AP Top 25 College Football Poll: One NC game Clemson’s pride, the other its curse

Clemson's Travis Etienne broke through against North Carolina State defenders to score during the first half Saturday in Raleigh, N.C. / Associated Press photo by Karl B DeBlaker

Eventually I probably will, but for now I can’t forget about that NC game.

Some Clemson fans can’t get the NC game off of their minds, too.

The thing is, we’re talking about two different things.

The NC game I haven’t shaken yet was played less than two months ago, on Sept. 28. The Tigers beat North Carolina 21-20 at Chapel Hill.

The Tar Heels had a very good chance at the biggest upset of the year, but failed on a 2-point conversion try with 1 minute, 17 seconds left.

It would have been the first loss of the season for Clemson, and it would’ve been against a team that is now 4-5.

That near-defeat has played into where I have ranked Clemson since in the Associated Press Top 25 college football poll in comparison with other unbeaten teams.

Until yesterday (Nov. 9) no one came anywhere near that close to beating LSU, Ohio State or Alabama.

But then, the teams I and the other AP pollsters had ranked No. 1 and No. 2, LSU and Alabama, met in the biggest game of the season so far.

After LSU’s 46-41 victory, I dropped the Crimson Tide down just one spot, placing Ohio State — which beat Maryland 14,321 to negative-73 — above them at No. 2.

My reasoning for not ranking the Tide down farther was that the team they lost to is No. 1, and Bama played that team well enough to have a legit chance to win in the final minutes.

AND THIS IS where Clemson’s other NC game comes into the picture. That one was played Jan. 7, 2019. In this case, NC stands for National Championship … and Clemson crushed Alabama 44-16.

As is often the case, I was asked by someone on Twitter why I put the team they like lower than they (and in this case, the rest of the AP panel) think it should be. Some ask more nicely than others.

“I’d love to hear your explanation of having a 1 loss at home Bama at #3 behind (sic) an undefeated Clemson, reigning national champions who smacked Alabama earlier this year.”

Sometimes I take the time to respond, as I did in this case:

“A team that loses to LSU by 5 points might very well be better than a team that comes a 2-point conversion from losing to North Carolina. … Also ‘reigning national champion’ and what happened ‘earlier this year’ but not this season is irrelevant.”

We went back-and-forth one more time and I realized it would be a waste of time to continue. … This guy was just a fan of a team he thinks I disrespected, and who would keep telling me how stupid he thinks I am for as long as I let him.

THIS WEEK some Utah fans were also unhappy with me (again); this time because I dropped the Utes a couple of spots. One of them asked, “Do you even watch college football?” (We get that one a lot.)

That one was kind of funny since Utah had a bye this past week.

I thought about saying something like, “What do you expect me to do when your team doesn’t even score a single point?”

Instead, I came very close to responding with this:

“Yes, I do. But unfortunately I’ve missed all of those Utah victories this season against teams now in the Top 25, and those awesome nonconference wins against BYU, Idaho State and Northern Illinois.”

But I kept hearing Herm Edwards’ voice advising, “Don’t Press Send!” … Especially appropriate since the Arizona State team that Edwards is the coach of was ranked No. 17 when Utah beat the Sun Devils 21-3 on Oct. 19.

While that is exactly why I had the word “now” modifying “in the Top 25” in my planned reply, there’s a very good chance that would’ve been lost on the recipient; and life is too short for escalating Twitter skirmishes into full-blown wars, especially if you end up trying to fight against an unashamed wielder of alternative facts.

The point is that if you can’t rank a 1-loss team higher than no-loss teams in appropriate situations, there’s really no reason for a poll like this at all.

I mean, in that world, No. 12 Baylor (8-0) would be No. 5, right? The Bears might deserve that, or even higher — if they beat Oklahoma and Texas. But not this week, after needing three OTs to hold off TCU.

Here’s this week’s AP poll (last week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. LSU (1)
2. Ohio State (3)
3. Clemson (4)
4. Alabama (2)
5. Georgia (6)
6. Oregon (7)
7. Minnesota (13)
8. Utah (8)
9. Penn State (5)
10. Oklahoma (9)
11. Florida (10)
12. Baylor (11)
13. Auburn (12)
14. Michigan (14)
15. Wisconsin (16)
16. Notre Dame (15)
17. Cincinnati (17)
18. Memphis (19)
19. Boise State (21)
20. SMU (23)
21. Navy (25)
22. Texas (NR)
23. Iowa (18)
24. Indiana (NR
25. Oklahoma State (NR)
Dropped out: Wake Forest, San Diego State
Others receving votes: Appalachian State, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Wake Forest, LaTech, Virginia, San Diego State, Iowa State, Virginia Tech, Washington, Air Force, Pittsburgh, UCF, Illinois, North Dakota State, USC

Here’s the ballot I submitted:
1. LSU (1)
2. Ohio State (3)
3. Alabama (2)
4. Clemson (4)
5. Minnesota (12)
6. Georgia (6)
7. Oregon (7)
8. Baylor (8)
9. Penn State (5)
10. Oklahoma (9)
11. Florida (10)
12. Wisconsin (13)
13. Utah (11)
14. Michigan (14)
15. Auburn (15)
16. Cincinnati (18)
17. Notre Dame (19)
18. Memphis (18)
19. SMU (20)
20. Boise State (21)
21. Navy (22)
22. LaTech (24)
23. Texas (NR)
24. Kansas State (16)
25. Appalachian State (NR)
Dropped out: Wake Forest (23), San Diego State (25)