How Does the USA Today Preseason Poll Alter Clemson's BCS Path?

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIAugust 27, 2012

How Does the USA Today Preseason Poll Alter Clemson's BCS Path?

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    Do preseason rankings alter a BCS path?

    For the Clemson Tigers, it shouldn't. Considering how weak the Atlantic Coast Conference is, a No. 14 ranking is not bad.

    After a 70-33 blowout by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, the Tigers know they have to regroup for the 2012 season. Not for the sake of their team, but for the sake of the ACC as a whole.

    If Clemson can take care of business this year, there's no doubt they will get another chance to prove they belong on the national stage.

    Here's a few things to look at when considering if the USA Today poll alters the Tigers' BCS path.

SEC Bookends Will Determine Their Strength

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    The Tigers have a chance to prove themselves against quality opponents to begin and end the season.

    They'll face Auburn on Saturday to open the season and finish up with South Carolina, a team they've lost three straight games to.

    With the toughness of the ACC continually questioned, wins over the two SEC teams will go a long way to proving they can play with the big boys.

    If they can't beat either—or just one—it goes to show people that the best in the ACC are on par with middle-tier SEC teams.

Easy Wins Need to Be Big Wins

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    Steve Spurrier lived by a motto while he was at Florida—to win, and win big.

    This Clemson team must have that same mindset this year, especially against teams who are inferior to the Tigers. In those games that they're supposed to win, but aren't supposed to be blowouts, the Tigers have to take care of business.

    No more games like Georgia Tech, when the Tigers were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten teams last year.

    After Auburn, Clemson will face Ball State and Furman, which should be two easy wins. If the Tigers can survive No. 7 Florida State, Boston College, Georgia Tech and No. 16 Virginia Tech in their next four games, the path should become a lot easier.

    Having said that, they have to take care of business against Boston College and Georgia Tech. The Florida State and Virginia Tech games will be tough.

    The Tigers proved last year that they were up to the challenge against the Seminoles and Hokies. They simply weren't up for the challenge against the Yellow Jackets and North Carolina State.

Can't Leave Any Doubt Against Florida State and Virginia Tech

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    When it comes to the games against Florida State and Virginia Tech, Clemson has to win both.

    Parity is nice when it comes to watching a conference throughout the season—it's not good when it comes to getting into the BCS title game, or even just a regular BCS game.

    The ACC isn't likely to get more than its champion into the BCS, especially considering the conference's 2-14 record in BCS games.

    Bowls aren't going to select an at-large team from a conference that is generally considered weak. It's the same reason why the Big East only gets one team into the BCS every year.

    A one-loss team from the SEC will get the nod over any school for a BCS berth, with the Big Ten close behind.

Take Care of Business and You'll Be Fine

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    Some fans get angry about where their team is ranked in the preseason, but it doesn't really matter.

    It's only the preseason.

    If the Tigers can win the ACC, like they did last year, they'll be in a BCS game.

    Whether it's the title game is yet to be determined. Even one-loss Oklahoma State was left on the outside looking in as two SEC teams played for the title a year ago.

    All Clemson has to do is go out on the field and take care of business.

    The players can't control what other teams do. All they can worry about is themselves.

    In the end, it will all work out the way it's supposed to.