For the past few weeks, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has argued that teams should be rewarded for playing games during a season disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that teams that started later than others and didn't play as many games should be penalized by the College Football Playoff selection committee.
While the selection committee ultimately decided the Ohio State were among the sport's four best teams, Swinney apparently didn't when completing his final ballot in the coaches' poll.
Swinney, whose No. 2 Tigers will play the No. 3 Buckeyes in a CFP semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on New Year's Day (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App), had Ohio State ranked No. 11 on his final ballot -- lowest of any of the 61 FBS head coaches who voted in the poll.
The coaches' poll final ballots were released by USA Today on Monday.
"I think the games matter," Swinney said during a conference call with reporters on Sunday. "The mental and physical toll of a season -- there's nobody out there that would say that somebody who's played 11 games versus somebody who's played six is better physically or something like that because it's a long season. We're going on Week 21. These guys have had no break. It's been a grind, not just football-wise, but the mental challenge and the personal sacrifice and commitment that everybody's had to make to be able to play and continue to play. It's been incredible."
The Tigers have played 11 games; the Buckeyes played only six after the Big Ten delayed the start of its season until Oct. 24 and three of OSU's games were canceled because of COVID-19 issues.
Swinney was one of eight coaches who left the Buckeyes out of the top four. Georgia's Kirby Smart had the Buckeyes ranked sixth, while six others had them fifth, including Alabama's Nick Saban and Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher.
The Irish were No. 4 in the CFP selection committee's final rankings and will play No. 1 Alabama in a CFP semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Capital One in Arlington, Texas, on New Year's Day (4 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App). Hawai'i's Todd Graham ranked the Irish lower than any other coach at ninth.
Twenty-three coaches had Texas A&M ranked inside the top four, while seven had undefeated Cincinnati in the top four -- each of them a coach from a Group of 5 program.
The Buckeyes probably didn't need much motivation after falling to the Tigers 29-23 in a CFP semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl last season.
"I think at the end of the day, it's who executes better and plays tougher in the end," Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said Sunday. "When you play in big games, you have to execute at a high level. That's really what it comes down to. Both teams are going to play hard. Everything is on the line. It is who executes better is going to pull it out. We have to do that. Whether we played six, eight, 10, or they played 12, I don't really know."