Dabo Swinney said he really did not care what Clemson was going to be ranked in the first College Football Playoff Poll, which was released on Tuesday night. His team felt the same way.
Tight end Jordan Leggett and the entire offensive line decided playing video games was more important than watching the first CFB Playoff Top 25 Show, and while defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said he would be watching, what the Tigers were ranked really did not matter to him.
“The only thing that matters is winning each game,” wide receiver Hunter Renfrow said. “If we win the remainder of our games, then we are the national champions.”
There is no arguing that. Winning a national championship is the only thing that matters, and that is what makes the release of last night’s rankings important. To get to the playoff, and to have an opportunity to win the national championship, the Tigers have to make the CFB Playoff Selection Committee’s Top 4.
So far so good as Clemson (8-0, 5-0 ACC) debuted at No. 2 in the committee’s first rankings.
“We are proud to be ranked in the top four of first College Football Playoff Poll, but it really doesn’t matter much at this stage,” Swinney said following the release of Tuesday’s rankings. “We just need to take care of business and concentrate on winning on Saturday against Syracuse.
“The last poll in the month of November and the final poll after the conference championship games in December are the ones that matter most.”
I get it. This poll doesn’t matter because Clemson is already in the top 4. Win and they’re in. However, it does matter a little. What if they were not in the top five to start the rankings? Would it matter more then?
Ask Louisville or Washington how much it matters. Because of the strength of their schedules, those two teams are sitting outside the top four of the rankings. They now know where they stand in the selection committee’s eyes.
Louisville was called the “night’s biggest loser” by ESPN analyst Paul Finebaum after debuting at No. 7 in the rankings. The committee once again proved it is not really how you win games, but who you beat that really matters.
The Cardinals remaining games against Boston College, Wake Forest, Houston and Kentucky, will more than likely do little to change that ranking and they could slip even by winning.
Washington, who is No. 5, can move up in the ranking as long it keeps winning. If the Huskies win out, which would include wins over a decent Cal team, Southern Cal and at Washington State, then they will get in the playoff. However, by being ranked No. 5 to start off, despite being a perfect 8-0, the committee has made a statement – one slip and the Huskies and the Pac 12 are done.
So the reality here is this. Though Swinney and his players say the rankings in early November don’t matter, they actually do. They may not matter as much as the ones in late November and early December, but like Clemson can’t get to 12-0 without first being 9-0, the polls in late November and December can’t happen without the ones in early November.
These polls in November do matter. They set the stage for not only who’s in now, but who has a legitimate chance of getting in and who doesn’t later.
Clemson’s in right now. They are No. 2. They are one Alabama loss from being No. 1, and one loss themselves from being on the outside looking in.
Also, keep this in mind. If Clemson can move up to No. 1, then it is likely to play its semifinal game in Atlanta’s Peach Bowl. Being ranked No. 2 or No. 3 likely assures the Tigers would headed back to Arizona to play in the Fiesta Bowl.
I would imagine the Tigers would much rather play in Atlanta than in Arizona so their fans can be there to lend them support.
So the CFB Playoff Rankings do matter. It just depends on who you are and how you look at it.