Though the Notre Dame loss prevented Clemson from being No. 1 again in the first College Football Playoff Poll of the season, it also helped the Tigers.
CFP Committee Chairman Gary Barta, said Clemson’s double overtime loss to No. 2 Notre Dame, a game in which it was missing Trevor Lawrence at quarterback, starters James Skalski and Mike Jones at linebacker and starter Tyler Davis at defensive tackle, was still impressive.
Clemson (7-1, 6-1 ACC) actually had a seven-point lead until the Irish scored the game-tying touchdown with 22 seconds to play to force overtime. The Tigers also led in the first overtime, forcing Notre Dame to score a second game-tying score to force the second overtime.
“It was a heck of a football game for sure, but we do note when a player or key players are not available for a game and in that case, it was well noted that Trevor Lawrence was not able to play,” Barta said. “I think two or three defensive starters were also out for that game, so it is all part of the discussion.
“But the committee was very impressed with Clemson even in that game without Trevor Lawrence, but certainly the rest of the season and their resume up until that point.”
The Tigers’ resume includes a blowout win over No. 10 Miami, which the committee used in its decision to rank them higher than Ohio State (4-0), who came in at No. 4.
Barta said the Buckeyes’ wins over three teams with a combined record of 2-12 played a factor in why Clemson was ranked higher than Ohio State.
“It is clear to the committee that Ohio State is a very good football team,” the chairman said. “But as you look at the rest of their schedule, they ended up with three of their wins, other than Indiana, and Indiana is certainly ranked high, twelfth in the country, but the other teams they have played have a combined record of 2-12, so that certainly factored in. That was one factor in where Ohio State ended up.”
The committee was also impressed with how dominate Clemson had been for much of the season, especially when it was healthy. The Tigers won their first six games by an average of 34.6 points, including a 42-17 win over No. 10 Miami that was not even that close.
Clemson also beat Georgia Tech by 66 points. Injuries and COVID issues set in after the Georgia Tech game. Davis and Skalski have not played since the Georgia Tech win, missing the last three games, while Jones and Lawrence have missed the last two against Boston College and Notre Dame.
With so many starters missing, the Tigers rallied to beat Boston College, 34-28, with true freshman D.J. Uiagalelei playing and then they nearly knocked off Notre Dame on the road. Lawrence had to miss both games after he tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 29, two days before the BC game.
However, despite being banged up and struggling against BC, and nearly beating Notre Dame, the CFP Committee, overall, has liked what they have seen from Dabo Swinney’s team.
“One of the things the committee noted right away, before we talked about the Notre Dame loss, was the domination in the wins that they had and the consistent level of play week in and week out. So, that was certainly part of the conversation,” Barta said.
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