GWINN DAVIS MEDIA (copy)

Clemson's Isaiah Simmons (11) intercepts a pass and celebrates with defensive back K'Von Wallace (12), linebacker James Skalski (47) and linebacker Jake Venables (15) during the Tigers' victory over Wofford on Saturday, November 2, 2019. Gwinn Davis/Special to The Post and Courier

If defending national champion Clemson goes into the No. 4 slot Tuesday night as the first College Football Playoff rankings of 2019 are announced, some Tiger fans will yell and scream and scare the neighbors that just moved in from suburban Boston.

If it’s Penn State at No. 4 and Clemson relegated to No. 5?

Cleanup on Aisle 8 for people trying to shop at Walmart while monitoring CFP tweets.

But stay calm, Clemson fans, and trust Travis Etienne, Isaiah Simmons and a schedule that’s a Slip ‘N Slide path to the playoffs.

The five CFP-ranking announcement shows preceding Selection Day on Dec. 8 should be the least-watched television programs in the Greenville, Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach and Plum Branch markets.

Clemson is a lock for the top four. If not this week, then next week and through Selection Day.

The only question is whether the Tigers in their fifth straight CFP appearance will open the playoffs on Dec. 28 against the SEC champion in Atlanta or face the Big Ten champion in Glendale, Ariz.

How CFP rankings should look

Logic dictates a Tuesday night unveil like this:

1. LSU. Wins over Texas, Florida and Auburn

2. Ohio State. Consistently dominant

3. Alabama. The Ohio State of the SEC this year

4. Clemson. That close call at North Carolina was so good for the soul

5. Penn State. Undefeated but barely won at home vs. Pittsburgh (17-10) of the much-mocked ACC Coastal Division

How the rankings might look

1-2-3: LSU, Ohio State and Alabama in some order that doesn’t matter much right now

4. Penn State instead of Clemson

That's how Wayne Staats, a senior interactive producer for NCAA.com, sees it this week. He is not alone. 

No big deal for Dabo Swinney’s winning machine; LSU plays at Alabama on Saturday, Penn State plays at Ohio State on Nov. 23 and the losers of those games will fall in line behind a Clemson team that won’t lose again. At least not before Christmas.

But it’s hard to see Clemson ending up at No. 1 or No. 4 on Dec. 8.

Why not No. 1 for Clemson?

An undefeated SEC champ or Big Ten champ is sure to stay ahead of Clemson in the rankings through Dec. 8. Perhaps even a one-loss SEC champ.

The No. 1 path for Clemson is a pair of unlikely free-for-alls.

Why not No. 4 for Clemson?

An undefeated Clemson will not slip below a one-loss team in the final rankings.

Exception: A strange series of events including a few more close Clemson wins and something like Alabama winning out and LSU clobbering Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas A&M after losing a tight one in Tuscaloosa.

Georgia/Gamecocks factor

The only other team Clemson has to slightly worry about in the final four seeding is Georgia, potentially a 12-1 SEC champion with a fresh SEC Championship Game victory over Alabama or LSU. That would be impressive.

But any Clemson win at South Carolina on Nov. 30 – even a six-overtime victory – will look better than Georgia’s double-overtime home loss to the Gamecocks.

Committee members would also look closely at two other common opponents left on the Bulldogs’ schedule, Texas A&M (24-10 loss at Clemson) and Georgia Tech (52-14 loss at Clemson).

Committee scouting

Handicapping committee group-think is a little easier as the season goes along. But no one truly knows how a 13-person committee will sort things out for this first rankings week.

It was hard enough trying to figure out how Ken Hatfield’s brain worked when he was head coach at Clemson from 1990 to 1993, let alone now that he’s had time to ponder playoff rankings while enjoying retirement near his alma mater, the University of Arkansas.

Paola Boivin, a former Phoenix sports columnist and now a journalism professor at Arizona State, will bring great insight.

Ronnie Lott was a hard-hitting safety at Southern Cal and during his Hall of Fame career in the NFL. Behind closed doors in Grapevine, is he as upset as many other people with Pac-12 ties are with the Clemson/SEC playoff ownership?

Those three are among six committee members in their second year on the job. Gary Barta, athletic director at Iowa, is a rookie.

But some things outlast the three-year terms of committee members. Clemson’s playoff participation streak is four years and counting.

Better for Tiger fans to worry less about early CFP rankings and more about how to cut back on holiday gifts for in-laws while saving money for bowl trips.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff

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