Notre Dame won another football game on Saturday night. Depending on your outlook, it was either impressive (Temple did come in unbeaten, nationally ranked, and was playing at home) or unimpressive (Temple’s record was a shaky 7-0 given the opponents).
Nonetheless, with the teams in the poll ahead of the No. 9 Irish either winning or enjoying a bye week, it’s not far-fetched to think Notre Dame will stay right where it is no matter what you thought of the victory, style points or not.
Which begs the obvious – it’s time to start thinking about the Notre Dame question again this season. It’s time to start thinking about what happens to the College Football Playoff picture if the Irish win out. And winning out is entirely conceivable given that the month of November brings to ND’s schedule the likes of Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and Boston College — all win-able games – before capping off the regular season with a trip to Stanford, currently ranked eighth in the country. You don’t need Common Core to figure out the possible scenarios.
There are eight teams in front of Notre Dame. The Irish play one of them; six of the remaining seven play each other. No. 1 Ohio State plays No. 6 Michigan State, No. 2 Baylor plays No. 5 TCU, and No. 4 LSU plays No. 7 Alabama.
The only team unaccounted for? No. 3 Clemson, which beat Notre Dame 24-22 earlier this season but still has to play Florida State and win an ACC championship game. So let’s assume the pieces fall into place and Notre Dame is able to slowly move up the rankings. What do you do with a one-loss Irish team hovering around that No. 5/No. 6 spot in the rankings when its season ends?
When you weigh the factors, it’s going to be hard to justify ND getting a spot in the playoff when your start running through conference champions. In the ACC, where the Irish are a partial tenant, a one-loss Florida State winning the championship might even be enough to push the Seminoles, currently ranked 17th, past Notre Dame.
Clemson? The Tigers have a game in hand with the win over Notre Dame. For the Irish to vault past Clemson, the Tigers would need to lose twice.
TCU? Baylor? No chance if either one wins out.
No chance of getting past the LSU-Bama winner, nor the Ohio State-Michigan State winner.
Yet, this is Notre Dame, remember.
Nothing can be discounted when it comes to Notre Dame, not in a year when its only loss would be by two points and only after missing a two-point conversion. Not in a year when last season’s starting quarterback transferred to Florida State, and the backup QB suffered a season-ending injury. Not in a year when it lost its starting running back. And not in a year when head coach Brian Kelly is turning in what is arguably his best coaching job of his six-year Irish tenure.
No, Notre Dame isn’t going away, and it’s going to be a question mark the Selection Committee is going to have to deal with starting almost immediately