The Atlantic Coast Conference was represented well in the first College Football Playoff Committee Rankings, which was released Tuesday night on ESPN.
The ACC had three teams in the top 10, including two in the top 5. Notre Dame checked in at No. 2, Clemson was No. 3 and Miami was No. 10. It marked the third time the ACC has had two teams ranked in the top 5 in the CFP rankings and the first time it has had three in the top 10.
Committee Chairman Gary Barta, said the committee was extremely impressed with Notre Dame and Clemson, and their epic double-overtime battle in South Bend, Ind., on Nov. 7 played a big role in why the two teams checked in at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively.
Though the Irish (8-0, 7-0 ACC) are squarely set at No. 2, and deservedly so, Barta said the committee never thought about placing the Irish atop the poll, despite having the best win of any team in the initial ranking.
That win, of course, is their double-overtime victory over No. 3 Clemson. Barta highlighted the Tigers’ missing quarterback Trevor Lawrence, defensive tackle Tyler Davis, middle linebacker James Skalski and strong side backer Mike Jones, as key pieces in their decision.
“It certainly did. Whenever key players are not available, whether it is this year for COVID, but every year, if particular players are not available, that is noted and certainly considered,” Barta said.
However, Barta noted the Irish did win the game and it was an impressive win, snapping the Tigers 36-game regular season win streak, one of the longest streaks in the history of the NCAA.
“But more importantly, to Notre Dame’s credit, they are 8-0 and they really have improved on both sides of the ball each week,” the committee chairman said. “I look at Ian Book, now compared to the beginning of the year as the as the season goes on, he just looks more and more comfortable with every passing game.
“Another thing Notre Dame has done it has played some very tough defense. They have held five of their opponents to fewer than 14 points. So, Notre Dame came in squarely at No. 2. Again, partly because they have the impressive win over Clemson, but also because they are improving with each week that is going by.”
As for Clemson, the CFP Committee was impressed with how close the Tigers came to beating Notre Dame, despite having so many players missing the game, and then all the injuries they sustained during the course of the game.
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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