The Irish moved up two spots to #9 in the AP poll after Utah and Florida State fell from the ranks of the unbeaten.
As a reminder, we’re only look at teams ahead of Notre Dame in the polls. All scenarios discussed are assuming Notre Dame wins out.
Review of last week:
#1 Ohio State rolls Rutgers 49-7
#2 Baylor cruises over Iowa State 45-27
#3 Utah falls to USC 42-24
#5 LSU beats Western Kentucky 48-20
#6 Clemson destroys Miami 58-0
#7 Michigan State pulls away late over Indiana 52-26
#9 Florida State stunned by Georgia Tech 22-16
#10 Stanford beats Washington 31-14
Assuming Notre Dame wins out, Utah and Florida State should be out of the playoff picture – even if they win their conferences – because they both lost to unranked teams the Irish have already beaten (USC & Georgia Tech). Additionally, the Irish beat Georgia Tech while they were ranked #14. The one curveball is the Seminoles were to beat Clemson and how the committee would weight that win after losing to an unranked team in the middle of the season, against Notre Dame’s loss to the Tigers in the bad weather at the beginning of the season.
As we said before, we need two conferences eliminated from contention for the Irish to have a shot to enter. Let’s see where we stand after week eight of the season.
A look at the Power 5 Conferences
Should Florida State win out and win the ACC, something else to keep an eye on is how the committee weighs Texas State and Chattanooga on FSU’s schedule. Florida State will have beaten Clemson (who beat the Irish) but lost to Georgia Tech (who lost to the Irish).
Should Clemson beat Florida State, but stumble to another opponent, including in the ACC Championship, a one-loss Clemson is the worst-case scenario for ND. If Clemson is going to lose, then they need to lose twice.
I cannot see a one-loss Duke or North Carolina winning the ACC Championship and getting the playoff nod over the Irish.
The Big 12
The top four teams in the Big 12 have combined for only one loss (Oklahoma’s to Texas). But the good news in this conference is the schedule for these four teams are back loaded, with a round robin tournament happening between Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma starting a week from Saturday and continuing through the next four weeks.
There is still plenty of carnage available in this conference, but should one of the teams make it out unbeaten, their strength of schedule to end the season should give them enough momentum to be one of the four playoff teams. This backtracks on my position after week 7 when Texas beat Oklahoma. Should Oklahoma finish the season with only one loss as Big 12 champion, there’s a decent possibility they could get the nod, even with the loss to Texas.
Irish fans should hope all four teams lose at least one more game.
The Big Ten
The Big Ten East will likely go to the winner of the Michigan State vs. Ohio State game. There is an outside shot Michigan can still win the division, but it would take two Spartan losses and a Wolverines win over Ohio State.
Unbeaten Iowa has a two game lead in the Big Ten West thanks to the tiebreaker over Wisconsin. Should Iowa remain unbeaten and win the Big Ten Championship, this could create a nightmare for the committee who values a conference champion, but will also have to weigh the Hawkeyes strength of schedule over other playoff contenders.
Irish fans should hope Michigan wins the Big Ten. But this is unlikely and we’re looking at an unbeaten Ohio State or Iowa team, or a one-loss Michigan State team (who wins the East tiebreaker) in the playoffs.
The Pac-12 North is currently a battle between Stanford and Washington State in the North (to be settled this weekend) and Utah, UCLA and USC in the South. Utah owns the tiebreaker over UCLA, USC owns the tiebreaker over Utah, and USC & UCLA are still to play. Plenty to work itself out in the South division, but it would be very helpful for the Irish if USC can go on and win the Pac-12 South. If Notre Dame wins out, the Irish would like to see Stanford and Southern Cal have a rematch in the Pac-12 Championship game.
Irish fans should hope Stanford or USC win the Pac-12.
LSU controls their destiny in the SEC West, but has upcoming matchups against Alabama, Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Florida controls the SEC East, but has a matchup this weekend against Georgia that could set them back. Ole Miss owns the tiebreaker in the East, and if this were to play out, it would leave one-loss Alabama looking for an at-large bid.
Irish fans should hope this plays out in the cleanest way possible. What does that look like? Ideally, one unbeaten team (LSU) and all other teams have two losses. Or LSU loses once, Alabama loses again, and Ole Miss, Florida or Georgia wins the SEC title.
This week’s games
Thursday, October 29
- West Virginia @ #5 TCU
TCU made short order of West Virginia after it looked like the Mountaineers might make things at least a little interesting early on.
Saturday, October 24
- #3 Clemson @ NC State
NC State has made a habit over the years of creating havoc in the ACC, most notably knocking off #3 Florida State in 2012 and #7 Clemson in 2011, in addition to a few other huge wins going back to 2005. But Clemson is one of those few teams that look like they are getting stronger and stronger as the 2015 season ages.
- #8 Stanford @ Washington State
Keep winning Stanford.