The beauty and gut-wrenching reality of the College Football Playoff system is that every single game matters. From week one to rivalry week, every game matters. Slip-ups or stumbles are not allowed, and a single loss can end your season. That is why Oregon’s victory is reshuffling the college football deck.
For every team with College Football Playoff aspirations, the only way to earn a slot is to beef up your schedule and win your conference title.
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Any hiccups or missteps can severely damage that resume, which is why scheduling out-of-conference opponents with top-level talent is such a risk.
It is a gamble the Ohio State Buckeyes, LSU Tigers, and Clemson Tigers all lost. Because of top-level talent in other conferences like the Big Ten or SEC, early losses still hurt but may not bury a team. Potential statement wins are littered across their schedules.
And one team’s misfortune is another team’s luck. The UCLA Bruins and Oregon Ducks have taken early victories and vaulted the PAC-12 into the national spotlight.
The Pac-12 getting more competitive also helps the case for a team trying to earn a playoff spot. Oregon and UCLA play at least once and could meet twice if both squads reach the conference title bout.
As both West Coast teams surge, Clemson looks to be in a precarious position.
When the Tigers fell to the Georgia Bulldogs in week one, the instant reaction was that a conference title could rocket a one-loss team back into the picture. But can it?
Clemson Will Pay For A Weak Conference
For years, the Tigers have feasted on a cupcake conference, take home an early out-of-conference win before sleepwalking through the ACC. Now, faced with an uninspiring slate, Clemson will have to try and fight their way back into the postseason.
The ACC traditionally has only carried one team of any real national relevance. Organizations like the Miami Hurricanes, Florida State Seminoles, and the Tigers are handing off the baton of success over the past several decades.
Now, the Tigers playing behind the eight ball. So let us take a look at the schedule.
- Georgia Tech (please)
- NC State (come on)
- Boston College (frisky, I guess)
- Syracuse (basketball school)
- Pittsburgh (maybe the only good team)
- Florida State (desperate to lose in entertaining fashion)
- Louisville (see Syracuse)
- Connecticut (see Syracuse)
- Wake Forest (yikes)
- South Carolina (congrats, you found one of the worst SEC teams)
It is definitely not a schedule that is going to drop any jaws, and every ACC team currently ranked in the top 25 is absent from Clemson’s slate.
Even the conference title would yield a disappointing opponent for Clemon’s resume. Who would push the Tigers into a playoff spot?
The Hurricanes, who barely slipped past App State? A UNC Tar Heels squad choking on its own hype? A Virginia Tech program only ranked because they beat a team with too much preseason hype?
For the first time, the conference floating Clemson into the College Football Playoff is weighing it down.
Thanks to the upper-tier competition, UCLA and Oregon are smashing through the West Coast bias that usually stands in the way of a PAC-12 bid. For the first time since 2017, the Pacific has a contender, and it may have more than one horse in the race for the first time ever.