Updated Playoff projections for Clemson


by - Staff Writer -
(USA TODAY Sports-Mark Konezny)
(USA TODAY Sports-Mark Konezny)

What a difference one game -- and a win at that -- can make on the Playoff picture nationally at this still-early point in the season.

After being a perceived lock for a fifth-straight College Football Playoff, a number of pundits aren't so sure about the No. 2 Tigers -- coming off of a 21-20 win at North Carolina on Saturday.

Assessing resumes at this point, ESPN's Mark Schlabach left Clemson out of his Playoff on Sunday, instead picking a Clemson-Notre Dame matchup in the Orange Bowl. His partner on the picks, Kyle Bonagura, likes Clemson to make the Playoff semifinal Fiesta Bowl and then lose to Oklahoma. Former ESPN ACC blogger Heather Dinich was also among the trio of ESPN's Playoff panel to leave Clemson out, picking Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Georgia currently (again, a current outlook and not a projection, since that's virtually impossible).

On the projections' front, CBS Sports analyst Jerry Palm shifted Dabo Swinney's group to the Fiesta Bowl and a matchup with Oklahoma, giving a projected 1-seed in Alabama a potential SEC title game rematch with Georgia in Atlanta. Palm doesn't see Clemson's room for error when it comes to a loss and still making the football final-four.

"Clemson is assumed to be a playoff team because it is expected to run roughshod through a schedule in which it will be a multiple-touchdown favorite every week," Palm said. "Everybody has an off week. Clemson needs to make sure it does not have another."

USA TODAY's 'Football Four' did not include Clemson this week, ranking them sixth instead. That doesn't mean they will stay outside the mix, however.

"Go ahead Tigers, exhale after surviving North Carolina," USA TODAY's George Schroeder writes. "It’s very likely that Clemson will be fine – and not just because the ACC is, well, not fine (though yeah, that helps). But while the defense has been rebuilt, the Tigers’ offensive sputtering is officially a concern."

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