The Atlantic Coast Conference championship football game between undefeated Clemson and Pittsburgh on Saturday won’t be the most important game for Tigers fans. Heck, it won’t even be in the top three.
What happens in the Southeastern, Big 12 and Big 10 conference championship games will have a far greater bearing on Clemson’s College Football Playoff future than the “showdown” in Charlotte. Sure, if the Tigers were to lose to Pitt, their College Football Playoff hopes would disappear in a flash. Really though, do you see the 7-5 Panthers coming off a loss to Miami being able to pull that off? Uh, no.
So, why are these other games so much more important? Because of the CFP rankings. Clemson is No. 2 behind No. 1 Alabama in the most recent rankings. At No. 3 is Notre Dame and Georgia is at No. 4.
If the national semifinal games were played today, Clemson would be paired up against also undefeated Notre Dame. Tiger fans want the pairing to stay just like that.
Notre Dame, a de facto ACC football school because of it being an ACC member in every other sport, may be undefeated, but it hasn’t proven itself to be a dominant offensive team like Clemson, Alabama or Georgia – and frankly – No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Ohio State.
Can Clemson beat any of the other four teams? Certainly, in fact the Tigers would likely be favored against each of them except for Alabama. The spread would be greater though against Notre Dame because it couldn’t keep up with the Tiger offense.
That’s why Tiger Nation wants Notre Dame, which is done with its regular season, to stay paired up against Clemson. It’s a much easier path to the national title game facing the Fighting Irish in the semifinal.
So what’s the worst thing that can happen for Clemson? Georgia beating Alabama in the SEC championship game. If that happens, the four current teams in the CFP will remain in it, but there will be a shakeup.
However it falls, it is hard to see the CFP committee making ‘Bama and Georgia play a second straight game against each other in one of the semifinals. The alternative would be one of them against Clemson and one against Notre Dame, not nearly as conducive for a trip to the tile game for the Tigers.
If Alabama takes care of business in its 4 p.m. showdown against the Bulldogs, that means there will be an opening in the CFP. Then it will come down to either Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game against Texas beginning at noon or the Big 10 tilt between Ohio State and Northwestern, which will be starting at 8 p.m. along with the ACC game.
Both Oklahoma and Ohio State can produce massive points offensively, but neither is good on defense. However, if either one is able to pull off a blowout victory on Saturday that might give the committee a thought of jumping it to No. 3 over an idle Notre Dame.
Even if one or both win in a blowout, the odds are that won’t happen. We are talking about golden child Notre Dame, after all.
Still, the Big 10 may get Northwestern to roll over and let the Buckeyes beat the snot out of them, so they can get into the 4-team field. How can I make such a charge, you ask? Remember Ohio State beat the snot out of Wisconsin 59-0 in the 2014 Big 10 title game to make the field and win a national title.
I’m just kidding, but it certainly opens the door wide open for conspiracy theorists such as myself. Well, I guess I’m kidding.