Clemson coach Dabo Swinney defends No. 11 ranking of Ohio State on coaches poll ballot

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney celebrates the Tigers' win over Ohio State in a College Football Playoff semifinal last December in Glendale, Arizona.

In an interview with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi that aired Saturday night, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney defended his final coaches’ poll ballot that ranked Ohio State outside of the top 10.

Swinney said he considered only teams that played nine or more games for his top 10, a factor that led him to leave out the Buckeyes in favor of some teams that had lost as many as three games during this coronavirus pandemic-shaped season.

While unbeaten, the Buckeyes played only six games, a schedule that was impacted by multiple cancellations and a delayed October start in the Big Ten. Swinney left them at No. 11 as a result.

“It has nothing to do with Ohio State,” Swinney said. “Absolutely zero. You could change the name to Michigan, or Georgia, or Florida, or Tennessee, or Nebraska. Any time you have a top 10, that’s special. This year, it’s really, really special. I wanted to recognize the teams that played nine games or more. So if you didn’t play nine games, I just didn’t consider you for the top 10.”

But the ranking was considered a slight against the Buckeyes and added some drama in the lead-up to the teams’ semifinal rematch in the College Football Playoff.

None of the 61 coaches who participate in the poll put Ohio State lower than Swinney, and only one other voter had the Big Ten champions outside of the top five. That was Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who placed the Buckeyes at No. 6 on his ballot.

Swinney, who called much of the response to his ranking an overreaction, stressed that it was not a reflection of his outlook on the Buckeyes ahead of their matchup on New Year’s Day.

"Obviously they’re a great team," Swinney said. "They're plenty good enough and talented enough to beat us and good enough to win the national championship. But in my opinion, I just don't think that it's right that three teams have to play 13 games to win it all and one team has to play eight. What universe am I living in? And it has nothing to do with them. It was about qualifying. And I didn't think they were qualified based on the number of games versus all of these other teams."