Dabo Swinney
(Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

You might not like it, but Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is right about Ohio State. In the final College Football Playoff poll, the Buckeyes received the No. 3 seed after winning the Big Ten Championship. They are slated to play the No. 2 overall Clemson Tigers in the CFP Semifinal. However, in his own poll, Swinney had OSU at No. 11.

Via ESPN, here are comments Swinney made over the weekend:

I think the games matter. The mental and physical toll of a season — there’s nobody out there that would say that somebody who’s played 11 games versus somebody who’s played six is better physically or something like that because it’s a long season.

We’re going on Week 21. These guys have had no break. It’s been a grind, not just football-wise, but the mental challenge and the personal sacrifice and commitment that everybody’s had to make to be able to play and continue to play. It’s been incredible.

Clemson Football Head Coach Dabo Swinney, via ESPN

When asked about the impending Sugar Bowl matchup, Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day had this to say:

I think at the end of the day, it’s who executes better and plays tougher in the end. When you play in big games, you have to execute at a high level. That’s really what it comes down to. Both teams are going to play hard. Everything is on the line. It is who executes better is going to pull it out. We have to do that. Whether we played six, eight, 10, or they played 12, I don’t really know.

Ohio State Football Head Coach Ryan Day, via ESPN

Why Dabo Swinney Is Right

Dabo Swinney was not the only coach to leave the Buckeyes out of the top 4. Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher, Kirby Smart, and four other head coaches did as well. It might be alarming to see them at number 11 on Swinney’s board, but that’s not really the point. Saban had them at 5, which still doesn’t put them in the Playoff. Whether they were 5 or 11 on Swinney’s board isn’t really important, because they’re out of the CFP either way. So OSU fans, you can be mad all you want at Dabo Swinney for ranking you guys that low, but the fact is that a lot of the other best coaches in the country didn’t have you in the Playoff either.

Ohio State is getting into the CFP on name alone, and that’s a real shame. Because they really haven’t proved anything. Northwestern finished their season at No. 14. It would stand to reason that the Committee is saying OSU is significantly better than Northwestern by putting the Buckeyes at No. 3. But based on the Big Ten championship game, how is that the case? Ohio State won by 12, sure, but the game was much closer than the 22-10 score indicates. It took a historic performance from Trey Sermon to put the Buckeyes over the top. Justin Fields didn’t play particularly well. What have they proved that Cincinnati hasn’t?

It seems that in Dabo Swinney’s mind, he isn’t saying Ohio State is the 11th best team in the nation. Based on talent alone, he knows that can’t be true, and has even praised the Buckeyes for their ability. He’s saying that due to the small sample size, they are the 11th most deserving team in the nation.

Nine of the 13 other Big Ten programs managed to play more than six games. So this is not a Big Ten conference issue. Everyone else managed to get their games in. The Big Ten already went and gave OSU special treatment by allowing them to play in the conference championship game in the first place. Normally, they wouldn’t have been eligible. 22 of the final top 25 played more games than Ohio State, so it also can’t really be a COVID issue. Here’s why games matter: why would anyone ever schedule 12 games if they can get in by just playing six? You’re telling me that the Committee knows based on six games, with only one coming against a ranked opponent, OSU should be in the Playoff? Get out of here.

Personally, I don’t think it really mattered who got put the No. 3 and No. 4 spots. Alabama and Clemson are clearly the two best teams in college football. Notre Dame is going to get the doors blown off by Alabama, and Ohio State has never beaten Clemson in the CFP. This almost makes the final rankings even more ridiculous. Since it doesn’t matter, just put the teams in who have earned it. There’s always a blowout in the CFP Semifinals, so at least give us a blowout we haven’t seen before.

Cincinnati played a longer season, went undefeated, and won the conference championship. But the Committee doesn’t want to give them the opportunity to prove they belong by hanging with a traditional playoff team. This way, they can continue to keep out non-Power 5 teams who have individually great seasons. I don’t think Cincy would stand a chance against Alabama or Clemson, but at least let them compete.

Long story short, Dabo Swinney is right.

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