Ranked No. 1 in the next-to-last College Football Playoff rankings, Clemson should probably be in no matter what, win or lose. Here’s why.
For the next few minutes as you read this, understand that I’m against everything I’m about to write.
However, as I hold my nose, I have to keep this in the land of reality. And as the College Football Playoff system is currently configured, I have to analyze this whole thing based on how the committee breaks down, compares, contrasts, and analyzes each spot in the rankings in a team vs. team debate.
So, here we go.
Clemson has a great argument to be in the College Football Playoff, even if it loses the ACC Championship to Miami.
I hate this for so, so, so many reasons.
First of all, again, I’m the leader of the movement against teams that don’t win their conference championships getting into the College Football Playoff. If you can’t win your conference, you shouldn’t get a shot at winning the whole enchilada.
Second, Clemson’s loss to a Syracuse team that ended up 4-8 – going on a five-game losing streak after beating the Tigers – is the worst of any of the contenders for the CFP.
Oklahoma and TCU lost to an Iowa State team that’s going bowling. Ohio State was blown out by Iowa, but the Hawkeyes are in for a winning season. And, of course, TCU and OSU lost to OU.
Miami’s loss to a losing-season Pitt team is a close second, but Alabama and Georgia’s lone defeats were to Auburn, Wisconsin doesn’t have a scratch, and Auburn lost to both LSU and … Clemson.
And there’s your key to all of this.
Here’s the argument.
Obviously, if Clemson wins the ACC title then the whole debate is a waste of your good time. And in all of this, the one scenario that’s impossible to debate the Clemson side is if Miami wins the ACC title, Wisconsin wins the Big Ten, Oklahoma wins the Big 12, and Georgia is in with an SEC championship if it wins.
However, an argument could be made that Georgia’s one decent win would be over a Notre Dame team that Miami destroyed, Auburn lost to Clemson, and … it’s too tough. Georgia would be in.
Now, let’s say there’s any sort of variance to the Big Ten, Big 12, and/or SEC championships.
If TCU beats Oklahoma, even with a Big 12 title, Clemson would have a better resume with the loss to Miami.
There’s a reason why the committee loved the Tigers throughout the process, with a win at Louisville, a win over Boston College, a win at Virginia Tech, a win at NC State, a win at South Carolina, and in all – if Florida State beats ULM – eight wins over bowl bound teams all from Power Five conferences.
TCU’s win at Oklahoma State would be fantastic, and beating Oklahoma would be amazing, but that’s about it.
It’s still a tough sell, though. And Ohio State is an even harder argument, considering – if it beats Wisconsin – it would have three wins over teams ranked in the next-to-last CFP top 16.
However, the committee always acknowledged that the Clemson loss to Syracuse was given a pass because of the Kelly Bryant injury, then – in theory – it can’t change its mind now and turn back.
The same reasons why Clemson didn’t get punished for that loss before are the same reasons why it wouldn’t have a problem in this head-to-head debate – and that Iowa loss by the Buckeyes is still really, really ugly.
But you’re not buying any of this poppycock. Miami is in, the Big 12 champion is in, the Big Ten champion is in – those are three powerful Power Five champs.
But what if Auburn wins the SEC Championship?
That’s when someone in the committee room has to pull out the Clemson 14, Auburn 6 card.
Say what you will about that being the second week of the season, and the committee would argue that beating Georgia twice over the last few weeks and taking down Alabama on the way to an SEC title would overcome that, but …
Clemson 14, Auburn 6.
Conference championships are important, but why play the games if you’re not going to recognize the results? Two Tiger teams played, one beat the other, and in every conceivable tie-breaking scenario known to man, after it’s broken down to the most basic element, head-to-head trumps everything.
Yeah, Auburn beat Bama. Yeah, Auburn beat Georgia. Yeah, Auburn beat Georgia again. But the SEC was just a big bowl of meh soup this year, and …
Clemson 14, Auburn 6
But wait, what about Alabama? Lost to Auburn, who lost to Clemson, and …
Okay, fine. If it loses to Miami, Clemson will play Alabama in one whale of an Orange Bowl.
And somewhere, an athletic director will take moment to wonder why there’s ever a reason to schedule a tough non-conference game ever again.