The Duel

AP Top-25 Poll Movement History Suggests Clemson's National Championship Hopes Could Be in Trouble

By David Hayes
Clemson v North Carolina
Clemson v North Carolina / Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Clemson Tigers came into the 2019 college football season with arguably the most hype and potential of any defending national champion we've seen in recent memory.

Even though the Tigers are still undefeated through Week 5 withy a 4-0 record, things certainly haven't looked the way many of us were expecting them to as we head into Week 6. And the most notable change in the Week 6 AP Top-25 Poll seems like a perfect testament to that narrative, as the Alabama Crimson Tide replaced Clemson as the new No. 1 team in the land.

Unfortunately for Clemson, a historical pattern of former No. 1 AP Poll teams to be usurped by another program without having lost a game presents a troubling pattern for the Tigers' national title aspirations.

Among the last 17 college football teams to drop from No. 1 to No. 2 without a loss, only two of them (2001 Miami, 2009 Alabama) have gone on to win the national championship later that season. Even more recently, among the last nine teams to drop under these circumstances, only one (2009 Alabama) has gone on to win the title.

And watching a team drop from the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll without a loss isn't common. In fact, it's happened only 13 times in this millennium, with the 2015 Ohio State Buckeyes as the latest team to suffer this fate.

While moving from No. 1 to No. 2 as an undefeated defending national champion is a 'problem' that 128 other FBS programs would likely kill for, the more concerning aspect of Clemson's slide is reflected in the historical finishes by teams that have done the same.

Riding high on what many have already labeled to be one of the most NFL-ready quarterback prospects college football has ever seen in the 6-foot-6, 220-pound, 19-year-old true sophomore QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson was set to wreak havoc on a drastically less-competitive ACC on the way to an undefeated season and a berth in the 2020 College Football Playoff this season.

Yet, Lawrence has already thrown for five interceptions – one more than his 2018 total – through five starts in 2019, and the teenage phenom has also dropped from being the lone betting favorite to win the 2019 Heisman Trophy in the preseason to +5000 (currently tied for the 11th-best odds), according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Clemson came one failed 2-point conversion attempt short of its first loss of the season against the unranked North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill last Saturday. And yes, that's also the same UNC team that lost to an FCS opponent in Appalachian State, 34-31, on the same field the week prior.

The Tigers are still one of, if not, the most talented team on paper, but it's going to be a tough task to win it all again without Lawrence firing on all cylinders to help make up for noticeable losses from their No. 1 scoring defense on last year's national title roster.

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David Hayes is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, David Hayes also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username DavidWHayes. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.