It wasn't supposed to be like this.
When Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney woke up Monday morning, he felt that uneasy fog of waking up from a bad dream, only to realize it wasn't a dream at all.
Last Friday really happened. The eleventh best team in the country had taken his collection of spiritual poet warriors of dancing integrity and lawfulness and cast them down like some kind of firey demon that deserved nothing but death and an eternity of punishment.
He just couldn't understand it. His team and staff had done everything right, which means they were destined to win and move on. It wasn't possible for those Buckeyes to prevail because they hadn't even played enough games to qualify for the playoff in the first place.
He had to get out of his funk, so he groggily got out of bed and headed for the kitchen. He thought about making his usual breakfast — three scrambled eggs and a cup of coffee that was poured not through an ordinary coffee filter, but a custom filter he makes from articles about college players being compensated financially for their volunteer work on football teams around the country.
Dabo made the coffee, but in an effort to clear his head, he decided to take a walk to the breakfast diner down the road. He took his time and thought about ways to generate some positivity in his spirit. Maybe he could go to Walmart this afternoon and tell people buying store-brand products that they were acting sinfully. Saving souls is hard work, but he's never shied away from fighting for what's right.
In the immediate, however, he thought about what he could do to improve his mood and possibly connect with his network. That's when the memory of his very successful first impression on TikTok flooded his mind, so he went to the app to view it again.
Dabo Swinney's first TikTok is... something— FanDuel Sportsbook (@FDSportsbook) May 15, 2020
(via TikTok / wilburrr1) pic.twitter.com/A37LQKP9GN
He made a mental note to film himself reciting his slam poetry version of the hit Titanic song My Heart Will Go On because the recruits would love it.
After the diner turned him away because he refused to wear a mask, Dabo walked back home and was confused when he saw the delivery van backing into his driveway.
"I wasn't expecting anything to come today," Dabo said to the man as he got out of the van.
Confused, the delivery driver looked at his notepad and then back up at him. "Is this the residence of Dabo Swinney?"
The driver brightened the "a" in Dabo's name, pronouncing it day-bo, and the Clemson coach wondered if this was an Ohio State operative sent to him by Ryan Day himself.
"This is the residence of Dah-bo Swinney, yes, but I'm not expecting anything. We already got the water bed I ordered that was filled with the tears of my enemies."
The driver sighed and replied, "Sir I delivered that water bed, and I told you I was filling it with regular water. You watched me fill it with your own hose."
Annoyed, the driver made his way around the van and opened the back doors to reveal the gravestone engraved with Ohio State's name alongside the 2021 Sugar Bowl date.
"Ah drats, I thought I had canceled that in time," Dabo lamented.
"It says here that you ordered it on January 2 at 3:18 in the morning," the driver said with what Dabo interpreted as a knowing and judgmental smile on his face.
Dabo sighed and left the man to do his business. He went inside to check his email and saw the reminder from USA Today to submit his final Coaches Poll by noon tomorrow.
Not needing to delay it any longer, he started composing his ranking.
No. 1 was simple. It was clear that Clemson was the best team in the country and he was sure to slot them appropriately.
No. 2 was almost as simple, but Notre Dame had proven they belonged here after its performance against No. 3 Alabama.
The four spot was a bit tougher but Dabo ultimately settled on, "opening a bag of popcorn without letting the steam burn your hands." There's hardly a better feeling in the world, he thought.
It went on like that until he got to 11, where he checked the mental logic he had constructed for himself. Ohio State seems like the obvious choice here. It hadn't played 10 games yet, but he wasn't impressed with their last performance because he didn't like remembering it.
He ultimately put the Buckeyes at 11 again and polished off the rest of his top 25 with his favorite episodes of I Love Lucy.
The ranking revived Dabo's bad mood, so he decided to do what he had done every day since New Years' Day. He grabbed an unopened box of Lucky Charms from his stockpile, went to the spare room that had his new waterbed, and shut the door behind him.
Once positioned on the bed, he opened the lucky charms and began eating around the marshmallows.
Next year will be different, he thought as Ohio State and Alabama prepared to face off in the title game 700 miles away.