NEW YORK — Barring a severe case of Clemsoning by Clemson, the Tigers should be in the national championship race for most of this season.
No. 4 Clemson surged Tuesday to its highest ranking in The Associated Press poll in 25 years after the Tigers won the biggest game of the opening weekend of the college football season, a 38-35 victory against Georgia.
The Tigers received one-first place vote in the new Top 25 and have their best showing in the poll since Sept. 12, 1988, when they were No. 3.
Alabama remains No. 1 and received 58 of 60 first-place votes from the media panel after beating Virginia Tech 35-10 to start the season.
No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Ohio State flip-flopped spots from the preseason rankings. The Buckeyes received one first-place vote. Stanford is No. 5.
As for Clemson, coach Dabo Swinney’s team should be able to enjoy its lofty status for a while as long the Tigers avoid Clemsoning at its worst. Clemsoning is a term college football fans use when teams with high expectations lose to inferior opponents. Over the years, it’s been a nasty habit of the Tigers.
Clemson this week hosts South Carolina State, an FCS team — though not a terrible one. And after what happened last weekend with eight FCS teams beating FBS teams, Clemson best not party too hard.
The Tigers should be big favorites in the next four Atlantic Coast Conference games after that before No. 10 Florida State and remarkable redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston come to town on Oct. 19.
Another tip for the Tigers: Watch out for faked punts.
Back in 1988, when Clemson was No. 3 in the country, the Tigers played Florida State in Death Valley and were victims of one of the most memorable trick plays in college football history. With the score tied and 1:21 left in the fourth quarter, Florida State lined up to punt from deep in its own territory. Instead, FSU coach Bobby Bowden called a fake and LeRoy Butler raced 78 yards to set up the game-winning field goal.
GOING UP. The current Florida State team moved up one spot to No. 10 in the rankings, but no doubt sent a message that it’s prepared to compete with Clemson in the ACC, if not for a national championship. In a dazzling debut, Winston led Florida State to a 41-13 victory at Pitt on Monday night, going 25 of 27 for 356 yards and four touchdowns, and running for a score. The Seminoles’ schedule also sets up nicely for a battle of unbeatens on Oct. 19. No Clemsoning, Seminoles.
GOING DOWN: Life is not always fair. Georgia played the toughest opening game of any of the highly ranked teams, traveling to Death Valley. The Bulldogs lost by three and dropped six spots in the rankings to No. 11. They were the only team in the top 18 to lose. Impressive victories by No. 6 South Carolina, No. 8 Louisville and No. 9 LSU helped push Georgia back. Bulldogs fans are probably not happy, but no need to fret. If Georgia beats South Carolina at home on Saturday, the Bulldogs will likely make a big jump.
IN AND OUT. No. 20 Washington moved into the rankings for the first time this season with one of the most impressive performances of the weekend. The Huskies unveiled their new up-tempo offense and whipped then-No. 19 Boise State 38-6. That sent the Broncos tumbling out of the poll. The Huskies have a week off before traveling to Illinois. No. 23 Baylor also moved into the rankings after an easy victory against Wofford. Oregon State fell out after becoming the third ranked FBS team to lose to an FCS team. The Beavers lost 49-46 to Eastern Washington on Saturday.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Aside from South Carolina-Georgia, the big game of the week is No. 14 Notre Dame at No. 17 Michigan, the last scheduled trip to the Big House for the Fighting Irish. The teams play next year in South Bend, Ind., and then, who knows? Could be done for a while. And just when it is getting good again. For the second straight season both teams are ranked when they meet. That hasn’t happened since 2005 and ‘06.
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