Path To The College Football Playoff: Clemson Tigers
What does Clemson have to do to get back to the College Football Playoff?
What’s Clemson’s path to get to the College Football Playoff?
How do you go back to being just another team after winning the national title and coming oh-so-close to taking another?
Of course Clemson is a powerhouse now, and sure it’s more than just Deshaun Watson at this point under Dabo Swinney, but that was a special run with a special group of players – you don’t just instantly reload to that level.
Or maybe you do.
Alabama and Ohio State have done it, so why can’t Clemson make it a third College Football Playoff in four years?
There might be a whole lot of turnover, and the expectations might be even higher now, but Swinney has created a monster that should still be deep in the hunt for the national championship. So what’s Clemson’s path to the College Football Playoff?
Step One: Figure Out The Quarterback Situation, And …
Be okay that he’s not going to be Deshaun Watson. Duh – everyone knows that, but Clemson reloaded on the defensive line over the last few years, turned into a factory for top wide receivers, and recruited well enough to crank up the talent everywhere else, so why can’t another sensational quarterback step up to the same level?
Remember, Tajh Boyd was terrific, too.
Whether Kelly Bryant turns out to be that good, or super-recruit Hunter Johnson, it’s not like the Tigers are dragging some random guy out of psych class and throwing him to the wolves. They’ll be fine, but they have to be all in on their No. 1 man, and the pieces have to emerge around him. To do that, they have to …
Step Two: Figure It Out vs. Kent State
Clemson will beat Kent State without a problem, but the Golden Flashes should show up with a little bit of defense. They fell off the map at the end of last year, but this has been a good, tough program on one side of the ball for the last few seasons. Consider it a win if Kent State puts up more than seven points, but at least the D will provide a nice scrimmage.
With all the new moving parts at receiver, running back, and again, under center, this it the perfect tune-up game considering what’s coming next. This is the game the Tigers need to gear up, and then …
Step Three: Own The Rest Of September
Auburn, at Louisville, Boston College, at Virginia Tech – all the kinks have to be worked out before dealing with this brutal, brutal stretch.
Auburn is going to be better than it was when the two Tiger teams battled to start last season, the road game to face Lamar Jackson and Louisville should be a wild way to kick off the ACC slate, the BC D should make it interesting, and the ACC Championship rematch at Virginia Tech will be nasty.
Get to October 5-0, and with Wake Forest and a trip to Syracuse to follow, 7-0 isn’t out of the question before getting a week off.
Step Four: Survive The Build-Up Games
It’s the perfect time to get a week off to not only rest up, but to get two weeks to prepare for the Georgia Tech option attack. With the Yellow Jacket offensive style, though, getting the game in Death Valley might not matter too much. Sometimes teams can’t hit the curveball, but the Tigers have to get by this without a problem.
If the Georgia Tech date is a trap, the road trip to NC State to follow will be full-on, panic-attack dangerous.
The Wolfpack had the Tigers dead last year before collapsing late, but Clemson will only hear that about 967,000 times in the lead-up to the rematch. Get past this, and the season should come down to whether or not it can …
Step Five: Beat Florida State
This is it. If this isn’t for the ACC title, it’ll play a big, big role in the race.
The Tigers can lose a game along the way, but considering how loaded the Seminoles are, they probably can’t get back to the ACC title game without coming up with a third straight win in the rivalry.
Florida State should be so good that it’s possible to lose this and still get into the CFP, but Clemson will have to finish 11-1 – if it doesn’t go to the ACC championship – and it’ll have to play well in the loss. As long as there aren’t any major slips the along the way, and no matter what happens against Louisville, the Tigers should be back in the ACC title by beating the Seminoles.
Step Six: Win A Third Straight ACC Championship
Win the ACC title and finish 12-1 or better, and Clemson is a lock to get into the CFP. Seeding would be interesting, with the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans being a better geographical fit. Finish as a third seed, and the Tigers will likely be off to Pasadena – like there will be any complaints.
Would 12-1 with an ACC loss still get Clemson in? Then it’ll be a battle, but with wins over Auburn, Louisville, Florida State and South Carolina along the way, it might still be possible.
So … What Are The Chances Clemson Gets Into The 2017-2018 College Football Playoff?
Probably not as bad as you might think. Don’t blow off the idea of making it three straight trips just because Watson and a slew of offensive stars are gone. Realistically, Clemson probably loses two games and this is Florida State’s season. But again, it all might come down to November 11th. The CFP might be a bit of a reach if the FSU game was in Tallahassee, but win that, and there’s room for a stumble along the way – just like last season.