WhatIfSports national championship power rankings: comparing Clemson to past champs

Clemson’s ascension to college football royalty is complete. The school’s second national title — and first since an Orange Bowl victory over Nebraska capped the 1981 season — was years in the making. Dabo Swinney took over the reins at Clemson in 2008 and the Tigers have been on an upward trajectory ever since. Last season’s championship game loss to Alabama could have been the pinnacle for the Tigers, but instead they navigated back to the College Football Playoff Championship and avenged their loss to the Crimson Tide.

So how do the Tigers stack up to recent champions? Using WhatIfSports.com’s college football simulation engine, we played Clemson against 2015 Alabama, 2014 Ohio State and every champion of the BCS era. Every team in the field played every opponent 51 times, and we tracked overall winning percentage and the score of each matchup. Check out how the Tigers fared:

2016 Clemson vs. Every National Champion of the BCS/Playoff Era
Rank Team Win % Avg. PF Avg. PA Simulate vs. Clemson
1 2012 Alabama 83.8 26.7 11.7 SimMatchup >
2 2011 Alabama 76.3 30.8 19.7 SimMatchup >
3 2001 Miami 70.7 29.0 19.9 SimMatchup >
4 2009 Alabama 70.5 28.2 18.9 SimMatchup >
5 2004 USC 68.9 30.4 21.2 SimMatchup >
6 2013 Florida State 60.1 28.9 24.1 SimMatchup >
7 2008 Florida 59.6 25.5 21.2 SimMatchup >
8 2005 Texas 54.8 25.4 22.9 SimMatchup >
9 2015 Alabama 52.8 23.6 22.6 SimMatchup >
10 1999 Florida State 52.3 24.1 24.9 SimMatchup >
11 1998 Tennessee 41.4 19.2 23.4 SimMatchup >
12 2003 LSU 39.9 20.8 24.6 SimMatchup >
13 2000 Oklahoma 38.6 20.3 24.7 SimMatchup >
14 2006 Florida 36.4 18.0 22.9 SimMatchup >
15 2014 Ohio State 33.8 21.9 29.5 SimMatchup >
16 2002 Ohio State 32.3 17.1 24.9 SimMatchup >
17 2016 Clemson 28.3 20.4 29.8 National Champions!
18 2007 LSU 27.5 17.1 28.3 SimMatchup >
19 2010 Auburn 22.0 16.8 28.5 SimMatchup >

Clemson struggled against the elite field, finishing 17th out of 19 teams in winning percentage. The biggest shortcoming for the Tigers was a defense that yielded the most points of any team in the simulation.  It was a solid unit during the 2016 season though, holding opponents to 18.0 points per game, which ranked 10th nationally.

While Alabama might have come up short in this year’s title game, the Crimson Tide still placed four teams in the tournament, more than any other school. Bama was dominant in the simulation, as its representatives averaged a 70.8 winning percentage and nabbed three of the top four spots. Only the 2015 champions finished outside the top four.

Are you interested in creating your own college football dream team? Check out WhatIfSports.com’s college football Dream Teams feature and start loading up your roster with guys like Vince Young of Texas, USC’s Reggie Bush, Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State or TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson. Then simulate your roster against other dream teams or any college football program, past or present. Best of all, it’s FREE!