South Carolina makes CFP Top 25 debut after Clemson win. Here’s the ranking

Joshua Boucher/jboucher@thestate.com

Welcome to the College Football Playoff rankings, South Carolina.

The Gamecocks surged from unranked to No. 19 in the CFP Selection Committee’s fifth set of Top 25 rankings released Tuesday night, three days after upsetting rival Clemson 31-30 on the road.

Clemson dropped from No. 8 to No. 9, marking the second straight week coach Shane Beamer’s Gamecocks have essentially eliminated an opponent from CFP contention after they upset then-CFP No. 5 Tennessee, 63-38, two weeks ago at home.

This is the second all-time CFP Top 25 ranking for South Carolina as well as its highest ranking ever. On Nov. 21, 2017, USC appeared at No. 24 in the poll at 8-3 under former coach Will Muschamp.

The Gamecocks dropped out of the rankings after losing to then-CFP No. 3 Clemson that weekend. They went on to beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl and finish 9-4.

South Carolina’s second ever ranking since the CFP era, which began in 2014, comes on the heels of a memorable one-point win in Memorial Stadium that not only snapped a seven-game losing streak against Clemson but Clemson’s ACC-record 40-game home winning streak.

Quarterback Spencer Rattler had 360 passing yards and three total touchdowns, wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr. caught nine passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns and USC’s defense allowed just seven points and 86 total yards in the second half of Saturday’s win.

South Carolina finished its regular season at 8-4 and 4-4 in the SEC and is trending toward a spot in a Florida bowl: either the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville vs. Notre Dame or the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa vs. Illinois, according to a Monday review of bowl projections.

The Gamecocks also appeared at No. 20 in both the AP Top 25 and the USA TODAY Coaches Poll after beating the Tigers in the regular-season finale for both teams.

That loss essentially eliminated Clemson (10-2, 8-0 ACC) from the CFP race heading into this weekend’s ACC championship game against North Carolina in Charlotte.

The Tigers debuted at No. 4 in the CFP’s initial 2022 rankings after an 8-0 start but dropped to No. 10 after losing to Notre Dame the following weekend. Now, coach Dabo Swinney’s program is on pace to miss a second consecutive CFP after six straight appearances from 2015 to 2020.