On his final ballot of the regular season, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney ranked 10 teams more deserving of one of the College Football Playoff spots than his Sugar Bowl opponent, Ohio State.
Swinney voted the Buckeyes 11th in a ballot for the Amway Coaches’ Poll that consisted of this top four: Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Texas A&M.
The 6-0 Buckeyes drew criticism from coaches around the country because of their incomplete schedule, which required a rules change by the Big Ten to permit Ohio State to play in the conference championship game on Saturday.
Swinney also made his feelings evident in an interview with the Rich Eisen Show.
“I think any time you step in between the lines, the game of football, there’s a lot that can happen. A lot,” Swinney said. “I mean, heck, in 2017, we lost to a three-win or four-win Syracuse team and still went to the playoffs. So anything can happen. Guys can get hurt. There’s a lot. So I think the fact that we’re going to have 11 games as well as the SEC teams — I mean, you look at Florida and Texas A&M and Alabama. I mean, these teams are going to have 11 games this year.”
“It’s incredible and I think the Big Ten had the same opportunity and they chose not to play, and I think the only reason they ended up playing is because of the leadership of the SEC and the ACC and the Big 12, and have demonstrated that we can do it and do it in a safe way. So it’s been an unbelievably challenging season, that’s for sure. But I think that the committee’s going to have some tough, tough, tough questions to answer.”
He continued: “Obviously, as coaches, we don’t control any of that stuff. So I do think that our team has played incredibly well. We had a double-overtime loss at the No. 2 team in the country now in Notre Dame, who’s a great team and an unbelievable game. Again, no matter what happens for Notre Dame or Clemson, nothing changes in my mind, as far as both of these teams being in the top four.”
Alabama head coach Nick Saban argued Sunday that, while Ohio State is talented, the psychological toll of the elongated season and the physical challenges of playing a full SEC schedule made for an uneven playing field.
The chorus of challenges was echoed by A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, whose 8-1 team had one loss — much like No. 4 Notre Dame — but wound up in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2 against No. 13 North Carolina.
CFP selection committee chair Gary Barta contended Sunday during the bowl pairings announcement that there was “no dissension” among committee members about placing Ohio State at No. 3. The Buckeyes will play Clemson Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl.
Notre Dame lost only to Clemson in the ACC championship game. Texas A&M lost to Alabama.
No. 1 Alabama faces No. 4 Notre Dame in the other CFP semifinal on Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl, which will be played at Arlington, Texas, because of COVID-19 issues.
–Field Level Media