in the nation and his yards per attempt dropped slightly.

It might seem like nitpicking, but that’s what happens when you are a standout on one of the top teams in college football.

“Not a good player, a great player,” Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer said.

This weekend, Watson faces a Buckeyes team that leads the nation in passing efficiency defense and ranks second behind Alabama with seven defensive scores, all after interceptions.

That means any gaffes could be costly. Watson talked about using the past weeks of practice to “get everything situated so we’re not making any mistakes.”

He added: “This year, we want to flip the script and be the team to sit on the stage at the end.”

The playoffs also evoke a less-than-pleasant memory for Barrett, but it has nothing to do with wins or losses.

In the fall of 2014, he earned the starting job as a freshman and led Ohio State to an 11-1 record, setting 19 school records with his passing and running.

Then came the rivalry game against Michigan and a broken ankle on the first play of the fourth quarter. Barrett had to watch from the sideline, pushing himself around on a scooter, as Cardale Jones stepped in.

The Buckeyes upset No. 1 Alabama in a semifinal, then crushed Oregon for the title.

Not that Barrett wasn’t happy but he says: “It’s one of the things when I first came here, I wrote down my goals. One of them was to win a national championship.”

After taking back the starter’s role midway through 2015, he entered this season as an established leader. His 2,428 passing yards haven’t been dazzling but he’s been efficient enough to throw for 24 touchdowns with five interceptions.

And his 847 rushing yards make a him a dual threat.

“Just a tough runner,” Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said. “Running between the tackles, he can break a lot of tackles, running guys over and everything.”

Clemson will answer with a defense that’s been efficient against the pass and ranks fourth with 3.54 sacks per game. As Barrett acknowledged: “They’ve got some dudes …they’re at the top as far as disrupting things.”

The question is, can the Buckeyes generate enough offense if it turns into a track meet?

They will need Barrett to make good decisions on option plays and throw the ball effectively, which will require a steady game from a young offensive line.

Barrett likes that he enters the game healthy.

“I’m not on a scooter or anything,” he said.

There are similarities between the quarterbacks. They are roughly the same size and, as Wilkins said, they are “obviously good, dynamic players.”

Their teams have come to rely on them.

Watson had fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a crucial October win over Florida State and a victory over Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.

The Buckeyes turned to Barrett on a do-or-die fourth down run against Michigan and he bulled for what officials ruled was a first down. Ohio State scored one play later to secure a spot in the playoffs.

“Both of us want the ball in their hands in big-time situations and big games,” Ohio State offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. “And both of us have won a lot of football games with those two guys.”

Now comes the showdown the quarterbacks imagined two summers ago. Barrett finally gets a chance to lead his team in the playoffs. Watson gets another shot at the prize.