Not a single win over a team currently ranked. Just four victories over teams above .500, and one is Wofford. A near loss to 4-5 North Carolina.
It scheduled Wofford and Charlotte as part of its non-conference slate. The best win came against mediocre Texas A&M, which is in fourth place in the SEC West.
Does this team belong in the College Football Playoff?
Before you answer, that team is Clemson.
Feel differently now? I thought so.
On merit, the Tigers don’t belong right now. The wins aren’t good enough. Their conference is a mess. Their opponents are a combined 38-40 and their strength of schedule is ranked 64th in the nation according to USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin ratings. According to the ratings, the lone top-40 team Clemson has faced is No. 18 Texas A&M.
But there is history. Dabo Swinney’s program won it all last year. It has become as dominant as Alabama, albeit without the regular-season challenges Alabama has to deal with every fall. It has a roster full of future pros. It will likely go undefeated and does have No. 23 Wake Forest on the schedule.
(For transparency sake, I have Clemson ranked fourth, because I believe it is one of the four best teams in the country for the time being. But playoff selection should be more about the eye test. Georgia was one of the four best teams last year and wasn’t included).
It is the most interesting team in the playoff mix, because of its poor résumé and rich recent history. The Tigers are the team I will be watching the closest when the made-for-television College Football Playoff rankings show kicks off Tuesday night.
This show is, of course, about money and ratings, but there is some value to it, especially the first show. Last year’s opener included three of the playoff teams in the top four. The year before it was the same number. The season before that it was two playoff teams in the top four.
There have been some surprises. Ohio State came all the way back from being No. 16 to reach the playoff in 2014. But usually the teams in the top four, or at least close to the top four, are the ones that decide the title.
It will be difficult for Clemson to make up much ground considering the schedule. There is not one significant opponent left, while others have marquee games remaining.
That said, I fully expect Clemson to reach the playoff. I can’t see the committee leaving out an undefeated Power Five conference champion, especially one with such a big brand. I believe winning has to matter most, but you also can’t ignore how weak the ACC has become, without a legitimate second team to at least challenge Clemson. We’ve heard so much about the importance of scheduling tough and beating winning teams. It would seem contradictory to include Clemson over a one-loss team that has a number of impressive wins.
For argument’s sake, suppose LSU loses to Alabama on Saturday. Do you take undefeated Clemson or one-loss LSU, which has defeated the likes of Texas, Florida and Auburn?
Ask yourself this, if this wasn’t Clemson and there was this paper-thin résumé, would that team be considered such a sure thing?
It’s a debate that figures to heat up over the next month. Tuesday night’s first College Football Playoff ranking may reveal a lot about which direction this is headed.
The Game of the Year is on tap Saturday in Tuscaloosa, when undefeated Alabama hosts undefeated LSU, and the entire SEC should be pulling for the Crimson Tide. It’s how the conference gets two playoff teams. LSU’s résumé, as stated above, is good enough to absorb a road loss, especially to a top-flight opponent. Alabama doesn’t have a single significant victory yet. The showdown, actually, means more to Nick Saban’s team.
Tagg’ you’re out
One big job is now open and it won’t be long until another one is, too.
We had no choice: Florida State fires football coach
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State has fired Willie Taggart, the…
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Florida State fired coach Willie Taggart on Sunday, 21 games in, and reportedly ate more than $17 million to get rid of him. He had won just nine games, and the Seminoles were in danger of missing a bowl game for the second straight year after appearing in one 36 straight seasons.
Soon, USC will be looking for a new coach, too. Clay Helton is 10-11 the last two seasons and USC was just embarrassed by Oregon, 56-24, at home. Mike Bohn, the soon-to-be named USC athletic director, will be looking for his own guy to restore the once proud program to national relevance.
The odds remain long. The Pac-12’s playoff drought still has a better shot of being extended than ending. But the conference, a punching bag recently, at least is in the mix as top-10 teams Oregon and Utah keep winning. Its championship game, granted Oregon and Utah arrive as one-loss opponents, will matter. That’s important. The league is at least changing the narrative.
1. Ohio State (8-0) (Last week: 1)
A bye followed by games against Maryland and Rutgers. Nobody told Ryan Day he would have a vacation in early November.
2. LSU (8-0) (2)
LSU has been here before, undefeated entering the annual Alabama showdown. It happened in 2015 and a loss started a season-crushing swoon. Don’t think Tigers fans aren’t worried about history repeating itself.
3. Alabama (8-0) (3)
It will be around-the-clock Tua Tagovailoa speculation. Will he play? Won’t he? Our guess is yes, but he won’t be at 100 percent, after suffering a high right ankle sprain Oct. 19 against Tennessee.
4. Clemson (9-0) (4)
There was value in the Tigers’ 59-14 whipping of Wofford. Stat padding. Anything else escapes us.
5. Penn State (8-0) (5)
Penn State’s résumé improves by the week. Pittsburgh is tied in the loss column atop the ACC Coastal and Michigan has looked like a different team since losing to the Nittany Lions.
6. Georgia (7-1) (7)
This was the Georgia team we expected. The defense was suffocating. Jake Fromm made big plays. And the Bulldogs won at Florida, taking command of the SEC East.
7. Oregon (8-1) (9)
Justin Herbert has now thrown 24 touchdown passes, just two interceptions and is completing 69.4 percent of his passes. A late Heisman Trophy run remains possible.
8. Oklahoma (7-1) (6)
It was a productive Saturday for the idle Sooners because Baylor won. They need that Nov. 16 showdown to have as much significance as possible.
9. Auburn (7-2) (10)
Reaching the playoff remains a long shot. Impacting it, however, is not. The Tigers will have a say, with the chance to spoil the party for Alabama and Georgia in the season’s final few weeks.
10. Utah (8-1) (NR)
The Utes are on pace for their best season in over a decade, since they went 13-0 in 2008 and were still in the Mountain West Conference. That was also the last time they finished with a top-10 ranking.
Dropped out: Florida (7-2)
Heisman Watch (in predicted order)
QB Joe Burrow, LSU
The stage doesn’t get any bigger than this: Undefeated Alabama on the road. Burrow can lock up a New York City invite with another big performance.
QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
The senior isn’t just having a magical season through the air, throwing 21 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. He’s also Oklahoma’s leading rusher by a wide margin, running for 801 yards and 13 scores.
QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
He may not be the front-runner at the moment, but the final month of the season will give him every opportunity to win the award. Has chance to pad his stats the next two weeks against Maryland and Rutgers, followed by spotlight showdowns against Penn State and Michigan.
QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
A lot has to go right, almost too much, for Tagovailoa to win the Heisman. The ankle has to be 100 percent and he has to be at his very best to make up for the last few weeks.
DE Chase Young, Ohio State
The last player to reach 20 sacks was Louisville’s Elvis Dumervil in 2005. Young will be the next one, and he won’t even need to wait for the Big Ten title game. He needs 6.5 and still has four games to get there.