Playoff Watch: Clemson among contenders hitting the road for rivalry week


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Clemson seeks a third win over a ranked opponent on the road at South Carolina Saturday.
Clemson seeks a third win over a ranked opponent on the road at South Carolina Saturday.

Rivalry weekend may very well begin the process of elimination for Playoff contenders.

Or at least set the stage for a wild fight to the finish on championship weekend.

The CFP rankings swap of Miami to No. 2 and Clemson to No. 3 might have little bearing on selection Sunday, where win-and-in is the straightest line to Pasadena or New Orleans come Jan. 1.

No. 6 Auburn hosting No. 1 Alabama (3:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS) is the headliner of CFP hopefuls, but road rivalry matchups – even as double-digit favorites – are always worth an extra look: No. 3 Clemson (at No. 24 South Carolina, 7:30, ESPN), No. 5 Wisconsin (at Minnesota, 3:30, ABC), No. 7 Georgia (at Georgia Tech, noon, ABC) and No. 9 Ohio State (at Michigan, noon, FOX). In some new territory as a program, No. 2 Miami’s Friday matchup on Senior Day at Pittsburgh could be no picnic either (noon, ABC; 13.5-point favorite).

If favorites win out, FiveThirtyEight projects a CFP Four of Alabama (over 99 percent), Clemson (over 99), Oklahoma (over 99) and Ohio State (58).

While not an ideal scenario, their model doesn’t rule the Tigers out with a loss next week in the ACC title game to Miami.

An undefeated Miami would make the CFP and then Clemson would be rooting for some two-loss chaos among champions. With TCU, Auburn and Ohio State winning out, Clemson is given a 52 percent chance of making the CFP, behind Miami (over 99), Auburn (98), Ohio State (63) and ahead of a one-loss Alabama (44). I’m not sure I would project the committee making that call, but that’s what the ESPN numbers say and the Crimson Tide's resume would be rather lacking.

Elsewhere on the four-letter network's site, their bowl predictors send Clemson to the Orange and a date with Notre Dame. Sports Illustrated and SB Nation are also on the Miami hype train and put the Tigers in south Florida as well.

In CFP picks, CBS Sports and USA TODAY each have a Clemson-Oklahoma matchup in the Rose Bowl.

While it feels like rivalry weekend should produce at least one major upset, I’m sticking with my Clemson-Oklahoma Rose Bowl projection opposite Alabama and Ohio State in the Sugar.

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