If Clemson wins the College Football Playoff National Championship, what will it mean to the college football world?
5. The mere fact that Clemson is here once again is enough … sort of
Alabama has had staying power for over a decade, it has become a college football historical anomaly in terms of its brilliant consistency, and it’s been able to create the aura around the program that it’s expected to be here. It was a forgone conclusion since last January.
But Clemson was supposed to be here, too. The Tigers were No. 2 team in the CFN Preseason Rankings. They were No. 2 in both the AP and Coaches polls. They were expected to go to Santa Clara in just about every round of bowl projections.
They did it. They proved they could not only handle the high expectations, but in some ways, exceed them by going 14-0.
Even if they lose to Alabama … whatever. That wouldn’t diminish the program’s status one iota. However …
4. Win, and all of a sudden that takes things to a whole other level
Nah, a win doesn’t mean Clemson is quite able to afford the penthouse that Alabama is currently staying in – do this for a decade, Clemson, and then you get the keys. But it would put the program on equal footing with the Crimson Tide going forward.
In terms of national reputation, a Clemson win puts the program in the Because It’s Clemson category currently reserved just for Alabama.
Clemson is already sort of there, but, for example, when it comes to the Crimson Tide, you can come up with all the knocks, barriers, and issues that you want, and yet you’ll still assume the program is going to be in the College Football Playoff next year … because it’s Alabama.
If Clemson wins this, and no matter how many personnel changes there might be next season, scheduling quirks, or other concerns you might foresee for the 2019 team, Dabo Swinney and this program will have more than earned its stripes to get every benefit of every doubt …
Because it’s Clemson.
3. A win will keep Clemson from being Texas
For several years in the early to mid-2000s, Texas was right on the cusp of playing for national titles. It has the talent, and it had the coaching, and it had the big reputation coming into each season.
But it took a historic performance by one of the greatest players of all-time to push through and finally win a national title.
After the Vince Young era ended, Texas stayed fantastic, and it got back to the BCS Championship four years later, but it lost to Alabama and that was it.
Mack Brown never won another national title, and it has taken a long, long, long time to try to get back.
Clemson had an amazing team in 2016, but it took Deshaun Watson being Deshaun Watson to win the national championship.
Beat Alabama in Santa Clara, and Clemson will prove that it’s bigger than just one amazing player’s magnum opus.
2. It’s a huge moment for the ACC, and not just Clemson
The Pac-10 wasn’t bad in the 2000s, but it was the greatness of USC, and later Oregon, that was able to raise the profile of the entire league.
The ACC was awful this season. It’s been a fine bowl run, but nothing special. Oooooooooh, Wake Forest and Duke beat a couple of American Athletic teams (Memphis and Temple, respectively), and Virginia Tech lost to one (Cincinnati). Miami and Georgia Tech didn’t show up in their bowl games, Syracuse got a Will Grier-less West Virginia, and Boston College was so unnecessary that the SERVPRO First Responders Bowl just quit because it was stormy.
There’s Virginia blowing out South Carolina, and there’s Clemson.
Clemson’s schedule wasn’t anything special this season. It had some problems in the one tough game it had to deal with – at Texas A&M – it needed a minor miracle to beat Syracuse, and it didn’t have to run through the SEC West or Big Ten East gauntlet to get here.
Throw in that it caught a break with Notre Dame instead of Oklahoma, Georgia – yes, Georgia would’ve been different and would’ve cared in a CFP – or Ohio State in the Cotton, and the slate wasn’t that bad.
Beat Alabama, and nothing else matters. The ACC will have a national champion in football.
1. It would be good for college football
There’s almost a sigh of resignation when it comes to Alabama and national championships.
If the Tide win, throw it onto the pile.
It’s not like Alabama has captured America’s sports imagination. Every year, Alabama is consistently amazing with what seems like plug-and-play talents who just keep feeding the beast.
Tua Tagovailoa might be a rising superstar, but overall, Alabama winning national titles just doesn’t seem to move the needle when it comes to dynasties.
If Clemson wins, then the profile of the program and college football pivots.
Dabo Swinney will become an even bigger star, and Clemson would take a giant leap up in the cool factor. Both are already big, but for those who lived through UNLV basketball in the early 1990s, Miami football when it was The U., and USC football in the mid-2000s, there will be a rock star factor around Clemson.
Alabama has been about The Process. If Clemson wins, it’ll be about Clemson.