When you think about it, Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh, at least for the time being, means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Clemson still has an opportunity to win the ACC’s Atlantic Division this week. It still has an opportunity to win the ACC Championship and it still has an opportunity to advance to the College Football Playoff.
It’s almost like Saturday did not even happen. Of all the teams that have one loss—Ohio State, Michigan, Louisville and Washington—Clemson has the easiest path to the College Football Playoff. At the moment, the Tigers have to be the most fortunate team in the country.
Let’s be honest, no one in Death Valley following Chris Blewitt’s 48-yard field goal with six seconds left, thought the Tigers would be in this position come Monday Morning. I mean they lost, how could they still be in control of their own destiny?
But that is what happens when four other teams ranked blow you also lose. Third-ranked Michigan lost on a 33-yard field goal as time expired at Iowa. Washington, ranked No. 4, lost to Southern Cal at home, while both No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 9 Auburn fell as well.
So when the dust finally cleared late on Saturday night, Clemson was in the same position it was before it even kicked off the football against Pitt.
How fortunate is this team? I hate to write this because I’m not a destiny kind of guy, but after surviving the NC State debacle a few weeks back and somehow finding ways to beat Louisville and Florida State the way that they did, you wonder if the Tigers are a team of destiny. No matter how bad they play this year, they seem to come out shining in the end. Even when they lose.
However, Clemson’s margin for error is now the narrowest of margins. It cannot afford to lose any more games from here on out or getting back to the College Football Playoff is over. In reality, the playoff starts this Saturday at Wake Forest.
Every game, as long as the Tigers win, is a survive and advance scenario, which means the South Carolina game on Nov. 26 has more meaning than it ever has had in the past 34 years.
If Clemson beats Wake Forest on Saturday, and as we learned from this past Saturday there are no guarantees, then the annual grudge match with the Gamecocks means everything. The last time the South Carolina game had this much meaning to the Tigers was back in 1981, the last time this program won a national championship.
Yep, even more than last year’s game. The Tigers could have lost last year to South Carolina, and still would have made the playoff. But thanks to the Pitt loss, Clemson has no room for error, and now beating the Gamecocks has more at stake than just bragging rights for the next 365 days.
With South Carolina knowing it has an opportunity to truly play the role of spoiler, how fun does that game look in a few weeks?
However, to get to that game, the Tigers must first take care of business at Wake Forest this coming Saturday. Win and they clinch a berth in the ACC Championship Game and their playoff hopes are still alive. Lose and say good bye to the ACC Atlantic Division title, the ACC Championship and the College Football Playoff.
The playoff starts on Saturday for Clemson. We are about to find out just how fortunate this team really is.