The plays that shaped the College Football Playoff
Week 10: CLEM 38 — NCST 31
NC State scored on its opening drive after a costly interception thrown by Kelly Bryant. Clemson’s offense was going nowhere. It was still early in the first quarter, but the Wolfpack were threatening to put Clemson behind the eight ball. Until Ray-Ray McCloud stepped in. The Tigers’ return man took a punt 77 yards, cutting inside, then out, then straight down the field for a touchdown that tied the game and, more importantly, injected some much-needed life into Clemson in a critical showdown on the road.
The teams have gone in opposite directions since, but this was a game that, at the time, decided the ACC Atlantic, and in the early going, it looked like NC State might have the upper hand. Bryant was struggling, Clemson’s defense looked perplexed, and the start of the game looked eerily reminiscent of that ugly upset at Syracuse. But McCloud’s punt return was a needed jolt and, as it turned out, the difference in a seven-point Tigers win.
Week by Week Rankings
Looking back, the playoff committee ought to send a nice gift basket to McCloud because a Clemson loss here would’ve been a nightmare scenario. NC State almost certainly would’ve secured the ACC Atlantic, leaving Clemson with two losses and no championship game. But, of course, the Wolfpack had two losses, too, which means the ACC likely would’ve been left out of the playoff. Instead, Clemson is the No. 1 seed and will again face Alabama in the College Football Playoff at the Allstate Sugar Bowl (8:45 p.m. ET Jan. 1 on ESPN & ESPN App).
FPI Playoff Odds
To Beat Alabama
To Win Title