3. Clemson vs. Alabama … the schedules
It’s been one of the offseason discussion points – just how much easier was Clemson’s path to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game than Alabama’s?
No one with a brain is suggesting that Clemson didn’t earn and deserve the blowout win, and it’s wrong to argue that Bama lost like that because of its schedule – it’s not possible to give a team more rest in the fourth quarters of games than what the Tide got – but yeah, there’s a difference between beating Pitt for the ACC title and Georgia for the SEC championship.
So how many AP top 25 teams does Clemson have to face? It gets No. 12 Texas A&M at home, and it goes on the road to play No. 22 Syracuse.
And that’s really, really it.
Not only do the Tigers miss all the preseason top 25 teams over the final nine games, but the regular season finale against South Carolina is the only other game against a team that received a vote.
Alabama? It faces South Carolina on the road early on, but the road game at Texas A&M is the only battle against an AP preseason top 25 team over the first eight games. Here’s the difference.
Clemson gets to roll through the back half of its season, and Alabama’s finishing kick gets hard with No. 6 LSU, No. 28 Mississippi State on the road, and No. 16 Auburn away from Tuscaloosa.
There will likely be the same problem there was last year in the SEC title game, too. Clemson will most likely get a top 20ish-ranked team from the Coastal in the ACC Championship – assuming the Tigers don’t hit a disaster – and Alabama will likely face a top tenish-ranked – likely closer to top five – Florida or Georgia.
What does it mean? Clemson’s big games are early, and Alabama’s big games are late.
NEXT: The Big Ten’s big world … sort of