No. 3 Notre Dame was able to cruise past No. 12 Syracuse despite their New York Yankees-inspired uniforms, 36-3. They are now 11-0 on the season, and will wrap things up next Saturday against USC.
USC is 5-5, and fresh off of a loss to the previously 2-8 UCLA Bruins. S&P+ will likely favor the Irish on the road by 10 or more points. A win for Notre Dame seems like a given, and in that case, the Irish would get their first taste of the Playoff since its inception in 2014.
If everything holds as is, Notre Dame is likely the No. 3 team.
Since Notre Dame isn’t in a conference, there’s no title game to be had after the Nov. 24th game against the Trojans. They can do no better than 12-0, assuming they beat USC.
If Alabama wins the SEC, and Clemson wins the ACC, the No. 1 and No. 2 spots belong to those teams, respectively. The Irish would maintain the third spot, with Michigan (having beaten Ohio State, and then Northwestern in the Big Ten title) at No. 4.
All of those results would give us the following Playoff:
- Cotton (Arlington, TX): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Michigan
- Orange (Miami): No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame
Knowing college football, things can and likely will happen that will change the outlook.
But even if Georgia steals a spot with an SEC Championship win, the Irish should feel great about their chances of getting in the Playoff.
Let’s say (lol) Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC Championship. There’s probably no way Alabama’s not getting in, at worst as the No. 4 seed. Georgia currently sits at No. 5, and would likely jump Michigan, because wins over Ohio State and Northwestern just aren’t all that sexy.
Notre Dame’s also got the head-to-head victory over Michigan. They also have a better win over Northwestern than Michigan (so far). Those things count for something and are two of the committee’s stated tiebreakers between teams of similar quality.
For those that would argue a Michigan Big Ten championship would put them in over the Irish, well...
Notre Dame being independent and not winning a conference title is fine.
The committee has previously said it won’t hold Notre Dame’s lack of conferencehood against it. Here are four simple reasons why, that SB Nation’s Alex Kirshner has detailed here:
1. Everyone in the world considers the Irish to be like a power conference team, even though they’re not in a conference.
There’s no arguing that one.
2. Yes, the Playoff cares a lot about conference titles. But the committee put in non-champs two years in a row.
Those two were 2016 Ohio State, who went 11-1 after a loss to a two-loss Penn State that won the Big Ten, and 2017 Alabama, who lost to Auburn, who got smoked by Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
3. The Playoff committee has had one-loss Notre Dame teams in the top four in four different weeks across two seasons, 2015 and 2017.
They’ve been in the discussion before, so this is nothing new.
4. Notre Dame plays a hard enough schedule that it can reach Playoff benchmarks on its own.
Notre Dame has wins over Michigan (currently sits at No. 4 in the Playoff rankings), Big Ten West champ Northwestern, ACC Coastal champ Pitt, and a 36-3 win over No. 12 Syracuse. Wins over Virginia Tech, Florida State, and (probably) USC would also look rather nice in most other years, even if they’re not much this year.
Oh, and the Irish also have the advantage of being finished a full week before everybody else.
A little rest never hurt nobody.
So barring a surprising loss to USC, Notre Dame should be in the Playoff.
That won’t sit well with some conference champions, but it’s hard to argue against the Irish.