With playoff rankings in works, Clemson makes case for No. 1
The Saturday before the College Football Playoff selection committee reveals its first rankings, Clemson made a case to be No. 1 - for whatever that's worth.
The first rankings come out Tuesday night. They will be more interesting than important.
As college football fans found out last year, everything that comes before the final ranks is mostly conversation fodder and overreaction fuel. The first ever playoff rankings had Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Mississippi as the top four last year. SEC haters went nuts at the time, but none of those Southeastern Conference teams made the playoff.
You can tell people not to get too worked up over the first of seven rankings committee chairman Jeff Long and his crew will come up with in Grapevine, Texas, this weekend, but many still will.
So who will be No. 1?
Clemson would be a valid choice.
Deshaun Watson and the Tigers had some difficulties on defense at North Carolina State on Saturday, but still won comfortably, 56-41. It was the second straight week on the road for the Tigers and impressive if only because they took care of business in a tricky spot.
The Tigers, third ranked in the AP poll, put a historic beat down in Miami last week and host Florida State next week in game that will decide the Atlantic Division of the ACC.
''I think we're a team obviously that's in the hunt, we've earned that,'' Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. ''It's fun to be in November going into the championship run to be in the conversation. That's a blast. That's where we want to be. I mean, we embrace that. But we want to be there Dec. 6.''
The committee's other choices for the top spot were mostly idle this weekend.
LSU and Alabama were off preparing for each other. The fourth-ranked Tigers and seventh-ranked Crimson Tide meet in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, next Saturday.
No. 2 Baylor was off, giving the Bears an extra week to get their new starting quarterback, freshman Jarrett Stidham, ready to replace the injured Seth Russell.
No. 5 TCU and Heisman Trophy contender Trevone Boykin had an impressive showing in a 40-10 victory against West Virginia on Thursday night.
Top-ranked Ohio State was idle, but still making news. Just when it looked as if the quarterback situation was settled for the Buckeyes, J.T. Barrett was suspended for next week's game against Minnesota for being cited for operating a vehicle while impaired. For at least one week, it'll be back to Cardale Jones.
That should not affect what the committee does with the Buckeyes in the first rankings. Ohio State hasn't quite been the juggernaut many expected after it was the first unanimous preseason No. 1 in the AP poll. The Buckeyes have been getting better.
November games will sort out much of this stuff eventually.
Aside from the two showdowns next weekend in the ACC and SEC, Baylor still has to play TCU, Ohio State must play undefeated Michigan State and Pac-12 contender Stanford finishes its regular season against Notre Dame.
The Cardinal and Fighting Irish both had to dodge upset bids on the road Saturday night. Notre Dame beat No. 21 Temple 24-20 and Stanford held on 30-28 when Washington State's kicker missed a last-play field goal attempt.
Those five games will help make a lot of decisions for the committee. But America loves lists and the committee will present theirs for the college football fans and ESPN to pick over on Tuesday night.
What will it look like? Don't be surprised if some of the undefeated teams are ranked behind teams with one loss. Here's a guess at the top six:
No. 1 Clemson
No. 2 LSU
No. 3 Ohio State
No. 4 TCU
No. 5 Alabama
No. 6 Baylor
MEMPHIS & MISSISSIPPI
Watch for how the committee ranks Memphis. It could provide a little insight for how the Group of Five teams will be treated throughout the last half of the season.
The 16th-ranked Tigers (7-0) from the American Athletic Conference beat Mississippi, which beat Alabama, last month. At the very least that should get the Tigers ranked ahead of Ole Miss.
Highest ranked Group of Five champion is guaranteed a spot in a New Year's Six bowl, but the real question is whether Memphis has a chance to reach the final four if it wins out.
The Rebels can aid the Tigers' cause by winning the SEC, which might be bad news for the SEC.
Ole Miss (7-2, 4-1) stayed in control of the SEC West with a 27-19 victory at Auburn.
PROJECTING THE PLAYOFF
Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama, Notre Dame.
AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
More college football coverage at www.collegefootball.ap.org