Quantity, not quality won out as Clemson was the ACC's highest-rated team with Tuesday's release of the third College Football Playoff rankings.
The Tigers (9-1), were second behind new No. 1 Alabama, while unbeaten Miami -- fresh off its shellacking of previous No. 3 Notre Dame -- was surprisingly third.
"As we looked at No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Miami, those are two teams that are very similar on paper," said selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt. "Their defenses are both at a high efficiency ranking. Their offenses statistically are similar in the data that we had in front of us. So we're looking at the total resumé, the total body of work."
Oklahoma came in at fourth, followed by Wisconsin, Auburn, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State rounded out the Top 10. NC State is the only other ACC team making the cut at 19th.
Granted, it's semantics, given that Clemson and Hurricanes will meet on Dec. 2 in the ACC Championship Game. The selection committee has not only given the conference a clear path to the playoff, but it's also created an intriguing possibility that should a 12-0 Miami lose a close one to one-loss Clemson in Charlotte, that the ACC may have a case to become the first league to get two teams into the CFP.
That would certainly take some help, and take your choice there from all or some of the SEC not producing an unbeaten champ in the Crimson Tide; Oklahoma falling to TCU in a rematch in the Big 12 title game and Wisconsin falling to Ohio State in the Big Ten finale.
The message, though, is there' s at least a chance -- and another message the committee provided was that it continues to salivate over Clemson's resume.
The defending national champions took full advantage of not only having six wins over teams with winning records (the most of any ranked team), but among them four Top-25 wins, including one over Auburn that looks that much more impressive after the Tigers (of The Plains variety) thumped previous No. 1 Georgia 40-17.
The Hurricanes had a legitimate case to be ranked higher with the nation's best Strength of Record and consecutive wins over ranked opponents to boost their profile. In the name of style points, Miami beat then-No. 13 Virginia Tech by 18 and dumped Notre Dame by 31.
Still, the committee sided with 10-0 Alabama -- No. 2 in SOR and tops in Game Control in winning by an average of 28.7 points per game -- at No. 1, and Clemson -- fourth in SOR and fifth in Game Control -- has played FBS' second-toughest schedule.
There's the issue of the Tigers suffering a road loss to Syracuse ... which lost to Miami 27-19 on Oct. 21. But Hocutt has previously stated -- and reiterated Tuesday -- the selection committee has given Clemson the benefit of the doubt with quarterback Kelly Bryant missing the brunt of that game with injury.
The selection committee continues to factor in the injury to the quarterback in the Clemson game and the fact that he returned their next game and returned at full speed," Hocutt said. "That continues to be a factor in our discussions of Clemson."
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The Hurricanes are in prime position, should they beat Virginia this week and Pitt the day after Thanksgiving, to stay unbeaten, and Clemson needs to take down The Citadel and 7-3 South Carolina to do its part and create the most compelling ACC Championship Game of the CFP era.
Whether Clemson or Miami is ranked No. 2 or 3 at this point is nitpicking the process. Maybe the stakes being set for Dec. 2 are truest -- and most simplistic -- statement from the latest rankings.
We stand a little more than two weeks before the playoffs are set, and -- barring chaos reaping its head once or twice -- the ACC is in arguably the best position of conference in complete control of its destiny.