Notre Dame has so much talent that these words feel weird to type in succession in mid-September, but here goes anyway: Notre Dame is already out of the College Football Playoff.
Something unbelievable maybe will happen, because sports are weird. But the chances that Notre Dame comes back from its current 1-2 record to win nine games in a row and make the top four are, in effect, a rounding error. They're zero. It won't happen, and any hedging beyond allusions to the supernatural is unnecessary.
Michigan State charged into South Bend Saturday night, and the Spartans left with a marquee win Notre Dame needed. The Spartans put together what looked like a blowout, leading 36-7 at one point. Notre Dame scored the game's final 21 points to make it a more palatable 36-28 final, but the Spartans ran out the clock and closed up shop in the final seconds. It wasn't as pretty as it could've been, but Michigan State still out-gained the Irish 501 yards to 401 and earned everything.
This isn't a terrible loss, per se. Michigan State doesn't do much other than win, and the Spartans looked like their reliable, efficient selves. Notre Dame was a 7-point favorite, but that was a function of what turned out to be unfounded uncertainty about a Tyler O'Connor-led Spartans outfit that looked just so-so in its first game.
But the consequences of the loss are pretty clear.
It's probably possible to make the Playoff as a two-loss team, sometime. It's never happened before, but some day, there will be a team that loses two games but still figures out a way to win its Power 5 conference. In the right year, that team will go from a league championship game to the Playoff, even if it's got multiple blemishes.
Notre Dame's independence helps it in lots of ways, but it will hurt here. The Irish have no conference to win. They have no group of conference rivals to establish superiority over and no 13th game to use as a springboard. They've got some good games remaining, but what's really going to happen? Maybe they'll beat Stanford, Miami and USC and finish 10-2, and then what? Maybe they crack the top 10.
But the Playoff? That's so close to impossible. Someone (probably Alabama) is going from the SEC. Someone's going from the ACC, whether it's Louisville or Clemson or, hey, maybe even Florida State. It could be two teams. Someone's going from the Big Ten. Someone's maybe going from the Big 12 or the Pac-12. There's the matter of Houston.
There's also the matter that if Michigan State only loses two or fewer games but doesn't win the Big Ten, there's now no way the Irish can finish ahead of the Spartans. The same is true for Texas, which beat the Irish in Week 1.
Notre Dame has a good team. DeShone Kizer is a pleasure. But it's not going to have a Playoff team in 2016.