If Ohio State needed any more motivation going into its College Football Playoff semifinal rematch against Clemson, Dabo Swinney just provided it.
Swinney was one of the 61 FBS head coaches who participated in the weekly USA Today Coaches Poll this season. Each week, the coaches submit a full top 25 ballot. They are all then tallied and the Coaches Poll comes out each Sunday.
The top five of the final Coaches Poll mirrored the College Football Playoff selection committee’s rankings: No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 5 Texas A&M.
But things get much more interesting when you dig into the individual ballots.
Swinney, who just coached Clemson to its sixth straight ACC title with a dominant win over Notre Dame, has one of the more curious ballots — especially when it comes to his placement of his upcoming CFP opponent. Swinney has Ohio State, the 6-0 Big Ten champion, all the way down at No. 11.
Swinney has a top four of Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Texas A&M. You have to scroll past Florida, Georgia, Cincinnati, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Coastal Carolina before you land on the Buckeyes at No. 11.
Yes, No. 11.
No other coach had OSU lower than No. 6. That was Georgia’s Kirby Smart. The other 59 participants had the Buckeyes either No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 or No. 5. The most popular spot for OSU was No. 3.
If you’re thinking this could be some sort of mistake from Swinney, that appears unlikely. It’s well-known that some coaches leave it up to an SID or another staffer to fill out their ballot, but Swinney is apparently very serious about his.
According to Grace Raynor of The Athletic, Swinney completes his ballot personally and said a few years ago that he sometimes calls his in at 3 a.m.
“If I’m gonna put my name on it, I should try to be informed,” Swinney said in 2018, per Raynor.
Swinney: CFP committee should favor teams that play more games
Based on Swinney’s recent comments, his main sticking point with the Buckeyes is the fact that they have played fewer games than the other top teams in the country. The Big Ten’s season started much later than leagues like the ACC and SEC. On top of that, OSU saw three of its regular season games get canceled due to COVID-19 issues either in its own program or with opponents.
Swinney said earlier this month on The Rich Eisen Show that the smaller number of games played should play a big factor in OSU’s CFP candidacy.
“I think the fact that we’re going to have 11 games as well as the SEC teams — you look at Florida and Texas A&M and Alabama — these teams are going to have 11 games this year it’s incredible,” Swinney said. “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, the ACC and the Big 12. And have demonstrated that we can do it and do it in a safe way.”
Swinney later added: “I just think that there has to be some type of standard and I just think — if I was on a committee it would be hard for me to leave out a 10-1 Texas A&M or a 11-game Florida team over a team that’s played six games. That would be hard for me if I was on the committee. But I’m not on the committee so it doesn’t really matter.”
Clemson and Ohio State, of course, met in last year’s College Football Playoff semifinal. Clemson overcame an early 16-0 first-half deficit and pulled out a dramatic 29-23 victory thanks to a touchdown pass from Trevor Lawrence to Travis Etienne with under two minutes remaining.
Ohio State now gets a chance for revenge, and Swinney’s ballot will only add to that motivation for the Buckeyes.
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