ESPN writer: Clemson challenging Alabama atop CFB 'out the window now'
|2018-01-10 15:30:12.0- -||
One game can shift a narrative, as evidenced by the 2018 Sugar Bowl.
Going into the third installment of Clemson and Alabama in the Playoff, the Tigers and Crimson Tide were in a dead-heat when it comes to recent accomplishments.
In a five-year span, Alabama owned 62 wins, and Clemson, 61. Clemson and Alabama each had one national title and two championship game appearances. Dabo Swinney’s group had even notched a division and conference title this season that the Crimson Tide fell short on in SEC play.
Longtime ESPN college football writer Ivan Maisel says the Crimson Tide’s 24-6 win in New Orleans marked a change in thinking for him.
“My perspective on Clemson has totally shifted in the last week from: ‘Look at what Dabo’s done - they’re here to stay,’” Maisel said on an ESPN podcast this week. “To seeing how they were dominated by Alabama last week, I stepped back and thought, you know what? They won one national championship because they had an incredible quarterback, but without that incredible quarterback, they were not at the same level as Alabama. Is this is a deal where it’s Jameis Winston and Florida State where they dropped off after he left?”
Over two seasons, Winston and FSU won a national title in 2013 and made the CFP semifinals in 2014, before going 27-12 over the last three years, with coach Jimbo Fisher bolting for Texas A&M this offseason.
How Maisel and a ESPN podcast panel got to this discussion was whether Georgia and Clemson belonged in the same conversation as Alabama in terms of perennial national-title contenders.
“I think Georgia is here to stay. Much like Clemson,” ESPN’s Chris Low said. “Remember when Clemson got in on the doorstep and lost that tough game to Alabama and everybody said, ‘Is Clemson just a team that sorta got there and now it’s going to be hard for them to sustain it?’
“I think Georgia’s exactly the same way as Clemson was. I think they’re going to be in the mix more times than not over the next five years.”
“I agree with about Georgia,” Maisel said, “but I don’t think the Clemson argument holds as much water as we thought it did 10 days ago.”
ESPN’s Jake Trotter says Alabama is in a category by itself.
“It’s hard to say they’re (Clemson) going to drop off,” Trotter said, “but in that context, dropping off means you’re not Alabama. Who is? Clemson is still in the second tier. Alabama is in a tier of its own. This idea that Clemson was all of a sudden going to challenge Alabama for college football supremacy is clearly out the window now.”
The 2017 national title was a fifth in the last nine seasons for Nick Saban at Alabama.
With a few weeks to National Signing Day, Alabama and Clemson sit in fifth (3.83) and sixth (3.8) respectively in Rivals.com star average for the 2018 class. The Crimson Tide class is heavy on four-star prospects (13 of 18 commits/signees on Rivals), while Clemson has three of the top-5 prospects in the nation (ESPN) and the top-rated player from four different states signed.
Clemson joined FSU in the record books as the second ACC team to finish in the top-four in the polls over three-straight seasons. The Tigers and Crimson Tide are the only schools to finish in the top 25 over each of the last seven years.
Clemson carried an ACC-record streak of 11 consecutive wins over top 25 teams into the Sugar Bowl.
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