College Football Playoff Rankings reaction: Dabo Swinney gets his wish as Clemson stays No. 3

The penultimate College Football Playoff Rankings were released Tuesday night, and much to Clemson coach Dabo Swinney's delight, the defending national champions are still ranked No. 3 behind No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 LSU. Now, you might think it's weird that a coach would be happy that his team -- which has won 27 straight games -- is ranked third, but it's all part of the plan.

Swinney has taken every chance he's been given to complain about the lack of respect for his team from the CFP Selection Committee, the media, the man behind the deli counter at the Food Lion wearing a South Carolina hat, everybody.

Nobody believes in those lowly Tigers.

"Obviously, if we lose this game, they're going to kick us out [of the playoff]," said Swinney after the Tigers beat South Carolina on Saturday. "They don't want us in there anyways. We'd drop to 20. Georgia loses to this very same team, and the very next day it's, 'How do we keep Georgia in it?' We win and it's, 'How do we get Clemson out?' It's big because they can't vote us out."

You could write that off as the emotional charge of just crushing your rival once more, but Swinney has carried that attitude into this week. At one point, he said that while people thought Clemson would win the ACC, nobody thought it would go 12-0.

This line of thought ignores that the preseason win total for Clemson from sportsbooks in the United States (and offshore) had Clemson's win total set at 11.5. In other words, it was either going undefeated or not. Most of the money was on the over.

It all makes sense, though, because -- eye-roll-inducing as it may be -- Swinney doesn't have much of a choice. Clemson's most prominent opponent in 2019 has been boredom because the ACC does not have another team that can present even the slightest hint of a challenge. Even in the ACC Championship Game this weekend, the Tigers find themselves as 28.5-point favorites over No. 23 Virginia.

The average spread in Clemson's ACC games -- it was favored in all of them -- was greater than 30 points per game. It's not a coincidence that the smallest spread in a Clemson game this year was its home date with Texas A&M (16.5 points), but the Tigers have been hurt by TAMU's ability to pick up any big wins for itself as the season has gone on.

Of course, while Swinney is doing what he has to do, it doesn't mean he's right.

Clemson is great. Nobody is arguing that fact.

By putting it at No. 3, the committee isn't saying it's somehow not good enough. It's saying that there are two other undefeated teams out there who have been laying waste to their opponents as well, but they have wins that the ACC hasn't afforded Clemson this year.

Ohio State is undefeated with four wins in the top 25. LSU is undefeated with wins against three teams in the top 12. Clemson is undefeated without a win against a ranked team.

That's it. That's the reason Clemson is at No. 3. It's not that anybody is out to get the Tigers.

While Clemson has won 27 straight, and it won the national title last season, the only games that matter for this year's College Football Playoff are the ones that have been played in 2019.

Swinney knows that. He just doesn't care because the disrespect card is all he has to play right now.

Why? His team is just as good as he says.

CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

Enter our free Pick'em Challenge & compete to win $5,000.

Our Latest Stories