There was relatively little drama on Clemson’s end when the second edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday.
For the second week in a row, the Tigers were No. 4. They dispatched NC State on Saturday, 38-31, thanks to a few critical plays from a defense that had been getting abused for most of the game. But a win is a win, and that’s all that matters.
So, the path to a third consecutive appearance in the playoff remains open. The Tigers have, for the most part gotten through the meat of their schedule unscathed save for the Syracuse game that saw Kelly Bryant suffer a concussion just before halftime. A dinged-up, but still potent Florida State team waits this week, then a warm-up against The Citadel before the season finale in Columbia. Clemson should handle this last handful of games without too much trouble, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers are counting them as wins.
In those three weeks, a lot has the potential to change in the top end of the CFP rankings. No. 1 Georgia faces No. 10 Auburn this week, and Auburn turns around to host No. 2 Alabama two weeks later. Then, either Alabama or Auburn will face Georgia in the SEC Championship, meaning those three teams will inevitably knock at least one of themselves out for good, if not more.
No. 5 Oklahoma plays No. 6 TCU this week, and a matchup between No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 7 Miami awaits on Saturday as well.
Should they run the gamut, Clemson will likely face Miami in the ACC Championship Game. Once all the dust clears, the landscape of the College Football Playoff could have shifted drastically. There’s not guarantee the top-six teams ranked on Tuesday will look anywhere close to the same three weeks from now.
But for the most part, Clemson’s going to avoid any high-wire, pressure-packed matchups until the conference title game.
Compared to what’s in front of them, most of the Tigers’ tests are in the rear-view mirror. Even so, the gas pedal has to stay all the way down. They can’t flirt with disaster in these next few weeks, because as long as they take care of business, the odds may be in their favor.
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