COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State and Clemson are clearly the best programs in their conferences.
In the six-year College Football Playoff era, Ohio State has won four of six Big Ten titles and reached the playoff three times. Michigan State has the only other Big Ten playoff appearance.
For Clemson, the Tigers have won five straight ACC titles and reached the playoff every year. Florida State won the league crown and made the playoff in the first playoff season in 2014.
They’re on top. But who’s on top more?
On the big Wednesday Buckeye Talk podcast, Nathan Baird, Stephen Means and I discussed two parts of this OSU-Clemson comparison.
One was whether the Big Ten or the ACC has a bigger gap between the team on top and the pack of teams in pursuit. That’s Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota in the Big Ten, and Notre Dame (for this season), Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech in the ACC.
That’s an issue both of the moment and the future. Notre Dame playing a full ACC schedule is a one-year fix because of COVID-19, but long-term, are Miami, North Carolina, Virginia Tech (and maybe Boston College and Georgia Tech) really on the rise? Is the gap going to narrow in the ACC permanently?
Then there’s the issue for this year and the playoff path for the teams that met in a College Football Playoff semifinal last year. For instance, Ohio State does not play Wisconsin or Minnesota during its eight-game regular season. Also, the ACC isn’t using divisions this season, so the top two teams in the final standings will make the ACC title game. That means there’s a chance that Clemson could end up facing Notre Dame or Miami twice. Ohio State can’t play Penn State or Michigan twice.
Nathan, Stephen and I at the end of this Wednesday pod voted on both topics — which conference has the bigger gap and which team has the easier path this season.
I said Ohio State does have an easier path this year — but the gap is still bigger in the ACC.
In my mind, that’s because Notre Dame isn’t a permanent ACC member, and because the other potential contenders in the ACC are still on the rise, while Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan are much more established as solid programs. (No one has any idea when Florida State, which should be one of the top two programs in the ACC, will get back on its feet.)
For that direct comparison, here are the schedules for the Buckeyes and the Tigers this season.
Clemson 37, Wake Forest 13
Clemson 49, Citadel 0
Oct. 3: Virginia at Clemson
Oct. 10: Miami at Clemson
Oct. 17: Clemson at Georgia Tech
Oct. 24: Syracuse at Clemson
Oct. 31: Boston College at Clemson
Nov. 7: Clemson at Notre Dame
Nov. 21: Clemson at Florida State
Nov. 28: Pitt at Clemson
Dec. 5: Clemson at Virginia Tech
Dec. 19: ACC Championship Game
Oct. 24: Nebraska at Ohio State
Oct. 31: Ohio State at Penn State
Nov. 7: Rutgers at Ohio State
Nov. 14: Ohio State at Maryland
Nov. 21: Indiana at Ohio State
Nov. 28: Ohio State at Illinois
Dec. 5: Ohio State at Michigan
Dec. 12: Michigan at Ohio State
Dec. 19: Big Ten Championship Game
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