Clemson still controls path to ACC Championship Game

by - Senior Writer -
Clemson is scheduled to host Pitt next weekend.
Clemson is scheduled to host Pitt next weekend.

For anyone involved with the Clemson program, from fans to coaches and players to media members to the parents and high school coaches of those players, Saturday was one of the strangest days in the history of the school. The good news? Clemson still controls its own destiny in the pursuit of another ACC Championship Game appearance and possible appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Florida State decided that Clemson’s one positive test Friday, from a backup offensive lineman, was cause enough to postpone Saturday’s game. That caused a scramble that reverberated and resonated with anyone associated with the game. A media friend of mine was staying just a few miles from Doak Campbell Stadium and wanted to sleep in, but a phone call from his wife woke him out of his slumber to let him know he had a drive home to make.

It was that kind of morning as everyone scrambled to find out just what had happened. For those wanting to hear from head coach Dabo Swinney or Athletic Director Dan Radakovich, we have a scheduled call with both at 6 pm today. That might be the most interesting call of the season as we continue to dig for answers.

Many fans wondered what would happen if the FSU game isn’t made up…would Clemson finishing with an 8-1 conference record (provided Notre Dame remains undefeated and Miami wins out) have them knocked out of the ACC Championship Game by fellow one-loss team Miami?

The simple answer is no. At this point, the Florida State game doesn’t have to be played. That would be great, but the only chance for it to be rescheduled is Dec. 12th, which is the week before the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.

The ACC tiebreaker policy confirms the fact that the game doesn’t have to be played:

"However, for any team to be eligible for the ACC Football Championship Game, or to be considered in a tiebreaker, such team must have played within one (1) total conference game of the average number of conference games played by all conference teams (rounding up/down at .5) during the 2020 season. For example, if the average number of conference games played in the 2020 season is 9.25 (value of nine (9) when rounded down), a team would be eligible to participate in the ACC Football Championship Game or be considered in a tiebreaker if that team played eight (8) or more conference games. Furthermore, in the event there is an unequal total number of conference games played among teams tied in the loss column, head-to-head results will take precedence over win-percentage."

As things stand now, Clemson’s win over Miami (currently 6-1 ACC) earlier this season would ensure that the Tigers (6-1) would make the conference championship game as long as they win the other remaining games against Pitt (this weekend) and Virginia Tech (Dec. 5th). (Miami also isn't scheduled to play next until Dec. 5 because of COVID schedule changes so they wouldn't be better than 8-1 after Dec. 12 anyway).

Pitt won’t be an easy out. The Panthers were missing 16 players due to COVID for Saturday’s game but still demolished Virginia Tech by a score of 47-14. This was supposed to be one of the Panthers’ best teams in several decades. Pitt began the season 3-0 but lost four straight games and many wondered how the Panthers would react. They reacted by beating Florida State 41-17 and then beating Virginia Tech.

However, they will get an angry Clemson bunch Saturday in Death Valley. It’s likely the last home game for players like Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, and the Tigers are likely still stinging from the loss to Notre Dame, having to wait two weeks to play, and then having Florida State use an ACC rule to back out of what would have been a woodshed event.

Clemson controls its own destiny, and that continues Saturday.

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