CFP committee chair explains why Clemson was left out of top-4


by - Staff Writer -
Clemson is not in the top-four for the first time a run starting in 2015.
Clemson is not in the top-four for the first time a run starting in 2015.

Clemson’s Tigers are the reigning national champions and winners of 24 games in a row.

The nine wins so far this season are being scrutinized though among the national picture and the College Football Playoff Committee weighed-in with a semi-shocking judgment that they aren’t a top-four team right now.

Clemson ranked No. 5 in the first CFP committee rankings on Tuesday, behind also undefeated Ohio State, LSU, Alabama and Penn State. The Tigers had been in 24-straight top-four rankings, which was the most in the Playoff era.

Committee chair and Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens says there was a good debate over No. 4 Penn State versus No. 5 Clemson. Penn State’s resume was valued more.

“We had a lengthy discussion about Clemson and Penn State. Two really, really good teams,” Mullens said on a media teleconference shortly after the rankings. “Both strong defensively. In the end, what it came down to — and again — much debate. Penn State had the marquee wins over 14th-ranked Michigan and a road win at 18th-ranked Iowa. In addition, they have a non-conference win over Pitt, which is a pretty good win at this point.”

Mullens said they also weighed Clemson’s 21-20 close call at UNC to close September.

“Sure the close win over North Carolina is a factor because we’re looking at the entire resume,” Mullens said. “What we see with Clemson is an impressive team, an offense that’s improved in the last few weeks, an outstanding quarterback and outstanding running back.”

ESPN’s ‘strength of record’ and ‘game control’ metrics had Clemson lagging behind the first top-four. Clemson has the eighth-best strength of record and a sixth-best mark in ‘game control,’ with Ohio State (No. 3 strength of record/No. 1 game control), LSU (No. 1 SOR/No. 5 GC), Alabama (No. 4 SOR/No. 2 GC) and Penn State (No. 2 SOR/No. 3 GC) all with better numbers.

Sagarin rates Clemson with the worst schedule of that group currently (64th) and most comparable to Alabama (59th) among that top-four - Penn State ranking No. 39. That is slated to improve with a projected remaining strength of schedule of 38 by ESPN, with CFP-rated No. 19 Wake Forest on the home schedule (Nov. 16). Clemson begins the final stretch of its regular season with a 7:30 p.m. nationally-televised game on ABC Saturday at NC State (4-4). Elsewhere in the top-four, Alabama will bump up its schedule-rank this weekend hosting No. 2 LSU, which will shake up the rankings for next week.

There are still seven unbeatens overall, including No. 12 Baylor and No. 17 Minnesota outside the top-10. Mullen talked about the difficulty in judging at this point.

“Every ranking has its unique challenges,” Mullens said. “It’s not just undefeateds. We’re trying to compare teams and winning matters - you’re comparing teams with different schedules with different numbers of losses versus different schedule strengths and all that goes into it. We have a lot of debate. There were lengthy discussions over (No.) 1 versus (No.) 2 and (Nos.) 3-4-5 — (Nos.) 6-9. There’s lengthy discussions really across the board. Those are the ones that I can think of right off the top of my head.”

In a similar category with Clemson schedule-wise, Mullens said Alabama has impressed with its on-field execution.

"There's no one point," he said. "Obviously we watch all the games and see the data, and what you see when you watch Alabama is obviously outstanding playmakers. They've been dominant against their schedule, and while it (their schedule) may not be as strong as some others, when you watch the games, they certainly have been dominant."

CFP Top 25 - 11/5

1. Ohio State

2. LSU

3. Alabama

4. Penn State

5. Clemson

6. Georgia

7. Oregon

8. Utah

9. Oklahoma

10. Florida

11. Auburn

12. Baylor

13. Wisconsin

14. Michigan

15. Notre Dame

16. Kansas State

17. Minnesota

18. Iowa

19. Wake Forest

20. Cincinnati

21. Memphis

22. Boise State

23. Oklahoma State

24. Navy

25. SMU

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