It remains to be seen whether Clemson's play on Saturday was clean enough to secure the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff, but it was good enough to hold off North Carolina for a 45-37 win in the ACC title game.
Clemson improved to 13-0 with the win, and removed any doubt about whether it would be in the playoff. The only question now is whether it will hold onto the No. 1 seed -- the Tigers were ranked No. 1 in the latest CFP selection committee rankings. The No. 2 seed, Alabama, overpowered Florida for a 29-15 victory in the SEC title game on Saturday.
Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney stated his case for the No. 1 seed after the game Saturday, and said it shouldn't take the selection committee much time to figure out where to place his team in the rankings.
"Well, we've got three top-10 wins. Anybody else got that? I don't think so," Swinney told ESPN. "And we're 13-0. Can't get no better than winning them all. And nobody made it easy on us, either. That ought to be an easy decision for them."
Clemson has defeated Notre Dame, Florida State and North Carolina, who were ranked No. 8, 9 and 10, respectively, in the latest CFP rankings.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, a top Heisman Trophy candidate, accounted for five touchdowns in the game (three passing, two rushing). He completed 26 of 42 passes for 289 yards, and had a pick. He rushed 24 times for 131 yards.
The Tar Heels (11-2), who had won 11 consecutive games since losing in the season opener to South Carolina, pushed Clemson to the finish, and nearly had a chance at a game-tying drive. UNC trimmed Clemson's lead to 45-37, and appeared to recover an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. However, UNC was flagged for being offside on the play -- it was a controversial call. The Tar Heels tried again for an onside kick, but the ball was recovered by Clemson.
UNC head coach Larry Fedora was critical of the offside call after the game.
"I had a chance to look at it and they missed it," he said, per reports. "They were wrong. That's all I'm going to say about it. They were wrong."