CFP Committee remains inconsistent on Clemson Football

Jan 11, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; A detailed view of College Football Playoff National Championship logo helmet at 2022 Indianapolis Host Committee press conference at the JW Marriott. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 11, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; A detailed view of College Football Playoff National Championship logo helmet at 2022 Indianapolis Host Committee press conference at the JW Marriott. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The latest iteration of the College Football Playoff’s Top 25 was revealed Tuesday night, and Clemson Football rose one spot in the rankings to #8. This is a direct result of Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina.

The committee simply increased all the teams behind Tennessee one spot to fill in the vacuum. The order of LSU, USC, Alabama & Clemson did not change.

Committee chairperson Boo Corrigan, athletic director of North Carolina State, fielded questions following the reveal, and many focused on Clemson Football.

When asked why Clemson was still three spots behind 2-loss LSU, who lost to Florida State while Clemson defeated the Seminoles, Corrigan responded:

"Again, we’re looking for growth during the course of the season, and LSU since that loss to Florida State and the way that they’ve played and the way they’ve continued to improve, the win over Alabama, the convincing win over Mississippi are two things that we’ve really looked at. With regard to Clemson, yeah, it does matter. 6-1 against teams over .500; the two ranked teams are in there. But as we looked at it in the comparable to the Notre Dame loss in South Bend 35-14 and how that game kind of went down as each member of the committee who was watching it and studying it and looking at everything came back with the conclusion that we saw LSU at 5 and Clemson at 8."

The committees of past seasons have always stressed ‘the body of work.’ Usually, that has translated as a loss at the beginning of a season is no different from a loss at the end of the season.

Corrigan seems to be saying the results against a common opponent aren’t impactful because LSU’s loss was in the first game of the season, and they’ve shown ‘growth’ since then. That growth, along with Clemson’s lone loss happening later in the season, apparently overrides results against common opponents.

Corrigan doesn’t mention LSU’s loss to Tennessee in Baton Rouge. If ‘how that game kind of went down’ was about the eye-test, then the LSU-Tennessee game would be relevant. Corrigan is citing the timing of LSU’s loss to FSU and Clemson’s loss to Notre Dame as the motivating reason for the committee to devalue a factor they have cited many times over the years: results against common opponents.

When Corrigan is later asked about SEC teams like Alabama and LSU playing late-season matchups against Group of Five or FCS teams, Corrigan cited ‘body of work’ to explain why they aren’t impactful:

"You know, we’re really looking at the whole body of work. We’re in week 12. People have played different people throughout the season, some stronger than others, and our goal really is to look at the whole resume at this point and make sure that we’re evaluating the entire resume instead of one single data point that you can get sucked into at times and making sure that we’re making the bigger, broader decision that we have to make and make sure we get that right based on being through week 12."

When I step back and look at the entire ‘body of work’ of the CFP committee over the years, I am primarily happy with the work they have done. I think the emphasis on the resume has positively changed the way most people that cover college football evaluate teams and rankings.

This inconsistency in the committee’s perspectives and decision-making continues to highlight the point many have made over the past decade: the committee members are still fallible and fall victim to their own biases.

When it comes to the SEC, the committee doesn’t want to get fixated on a point in time. For example, they want to treat Clemson playing Furman in Week 2 the same as Alabama playing Austin Peay in Week 12. Timing isn’t consequential, despite playing a lower-division opponent being considered part of the development process early in the season, and mostly considered a cheap win late in the season when teams should be developed.

When it comes to Clemson, they have decided the head-to-head results between Clemson and LSU against a common opponent (Florida State) aren’t as impactful as Clemson’s loss to the Irish because of the timing of the games.

For the record, I don’t disagree with the committee’s viewpoint on late-season games against inferior competition. I wouldn’t cry if the NCAA banned games against the FCS after Week 3, but that’s because I don’t like them as a fan. When it comes to objectively assessing a team’s ‘body of work’ I don’t see the timing as making a significant difference. I might not like the policy of scheduling FCS teams late in the season, but it doesn’t change my opinion of how good a team has played and where they should be ranked.

Clemson Football is impacted by the committee’s inconsistency.

I just think the committee should be consistent. If the timing doesn’t matter regarding cupcake opponents, then a loss early in the season shouldn’t be dismissed because a team played well later. A loss that occurs late in the season shouldn’t diminish quality wins from early in the season. Timing of losses shouldn’t cause the committee to dismiss results against common opponents.

They also shouldn’t cite Clemson’s loss to Notre Dame in South Bend if they aren’t going to cite LSU’s loss at home to Tennessee. In my opinion, those two losses should essentially cancel each other out. If anything, LSU’s loss is worse because of location.

Consistency remains a problem for the CFP committee, and unfortunately, it is contributing to Clemson Football’s challenging position with regard to the playoffs.

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