How Does the USA Today Preseason Poll Affect the Clemson Tigers' BCS Path?

Colby Lanham@Colby1226Correspondent IAugust 6, 2012

How Does the USA Today Preseason Poll Affect the Clemson Tigers' BCS Path?

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    Know what time it is? It's time to celebrate that special time of year. It's not Christmas, but it's just as special a season.

    That's right. It's college football season. And as fall camps start, so does the flow of preseason polls, watch lists and honors.

    One of the more recent and notable polls to emerge is the USA Today Preseason Poll, which have ranked Dabo Swinney and his Clemson Tigers at No. 14. While many do, and should, not always place too much stock into the preseason polls and speculations of the media, there can always be a grain of truth within all the watch lists, predictions and speculations.

    What truths could be gained from the Tigers' placing at No. 14 in the USA Today Top 25, and how could it possibly affect the Tigers' road to the Orange Bowl, as well as its BCS redemption?

Puts a Target on Their Back, but Not Too Big a Target

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    The Tigers, despite their 70-33 embarrassment of an Orange Bowl loss, are still given an admirable ranking at No. 14, as they could have just as easily been ranked in the Top 10, and arguably just outside the Top Five.

    Coming off of an ACC Championship, the Tigers, despite their ranking, are still being seen below Florida State, who is once again receiving a large amount of preseason hype at No. 7 and being treated as though they did not come in third place in the ACC Atlantic Division behind Wake Forest.

    This gives Clemson a smaller target on their back in the national spotlight, who will no doubt take time to refer to their embarrassment in the Orange Bowl at every turn. The Tigers have generally performed better when they have less of a spotlight and are underestimated by the media. This could make their BCS path a lot easier down the road. 

Allows Them to Stay Under the Radar

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    As mentioned previously, the Tigers have been known to perform better when under the radar. Despite being ranked at No. 14, they are under the radar both nationally and the ACC, as many once again expect FSU to take it away and face Virginia Tech for the conference crown.

    Many are looking down on Clemson due to their rebuilding defense, but forget that the majority of their pieces on that ACC Championship team will be returning, especially at the receiver position where the Tigers have one of the deepest corps in the ACC, and arguably the nation.

    They're also bringing back a healthy Tajh Boyd, who will be working with Chad Morris for a second season.

Puts Them on the Map

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    Being at No. 14 does, however, put them on the map and gets some attention early on in the season. By the time they reach Florida State, they should be, at worst, 2-1, but still ranked.

    If the Tigers are able to maintain their composure the way Virginia Tech did and emerge with a good enough regular-season record and ranking, they could still have the capability to reach a BCS Bowl without playing in the championship, as was the case with the Michigan Wolverines, who were ranked in the Top 15 and were picked for an at-large BCS Bowl bid as a result.

    For the Tigers, it's not always great to have too much press, but it is necessary to have enough to stay in the BCS bowl-hunting game.

Extra Motivation

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    By now, everyone is all too familiar with Clemson's latest Orange Bowl experience with the Mountaineers. 

    This will be mentioned in every one of Clemson's big games, and whether they can hold up on the big stage. Being No. 14 means this will only get mentioned more. But rather than just completely ignore it, Dabo Swinney and his Tigers can use this as motivation to redeem themselves, prove the college football world wrong and make it back to Miami for yet another shot.