Number One: Clemson's resume, team balance impress playoff committee


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Can the Tigers make a third straight trip to the College Football Playoff?
Can the Tigers make a third straight trip to the College Football Playoff?

For the third time in three years and the first time during the 2017 football season, the Clemson Tigers are the top-ranked team in college football.

The College Football Playoff committee announced a top four of Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin during the final Tuesday night reveal on ESPN.

Clemson is No. 1 in the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings for the seventh time, and the first time this year. The Tigers have been ranked in 17 straight top 4 rankings in CFP and is the only school with that current streak.

Despite Auburn’s two wins over previously top-ranked Georgia and Alabama, Clemson claimed the top because of its balance and impressive resume, according to Committee Chairman Kirby Hocutt.

“Clemson is the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. The committee continues to be impressed with how balanced the Tigers are on both sides of the ball and how that has translated into an impressive season-long body of work,” Hocutt said during a Tuesday night teleconference. “Auburn with two wins over three weeks against teams that were No. 1 at the time is ranked No. 2. Oklahoma with three wins over ranked teams is No. 3. And ranked No. 4 is undefeated Wisconsin. We had a good discussion up and down the rankings this week, and I appreciate the time and effort the committee members make to get this right. They take their work seriously and work hard at it.”

Hocutt said that despite Auburn’s strong finish, the fact that Clemson owns head-to-head advantage over the Plains’ Tigers resonated with the Committee.

“Well, you know, I would say with Clemson at the No. 1 spot this week, the Selection Committee is really impressed with their resume, and I would say the victory over Auburn is definitely a highlight there,” Hocutt said. “Other quality wins against Louisville, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, South Carolina, but that win over Auburn is significant. The Selection Committee believes that Clemson is one of the most balanced teams that we've seen this year. They've especially been impressive on the defensive side of the ball.

“When we talked about Auburn over the course of the last two days, Auburn is a team that's played well all year, impressive win over Mississippi State and then obviously two of the last three weeks over the No. 1 ranked team at the time. Auburn is a physical team. They're balanced, getting solid play from the quarterback position at this point in time in the season. You know, the two losses, obviously the loss to a ranked LSU team but then a head-to-head loss to Clemson. So to answer your question, I think directly, yes, that head-to-head victory for Clemson over Auburn is important in the eyes of the Selection Committee.”

With conference championship weekend on the horizon, Hocutt said when the committee sits down to do their final rankings, which will be released at noon on Sunday, one of the criteria the Committee will factor in is whether or not a team played for and won their conference.

“Yeah, well, you know, the Selection Committee looks forward to championship weekend,” he said. “We look forward to some great match-ups this week like everybody will. We look forward to watching these games. You know, this is a special weekend because it's the one time a year that the Selection Committee watches these games together in person.

“As far as how important it is to become a conference champion, through our protocol which was created by the commissioners, they gave the Selection Committee great flexibility, great flexibility to rank these teams as we deem appropriate. That being said, when we're looking at comparable teams, the commissioners through our protocol has instructed us to look at four criteria: Conference champions being one, strength of schedule being another, head to head match-ups, if they occurred, being the third, and then outcomes against common opponents being the fourth metric there.

“That being said, obviously when we're comparing like teams, that Conference Championship designation is very important. To what degree, how that will be weighted is subjective with each individual in that Selection Committee room. So when comparing comparable teams, like teams, that Conference Championship designation is important.”

If the Tigers and Ohio State win, Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich and Ohio State’s Gene Smith will have to recuse themselves when the Selection Committee discusses their respective teams and the top four matchups, just like last year.

“Yeah, well, first I would say that obviously, you're familiar with our recusal policy so that any time that Ohio State is on the board for ranking, Gene Smith is out of the room,” he said. “You know, Gene can be in the room and involved in the discussion when it comes to other teams that are not Ohio State. We do have the flexibility to extend our recusal policy, and we did that last year. We did that with Dan Radakovich and Clemson, and not only did Dan not participate in votes pertaining to Clemson last year, Dan did not participate in votes that could affect who Clemson's opponent could possibly be.

“And we would extend that same approach this year that could impact Dan again, obviously Gene, and then obviously Coach Beamer is recused when we're voting pertaining to Georgia. We'll be consistent with how we handle that, and the precedent was set last year by extending the recusal policy that we have, and we'll follow that same extension to the recusal policy this year.”

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