For the past couple of weeks, Clemson has seen its national profile enhanced by a pair of convincing performances. For the past couple of weeks, the Tigers have jumped ahead of teams who have not lost in one or both of the major national polls.
Now it’s time for the Tigers to rest, and the tables may very well turn.
Fans may not like to hear it, but it’s the reality. Clemson has managed to jump teams either on byes or playing vastly inferior opposition because of its statement win over Georgia. As the glow of that victory wears off and those other teams play better opponents, the Tigers may very well find themselves on the other side of that equation.
The Tigers began the season eighth in the country in both the USA Today and Associated Press polls. Following the win over the Bulldogs, Dabo Swinney’s team rose up to fourth in the AP poll and fifth in the USA Today poll. One writer from Cleveland.com even saw fit to bestow upon the Tigers a first-place vote.
Now Clemson has been ranked third by the AP and fifth by USA Today. This has quickly become one of the most recognized Tiger teams in history—so far—largely due to the fact that there has been a bump up in the rankings every week.
Some fans have begun to speculate about the potential of leaping up even further into the top two spots in either poll. Virtually ignored in this discussion, however, is the possibility that Clemson could get victimized by the very same process that vaulted it up into this position in the first place.
No greater example of a catch-22 for Tiger fans exists than the circus in College Station, Texas, this week. Top-ranked Alabama faces sixth-ranked Texas A&M in one of the most anticipated matchups of this college football season. All eyes in the nation will be trained on this game, and the outcome might adversely affect Clemson either way.
Consider the possible results. If Alabama wins, it solidifies the Crimson Tide as the nation’s best team for the time being. After facing the Aggies, the schedule eases up considerably, a home date with LSU representing the lone readily available stumbling block to an undefeated regular season. If Nick Saban’s team wins on Saturday, the number of available slots in the national title game seemingly gets cut in half.
If Texas A&M wins, things could really get interesting. With Johnny Manziel in tow and an SEC pedigree, a second straight win over Bama could give pollsters all the reason they need to vault the Aggies into one of the top two spots—ahead of the Tigers.
And who’s to say Alabama falls below the second slot in the country? After all, the loss would be to a top-six team on the road in a hostile environment. For all we know, A&M and Alabama could be 1-2 in the polls when they close on Monday.
This is based solely on speculation and assumption, of course. A lot will depend on Oregon’s showing in a presumed victory over Tennessee and how the game in College Station plays out on the field. Plus, there is a long season ahead. Crazy things are still in store.
But I think it’s important for Clemson fans to prepare for a scenario in which the Tigers fall prey to the same process that Ohio State, Stanford, and Texas A&M have felt at the hands of the Tigers already in 2013. It all makes for an interesting Saturday, even when Clemson isn’t playing.