Clemson Football: Predicting the penultimate CFP rankings

There is one weekend to go before the College Football Playoff committee decides who will get playoff berths. We know for certain now that Clemson Football will not be in the mix.

Ohio State still has a chance if other teams slip up. I think Alabama has a chance too, but it’s in the Dumb and Dumber “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” territory. To think there are good odds that we see a playoff that does not include Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama is sobering.

Instead, defending champion Georgia looks to be a lock, even if they do somehow lose to LSU in the SEC championship.

Here is my prediction of the CFP Top 25 when they will be revealed on Tuesday evening:

1. Georgia: The Bulldogs toyed with Georgia Tech for thirty minutes on Saturday, then they chewed them up. I did enjoy seeing former Clemson Football player Taisun Phommachanh play and score for Tech.

2. Michigan: Nobody can say Big Blue only won last year because the game was in the Big House. The Wolverines won in Columbus and it wasn’t that competitive. I think they probably wrapped up a playoff spot, unless they get embarrassed by the Big Ten West winner Purdue, which isn’t likely.

3. TCU: The Horned Frogs had a 24-point lead by the end of the first half against Iowa State. They are peaking at the right time. They face a quality opponent in Kansas State for the Big 12 title.

4. USC: Notre Dame gave it a good effort, but Lincoln Riley has the Trojan offense playing very good football, and the defense is doing what needs to be done. They will face Utah for the PAC-12 championship on Friday.

5. Ohio State: They are still a good team, and I don’t think they will fall past five, for a couple of reasons. First, they only have one loss. Next, their lone loss is to a Top 4 team. Lastly, they still have a very good road win at Penn State.

6. Alabama: In contrast to Ohio State, Alabama has two losses, to Tennessee and LSU, neither of whom is in the playoff picture any longer. The Tide’s best win is either at Ole Miss or at Texas, both of whom are further down in the rankings. Alabama will be on standby in case both TCU and USC give up the ghost in their respective championship games, but their chances are very slim.

7. Tennessee: I have family that are either alums or currently attend Tennessee, and I know they are low right now because of how high they were earlier in the year. They should be optimistic about this program. They have made major improvements since Josh Heupel took over.

8. Penn State: James Franklin has a lot of critics. With one exception, he has had a hard time busting through the roadblock that Ohio State and Michigan have set up in the Big Ten East. He deserves some credit for keeping this team together and focused following their two losses this season. As we’ve seen in Oxford and Stillwater, that isn’t as easy as some think.

9. LSU: Brian Kelly deserves credit too. You can argue that he and Franklin are two of the most disliked coaches in college football. I know LSU fans had dreams of an immediate return to the playoffs, but that wasn’t realistic. The expectations others had of Kelly falling flat on his face were unrealistic too. A 9-3 season was a very real possibility if things went right. A win over Alabama in Year 1 makes this a success, despite the inevitable Kelly bashing that will come from losing to Jimbo Fisher. I’m not saying I won’t enjoy the bashing, but I could predict it word for word.

10. Kansas State: The Wildcats may be the most underrated team in college football, and it wouldn’t shock me in the least to see them beat TCU. Chris Klieman’s name was mentioned for the Nebraska job, and if KSU keeps playing well, I expect him to be a candidate for a major job at some point.

11. Washington: Let’s just keep the coaching praise rolling. Kalen DeBoer has done a fine job cleaning up the mess created by Jimmy Lake. Considering this offseason should be about building on a good season instead of fixing problems, Washington could be one of the favorites in the PAC-12 next year if they can replace Michael Penix at quarterback.

12. Clemson: This is as low as Clemson Football should be based on their record and overall performance this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are ranked lower than this. Committee chairperson Boo Corrigan made it clear after last week’s rankings that they felt the Tigers’ loss to Notre Dame loomed larger than any of Clemson’s wins. I fully expect them to fall farther than they did in the AP or Coach’s polls. I doubt they fall below where Florida State is ranked since Clemson did beat the Seminoles in Tallahassee.

13. Oregon: This is another team that could fall farther, but because they beat Utah head-to-head and have the same record, I think this is as far as they drop. Dan Lanning deserves credit for this job too. As well as Bo Nix has played at times this season, he is still just the senior version of Bo Nix, who has been very up and down in his college career.

14. Utah: With the lone exception of their thrilling win over USC, the Utes have been off of most people’s radars this season. They lost their opener to Florida and then dropped games against Oregon and UCLA, both of whom are good teams this year. I’m not sure how PAC-12 tiebreakers work, but somehow Utah got the nod to play USC this Friday.

15. Florida State: I have more coach praise to deliver. Mike Norvell has done a fine job this season in Tallahassee. The Seminoles were a dumpster fire, and I wasn’t sure if Norvell had enough water to put it out. Since their loss to Clemson, they haven’t scored less than 38 points in any contest and they beat their rival the Florida Gators.

16. UCLA: Chip Kelly has one of the harder jobs in college football, and it will be getting harder soon with UCLA’s impending move to the Big Ten. He just completed his fifth season with the Bruins, and the program is headed in the right direction.

Clemson Football shouldn’t fall this far, but the Group of Five’s bid to the New Year’s Six is still playing out in the bottom half of the rankings

17. Tulane: This one makes me smile. I’m glad Tulane fans are seeing some success, but they haven’t reached the finish line yet. They will host UCF in the AAC championship game. If they win, they go to a New Year’s Six Bowl.

18. Oregon State: Jonathan Smith is also finishing his fifth season in charge of his program, and like Chip Kelly, the Beavers had a long way to go when he got there. Fortunately, Oregon State has been patient, and it is paying off. Oregon might be ranked higher, but a win in the Civil War is sweet for Oregon State fans.

19. Notre Dame: I was critical of the Irish’s hire of Marcus Freeman, and they certainly had some rocky moments early in the year. A loss to USC might damper some of the momenta Notre Dame found during the latter half of the season, but overall Freeman has done a nice job.

20. UCF: I haven’t thought much of UCF this season, but here they are, still hanging around the Top 25. Now they are in the AAC championship against Tulane. If they win, they will be the Group of Five’s entrant into the New Year’s Six. If they win, I will give them praise.

21. North Carolina: Two weeks ago, Drake Maye was getting hype for the Heisman. Now, he is getting a lot of heat. The truth about this young man is somewhere in between. He has been very good. He’s still young, and still has a chance to win an ACC championship in his first year as a starter.

22. Texas: Like UCF, I have been skeptical of the Longhorns. At times Quinn Ewers looked very good. At other times, it looked like Arch Manning would be starting at quarterback next season. I’m looking forward to this starting quarterback battle. I’m also looking forward to when we get Texas vs Texas A&M back on rivalry weekend in a couple seasons.

23. South Carolina: I can’t blame anyone for doubting the Gamecocks after the losses to Missouri and Florida. I can blame someone for just assuming from the beginning they would be a bad team in 2022 just because they were South Carolina. I thought I was being fair and optimistic on their behalf when I predicted 7-5 and a third-place finish in the SEC East. They got third place and finished a game better at 8-4. 

24. NC State: Some assumed the Wolfpack would be a ho-hum team simply because they were NC State, despite many, including myself, who predicted a 10-win season. Well, State’s season was a bit ho-hum, and injuries did have a lot to do with it. I also have to acknowledge Devin Leary wasn’t playing up to the standards expected of a preseason ACC Player of the Year candidate before he was injured. What I can say is that Dave Doeran did a very nice job keeping his team together, and they never gave up on the season.

25. Mississippi State: I think UTSA deserves this spot, but you know, the Bulldogs are in the SEC, and we know how the committee ranks SEC bias, er, I mean teams, SEC teams. That’s what I meant to say.