CLEMSON — For seven years straight, the Clemson football team has finished the football season ranked higher or equivalent to its preseason ranking.
If the Tigers are going to extend that streak to eight years, they have only two options: win the national championship or finish as the runner-up. That's because the media believes Clemson is poised to contend for it all again and has the Tigers ranked No. 2 in the preseason AP football poll released Monday.
Alabama is ranked No. 1, the same ranking Nick Saban's squad was given in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Clemson and Alabama have met in the College Football Playoff for the last three years — the first two times for the national championship, last year in the CFP semifinals.
By all accounts, Round 4 between the two powerhouses could be — and likely is — on the way.
As for the rest of the top five teams in the poll, national runner-up Georgia is third, Wisconsin is fourth and Ohio State is at No. 5.
The Buckeyes, who are still in limbo about whether coach Urban Meyer will retain his job, slipped to No. 5 likely because of that uncertainty. Meyer is still on paid administrative leave while the university investigates the extent of his knowledge regarding his wide receivers coach, Zach Smith, and what Meyer know about domestic abuse allegations against Smith.
The university's Board of Trustees will meet Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. to discuss that investigation.
Voters took that into account.
"It's hard not to bump Ohio State down a tick," Andy Greder of the St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press told the AP. "It's an undoubted distraction. I feel like going through fall camp without your head coach only adds to it. I gave Wisconsin a corresponding slight bump up."
Following Ohio State, Washington is No. 6, Oklahoma is No. 7, Miami is eigth, Auburn is ninth and Penn State is at No. 10.
Clemson's in-state rival, South Carolina, was not ranked. The final spot of the poll instead went to LSU at No. 25.
The Tigers will say the playoff is not yet on their minds, but anything other than another chance at a national championship would be considered a failure for Swinney's team.
"Last year we were picked (second) in the division and we were trying to prove everyone wrong, that we weren’t (second) and we were a good team," wide receiver Hunter Renfrow said. "This year, we’re doing the same thing, but we’re just trying to prove everyone right. We got picked first and we have a lot of veterans coming back, a lot of experience and so we still have to prove we’re good and can get it done. "
No quarterback decision yet
Don't expect a quarterback announcement from Clemson this week. While the Tigers' coaching staff expects to have a decision made by Wednesday and the quarterback will be told Thursday, the announcement likely won't come until next Monday.
"We're not going to release the depth chart today, but we will here pretty soon," Swinney said. “It’s not something that I want to release to the media. That’s something they need to hear from me before you guys.”
Clemson had the weekend off, which helped the Tigers in the health department. Defensive end Richard Yeargin, linebacker James Skalski, wide receiver Trevion Thompson and freshman cornerback Mario Goodrich appeared to all be back in the mix Monday.
Swinney said Thompson was "very sharp" and "very crisp" on Monday.
"The list was very small today. We had Cam Scott, who's not even in camp, he's had an abdomen problem and then Will Brown, he's been out since about the second day. Tore his hamstring, so he's not quite back," Swinney said. "I think that was it."