In the four years since the College Football Playoffs’ inception, a bevy of talent has proven to be the best way to find a spot in the field of four. For that reason, Clemson appears to be a strong contender to reach the playoff for the third consecutive year.
In an ESPN article written by Tom VanHaaren, the results of the last four recruiting classes were used to determine the likeliest playoff participants for 2018. Each of the past seven national champions have averaged a top-10 class in the four years prior to winning the national championship, and all seven have landed at least one top-four class in the two years before their title.
Given the data, Clemson falls just short of teams that have a shot of winning the title due to a No. 10 class in 2017 and a No. 5 class in 2018, but they do meet the criteria for a team that can be in the playoff.
Almost every team in the College Football Playoff has an average class rank in the top-15 in the four years prior, the only exceptions being Michigan State, Washington and Oregon.
Clemson has had an average class rank of 6.75 over the last four years, which is tied for the fifth-highest average in the country, along with USC. Alabama (2.5), Ohio State (3.75), Florida State (4.5) and Georgia (4.75) are the four teams ahead of the Tigers.
If any team is equipped to break the trend, however, it is Clemson.
The Tigers bring back a lot of talent from last year’s ACC Championship roster, including defensive standouts Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, senior quarterback Kelly Bryant and offensive weapons like running backs Tavien Feaster and Travis Etienne.
That cast is also led by a championship-winning coach in Dabo Swinney, so as long as the Tigers get to the dance, do not count them out simply because they missed out on a data point by one spot.
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