Clemson receives College Football Playoff pardon
By Manie Robinson, Sports Columnist, The Greenville News
A frustrated father hustles his son into an empty room. Tears well in the young boy’s eyes. He knows a spanking is imminent. He knows he deserves it.
He closes his eyes, clinches his fists and braces for the impending pain. The father raises his large hand and swings it forward.
He places his palm softly on the child’s shoulder, nods and leaves the room without a word. Relieved, the son wipes the sweat from his temple and vows never to repeat that crime.
He appreciates the pardon. He is certain there will not be another one.
Clemson deserved a spanking Saturday for its letdown against Pittsburgh. It deserved swift punishment for its uncharacteristically porous defense and untimely turnovers. It deserved the loss. It deserved to slide in the standings.
But father fortune was merciful. Clemson felt a gentle touch on its shoulder instead of a belt on its bottom.
Despite the loss, Clemson slipped merely two spots to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings revealed Tuesday night.
Clemson entered the weekend ranked No. 2 and was positioned to secure that spot with a favorable remaining schedule. No one anticipated a home loss to Pittsburgh, but after that disappointing defeat, many anticipated a plummet.
Out of the Top 4 and possibly out of playoff contention.
However, Clemson was immediately bailed out by its peers. A few hours after Clemson sulked back into its locker room, Michigan and Washington, then ranked Nos. 3 and 4 respectively, also suffered their first losses.
From grace, Clemson did not fall alone. From its benchmark, Clemson did not fall far at all.
Clemson built goodwill with wins against Auburn, Louisville and Florida State. Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan are the only teams with at least three victories against teams ranked in the Top 20.
Additionally, the playoff selection committee asserts that its primary consideration is conference championships. Clemson could seal the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division title with a win at Wake Forest on Saturday. If it adds another Top 25 victory in the ACC championship game, Clemson could separate itself further from one-loss teams with less impressive resumes, like Louisville, Washington and West Virginia.
Clemson could easily retain the No. 4 spot, which would reward Clemson with an easier travel plan.
The Playoff semifinals will be held Dec. 31 at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. If Alabama retains its spot at No. 1, it will be granted preference of the host site. Alabama presumably would favor Atlanta’s proximity. Thus, at No. 4, Clemson would get its rematch with Alabama and a short drive for most of its eager fan base.
Even in defeat, Clemson wins.
The relief of clemency may not fix the minor deficiencies in Clemson’s defense. It may not restore balance to the offense. It may not eliminate turnovers.
Yet, if it was not clear before, the Tigers must recognize unequivocally the penalties of inefficiency.
Father fortune will not forgive a second slip. He will not swing with mercy. He will strike with admonition.
Closed eyes and clinched fists cannot dull the pain of a squandered second chance. The Tigers avoided the punishment they deserved. They must wipe the sweat from their temple and vow never to repeat that crime.