Saturday solidified the ACC Championship game as a College Football Playoff play-in game for the University of Miami and Clemson. Win and get in. Lose and take it elsewhere.
With injury-marred No. 1 Alabama suffering a 26-14 loss to arch rival Auburn — and bumbling comically in doing so — there’s no doubt the Crimson Tide will roll downhill farther than just No. 2 in the CFP rankings. That leaves an open top spot that the No. 2 Hurricanes could have slid into if they had done something other than look Friday-after-Thanksgiving full and sleepy during their loss at Pitt.
But if UM can’t be No. 1 and undefeated, the next best thing is defending national champion Clemson at No. 1. Or, at least looking very juggernaunt-y, which Clemson has only appeared on occasion this season.
UM needs a gargantuan golem to slay in the ACC title game, especially with the best victims on the Hurricanes’ list stumbling after leaving Miami Gardens. Virginia Tech lost to unranked Georgia Tech two weeks ago. Notre Dame, No. 3 before taking a blasting from the Hurricanes, had an excuse-me win against Navy, then got smacked around by Stanford 38-20 on Saturday night.
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So homemade turnover chains should’ve been rattling happily Saturday night as Clemson drubbed 8-3 rival South Carolina 34-10. And it wasn’t that close — Clemson pulled the chute up 34-0 after three quarters.
Now that Clemson looks like Clemson again, beating Clemson would redeem the Hurricanes in the eyes of the nation and, most importantly, the CFP selection committee. Each has one upset loss, so no margin for error. Each has had its moments of greatness in a college football season without consistent greatness.
UM and Clemson face off Dec. 2 in the ACC title game in Charlotte.
Winner talks, loser walks.
Or, as Sports Illustrated quoted UM legend Melvin Bratton before the famed 1986 Fiesta Bowl against Penn State, “The toilet flushes and one team has to go down.”