4. Clemson loses to South Carolina and ACC Championship
Just like USC, Tennessee football needs all doubt removed behind Clemson. That happens likely if the Tigers lose this weekend to South Carolina. If they do, the Vols and Clemson would share their worst loss, so you couldn’t say the Vols have a worse loss, and South Carolina would have beaten them at their place.
On top of that, though, the Vols’ other loss, to Georgia, would be much better than Clemson’s loss to Notre Dame. Clemson also would have no wins as good as the Vols’ two against LSU and Alabama, even if Alabama loses this weekend. Simply put, the South Carolina loss alone should drop them below UT.
However, this is about removing doubt. Doing so requires every Power Five team to have more than two losses that would stand in UT’s way to the College Football Playoff, so the Vols need Clemson to lose the ACC Championship game as well. This is why UNC needs to lose to N.C. State this weekend.
From a probability perspective, UT likely just needs Clemson to lose one of the next two weekends to leapfrog every ACC team. The Tigers are currently No. 8 nationally. However, leaving no doubt would involve Clemson and UNC losing this weekend and then UNC beating Clemson the next weekend. That should be the goal of Vol fans.