CLEMSON FOOTBALL: The path to the ACC title game

October 17, 2017 GMT

Clemson’s path to the ACC title game

CLEMSON — All of the goals for 2017 Clemson football are still in front of the team even after the loss at Syracuse Friday night. That is all of the goals except one — finishing the regular season a perfect 12-0.

“We all want to go 12-0 every year,” head coach Dabo Swinney said in his Monday teleconference. “We’re not going to be 12-0, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be 11-1. We just have to play a lot better and that starts with trying to win this next one.”

The goals that are still within reach: win the division, win the state championship, win the ACC championship and win the closer. But with the loss to Syracuse, two of the three goals are no longer squarely in the Tigers’ hands — winning the division and winning the ACC Championship.


The reason that the Tigers no longer control their own destiny is simple: They have a tough road in front of them.

The current ACC Atlantic Division standings are: N.C. State (4-0 ACC), Clemson and Syracuse (each with one loss), Florida State and Wake Forest (each with two losses) and Louisville and Boston College (each with three losses).

The biggest threats to the Tigers’ return trip to the ACC Championship are N.C. State, who the Tigers face in Raleigh Nov. 4, and Syracuse.

So, we will now look at the different scenarios that could lead the Tigers back to the championship game or keep them out of it.

1: All three teams win out: If Clemson defeats Syracuse and all three win all of their other ACC games (Syracuse has lost already to N.C. State) it would create a scenario where each of the three teams would finish the season with one loss — Clemson having lost to Syracuse, Syracuse having lost to N.C. State and N.C. State having lost to Clemson.

In this case, the tie would be resolved by:

1. The combined head-to-head winning percentage.

2. Win percentage of the teams tied within the division.

3. Head-to-head competition within the division with the best overall division and conference win percentage.

4. Combined win percentage vs. all common non-divisional opponents.

5. Overall win percentage vs. non-divisional opponents.

6. Win percentage vs. non-divisional opponents based upon order of finish.

7. The team with the highest ranking by SportsSource Analytics (the service used by the College Football Playoff Committee), assuming the next team is not ranked within five places of the highest-ranked team.


It would appear that due to the lack of common cross-divisional opponents between the three schools and the fact that each team has lost to one of the other teams, and not a team not currently tied for first-place, the Tigers — as it stands right now — would be the team to advance based on their ranking.

The only disclaimer is if Syracuse were to finish ranked within five spots of the Tigers in the final rankings, the Orange would advance based on the two-team head-to-head as noted in the seventh point.

2: Clemson and Syracuse finish with one loss, N.C. State finishes with two: In this scenario, the N.C. State Wolfpack would be on the outside looking in with two losses and the Tigers would also find themselves at home on the first week of December.

If Clemson and Syracuse both win out, the tie-breaker would be a simple head-to-head matchup -- which would send Syracuse to the ACC Championship game by virtue of the 27-24 victory over the Tigers.

3: The most likely scenario: Clemson and N.C. State both finish with one loss: If Clemson and N.C. State finish the regular season with one loss, the tie-breaker would be the same as above — head-to-head.

This means for the Tigers to advance to the championship game, they must beat N.C. State Nov. 4 in Raleigh, securing the tie-breaker over the Wolfpack. If the Tigers lose to N.C. State, the Wolfpack would advance to the ACC Championship game even with another loss by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Remaining schedules for all three teams:

Syracuse: @ No. 8 Miami, @ Florida State, Wake Forest, @ Louisville, Boston CollegeN.C. State: @ No. 13 Notre Dame, No. 7 Clemson, @ Boston College, @ Wake Forest, North CarolinaClemson: Georgia Tech, @ No. 16 N.C. State, Florida State, The Citadel, @ South Carolina

Ferrell gets ACC honor

Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell was named the ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week on Monday for his performance against Syracuse Friday night. A red-shirt sophomore from Richmond, Va., Ferrell had nine total tackles, including seven first hits. He was credited with 3.5 sacks and 5.5 total tackles for loss. The sack and tackles for loss figures were just a half off the Clemson single-game records in both categories. The 5.5 tackles for loss tied for the most in the nation by an FBS player this year.

Georgia Tech at 8 p.m.

Clemson’s home game against Georgia Tech on Oct. 28 will kick off at 8 p.m. and be shown on ABC or ESPN2.