CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Top-ranked Clemson defeated No. 7 Miami 38-3 on Saturday night in the ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
It was a de-facto quarterfinal playoff game for both teams, meaning the Tigers cemented a spot in the 4th-annual College Football Playoff with the win, while the Hurricanes were eliminated from playoff contention with their second consecutive loss.
So, where will Clemson be when the final set of rankings are released by the CFP Selection Committee on Sunday, and who will the Tigers play in their semifinal game?
Expect Clemson to hold down its No. 1 ranking. The Tigers have 10 wins over top-40 teams on their resume, including a victory over the SEC West Division Champion Auburn Tigers, to go along with the ACC title — all of which help outweigh their lone loss to Syracuse.
The top-seeded team in the CFP rankings is given preference in location of the semifinals, so Clemson appears headed to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
But who will Clemson play?
Sixth-ranked Georgia upset No. 2 Auburn in the SEC Championship Game, 28-7, on Saturday in another de-factor quarterfinal playoff game, so the one-loss Bulldogs all but locked up a spot in the top four.
Third-ranked Oklahoma beat No. 11 TCU in the Big 12 title game Saturday, so the Sooners sealed their second trip to the playoff in four years.
Last but not least, No. 4 Wisconsin’s 27-21 loss to No. 8 Ohio State created some chaos in the CFP discussion. The Badgers were eliminated from the conversation with the loss, while the Buckeyes re-entered the conversation.
With Wisconsin’s loss, it now comes down to a resume comparison between Ohio State and No. 5 Alabama for the final spot in the CFP. It’s a close call, as the Buckeyes have the conference title on their resume along with three marquee wins over Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State, but also have two losses on the resume. Meanwhile the Crimson Tide have just one loss but are without a conference championship.
Because Alabama’s lone loss is to Auburn — and because the Buckeyes’ two losses weren’t competitive and include a 55-24 thrashing at the hands of unranked Iowa — we believe the committee will give Alabama the edge over State despite the Buckeyes’ conference title.
Therefore, we think Alabama will sneak back into the top four at No. 4 and square off against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl semifinal in New Orleans. It would be the third time in as many years that the Tigers and Tide have met in the CFP, but the first time the two teams have played each other in a semifinal game.
The Sugar Bowl is set for Jan. 1 at 8:45 p.m., while the Rose Bowl will kick off the same day at 5 p.m.
The final selection committee rankings will be released at noon Sunday on ESPN.