Clemson University

Why is Clemson at No. 5 in the first playoff rankings? CFP chair explains

The first College Football Playoff rankings of the 2019 season were released Tuesday night, and despite Clemson being on a 24-game winning streak and winners of two of the past three national titles, the Tigers are outside of the top four.

Clemson sits at No. 5 behind Ohio State, LSU, Alabama and Penn State, with four weeks in the regular season remaining. The final rankings will be released on Sunday, Dec. 8, with the top four teams reaching the College Football Playoff.

College Football Playoff chair Rob Mullens explained why Clemson is at No. 5 during a teleconference Tuesday night, pointing out that Clemson has yet to play a team currently ranked and that the Tigers had a close call at North Carolina. Clemson held on for a 21-20 victory over the Tar Heels in late September but has won every other game by at least two touchdowns.

“We had a lengthy discussion about Penn State and Clemson, two really, really good teams, both strong defensively. In the end, what it came down to, Penn State has marquee wins against 14th-ranked Michigan and a road win at 18th-ranked Iowa,” Mullens said. “The close win over North Carolina is a factor because we’re looking at the entire resume, and what we see with Clemson is an impressive team, an offense that’s improved in the last few weeks, outstanding quarterback, outstanding running back.”

Clemson’s offense was inconsistent through much of the first half of the season as quarterback Trevor Lawrence struggled with interceptions.

But the Tigers have been performing at a record-breaking pace as of late. Clemson has scored at least 45 points in four consecutive games for the first time in school history, and the Tigers are the only team in the country in the top five in both total offense and total defense.

Clemson has yet to allow an opponent to reach 300 yards of offense the entire season as the Tigers are playing better defensively than last year’s group that featured first-round picks Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence.

Still, Alabama is ahead of both Penn State and Clemson, despite playing a similar schedule as the Tigers. It appears the Crimson Tide received the nod because their closest game is a 19-point victory.

“I think at the end of the day, when the committee watched Alabama, what they saw is a team that’s being dominant against that schedule, and that was the difference between Alabama and Penn State,” Mullens said.

Even with Clemson currently outside of the top four, as long as the Tigers continue to take care of business they should be fine.

Clemson (9-0, 6-0) has remaining games at N.C. State, at home against No. 19 Wake Forest and at South Carolina. If the Tigers win out they should be back in the College Football Playoff for a fifth consecutive season.

Alabama and LSU play this weekend, and Penn State and Ohio State face off later this month.

“If you’re a Clemson fan, take a deep breath. Everything is fine. The teams in front of Clemson all play each other. You have Ohio State playing Penn State, LSU playing Alabama,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. “If Clemson wins out they’re going to be in the playoff. Whether they’re going to be 2 or 3 or 4, they’re going to be in the playoff. So they don’t need to panic because they’re sitting there at 5... It’s irrelevant.”

First CFP rankings

The first College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night. Here’s the Top 25.

1. Ohio St. (8-0)

2. LSU (8-0)

3. Alabama (8-0)

4. Penn St. (8-0)

5. Clemson (9-0)

6. Georgia (7-1)

7. Oregon (8-1)

8. Utah (8-1)

9. Oklahoma (7-1)

10. Florida (7-2)

11. Auburn (7-2)

12. Baylor (8-0)

13. Wisconsin (6-2)

14. Michigan (7-2)

15. Notre Dame (6-2)

16. Kansas St. (6-2)

17. Minnesota (8-0)

18. Iowa (6-2)

19. Wake Forest (7-1)

20. Cincinnati (7-1)

21. Memphis (8-1)

22. Boise St. (7-1)

23. Oklahoma St. (6-3)

24. Navy (7-1)

25. SMU (8-1)

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Matt Connolly is the Clemson beat writer and covers recruiting and college sports for The State newspaper and The