Notre Dame’s chances as we enter the first week of the College Football Playoff poll
Tuesday saw the release of the first ever College Football Playoff Rankings with Notre Dame ranked 10th. The College Football Playoff Committee will meet once a week, every Tuesday, until the conclusion of the regular season and conference championships in order to choose four teams to play in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Notre Dame intends to figure prominently in the conversation.
Notre Dame picked up its first loss of the season in a hard-fought and heartbreaking game at defending National Champion Florida State. The Seminoles were outgained and outplayed in every facet of the game, but the Irish could not overcome an atmosphere utterly hostile to foreign elements.
The loss initially dropped the Irish to 7/8 in the USA Today-Amway Coaches’ Poll and the Associated Press Media Poll, but with losses by other top ranked teams during the Irish bye week, they have advanced to 6/7.
In order to have a chance at advancing into the playoffs, Notre Dame needs to be seen as the best one-loss team in college football. The key is to remain a one-loss team. The Irish need to win all of their remaining games, including road contests at Arizona State University and the University of Southern California, in order to stand a chance of being considered for the playoff.
But it will likely not be enough to merely win those games. In all likelihood, the Southeastern Conference will produce a one-loss team and an undefeated team, or at worst two one-loss teams that will be considered for the playoff. The Pacific 12 will most likely have a one-loss conference champion, as will the Big 10, and Florida State should win the rest of its schedule and be undefeated Atlantic Coast Conference Champions for the second year in a row.
Notre Dame must win its games in style, demonstrating the power and tenacity that the Irish showed in the masterful game in Tallahassee. Notre Dame cannot afford to leave any doubt in the minds of the committee members regarding which team has learned the most from their loss.
The Irish also need to keep the controversy of the Florida State finish in the public mind. While the call may or may not have been the right one, Notre Dame was in the end-zone and scored. Notre Dame effectively won the game before the call was revoked by officials. This must be kept in mind, because it is a unique tie-breaker that Notre Dame possesses. Every other one-loss team lost, and, in the case of Michigan State, lost decisively.
Coach Kelly and the Fighting Irish could argue that they really won the Florida Statae game, and if the committee is considering multiple one loss teams for a final spot, this could tip the balance in Notre Dame’s favor.
Finally, the Irish will need a little bit of luck. Stanford faces Oregon in a pivotal game this weekend that could knock the Ducks out of playoff contention. Notre Dame needs Florida State to win out or pick up two losses quickly and get out of Notre Dame’s way in the polls. With any luck, SEC games featuring Mississippi State, Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss, and Georgia will serve to eliminate several of these teams from contention.
And, of course, Notre Dame needs to win. The Fighting Irish have to handle their remaining schedule, and that will not be an easy task. Navy is the first challenge, and the triple option nearly claimed the day last year in South Bend. Northwestern may not be a powerhouse, but they are a team with Big 10 talent that will require effort to defeat. Arizona State and Southern California are Pacific 12 teams that Notre Dame will be facing on the road, and Louisville is coached by Bobby Petrino, a man who is known for his dynamic offense.
The Fighting Irish could certainly be playing for the inaugural College Football Playoff Trophy come January, but to do so the team is going to need to embrace the persona they adopted in Tallahassee. If Notre Dame plays another game like their most recent home performance against North Carolina, they might as well kiss their playoff chances goodbye.
John McMackin is a junior history and theology major. He enjoyed fall break at home and wishes his siblings good luck at swim state this weekend! (and his mom the coach!) Go Irish! Contact him at email@example.com.