With FSU’s final-minute rally in Blacksburg Thursday, Clemson’s chances at back-to-back ACC titles took a major hit.
But if the Tigers win out, they are set for New Orleans’ Sugar Bowl, right? As Lee Corso would say - not so fast my friend.
Here’s what has to happen and who to root against for back-to-back BCS bowl bids for Clemson:
Orange: Pretty simple – beat Maryand and NC State, and hope FSU’s road struggles continue with a monstrous upset by the Terps in College Park next week en route to a third Atlantic title in four seasons. And then after South Carolina, beat the best of the Coastal in Charlotte come Dec. 1, which is a mess in itself.
Sugar: This is where it gets complicated.
The BCS at-large pecking order this season is Fiesta then Sugar then Orange, but if Alabama makes the BCS Championship Game – the Sugar jumps to the top of the heap because they need to replace the automatic bid of SEC.
Notre Dame, at 12-0 or 11-1, is the whole package – appetizing from a TV ratings and attendance standpoint.
But what’s interesting is if they select Notre Dame – it leaves open for the Fiesta the ability to select the lone SEC at-large and leave the Sugar without an SEC team for a second-straight season. And they had attendance issues last year, with Virginia Tech struggling to sell its ticket allotment. Speculating here, but the Fiesta, who obviously would love Notre Dame, and the Sugar, might have some backroom deals to work out that may play into Clemson’s favor.
And in one those scenarios, how about Clemson and Notre Dame in the Sugar?
(Also a mind-boggling thought, the Rose Bowl could be in the same scenario as the Sugar scrambling for a replacement for Oregon, and aiming for the Irish – but they would need the Ducks ahead of Alabama in the polls to select ahead of the Sugar.)
But Clemson v. Georgia or LSU is more likely in my estimation – here’s who to root against for it to happen…
1) Notre Dame – Laid it out above, but the Irish can upset the apple cart aplenty for the Tigers. Even with a loss, they will likely stay ahead of Clemson in the BCS standings to the finish. You are a big BC fan tomorrow night for their game in Chestnut Hill, and a USC (the one Dabo Swinney recognizes) fan, to close the season in primetime on Nov. 24. One loss and Clemson’s Sugar chances are improved – two losses and they are very good for a trip down Bourbon St.
2) Big 12 At-Larges - Oklahoma is a spot ahead of the Tigers and if they win out, would likely grab an at-large spot somewhere. If Kansas State (No. 2 in the BCS) does not make the title game, the Sooners are left with the Sugar, Rose or Orange bowls as possibilities with the Wildcats in the Fiesta. The Sooners play at both West Virginia and TCU, and host Oklahoma State – all have winning records but aren’t exactly lighting it up this season (combined 16-9). Across the border, Texas (7-2) would also be a prime pick – currently out of top-14 BCS ranking (17) needed to be selected, but would be there if they can topple K-State on Dec. 1 and take care of business against Iowa State and TCU.
3) PAC-12 At-Larges The less good at-large teams around Clemson the better, with how the computer rankings dislike the Tigers. Oregon State sits at 11th in the BCS standings, 7-1, but facing a road trip to Stanford (No. 14) this week and hosting Oregon (No. 3) to close the season. The Cardinal, 7-2, play three ranked teams to the finish (at Oregon and at UCLA after OSU). Three-loss Southern Cal is another factor because of where they started this season (currently No. 19 in the BCS), but they would have to down Notre Dame and Oregon (or Oregon State) too in the PAC-12 Championship Game to crack the top-14.
Fiesta: Odds-on, at least one Big 12 or PAC-12 team will be in this spot, but say it is K-State, Notre Dame heads to New Orleans and the PAC-12 doesn’t have another top-14 team. The Tigers could be Phoenix-bound. That’s a lot of things to fall in place, but not out of the realm of possibility.