Notre Dame Football Playoff Report: Week 11

Photo: Matthew Emmons // USA TODAY Sports
Photo: Matthew Emmons // USA TODAY Sports

Who’s In? The Irish jumped a spot to #4 in this week’s College Football Playoff committee poll. Although the Irish won 42-30, the 12-point victory was a dominant one for Notre Dame who held a 25-point fourth quarter lead before surrendering a TD pass thanks to blown coverage and also gave up a fumble return for a touchdown off of a Brandon Wimbush fumble. The Irish have impressed the playoff committee and are currently in position to secure one of the precious four playoff spots should they continue to win and continue to get some help from around the nation.

Review of last week’s top 15:

#1 Clemson over Florida State 23-13

#2 LSU falls to #4 Alabama 30-16

#3 Ohio State beats Minnesota 28-15

#6 Baylor survives Kansas State 31-24

#7 Michigan State stunned by Nebraska 39-38

#8 TCU blown out by #14 Oklahoma State 49-29

#9 Iowa over Indiana 35-27

#10 Florida sneaks by Vanderbilt 9-7

#11 Stanford impresses over Colorado 42-10

#12 Utah over Washington 34-23

#13 Memphis dominated by Navy 45-20

#15 Oklahoma smokes Iowa State 52-16

Review of last week’s other ND opponents:

  • Texas vs. Kansas, W 59-20
  • Virginia @ Miami, L 27-21
  • Georgia Tech, Off
  • Massachusetts vs. Akron, L 17-13
  • USC vs. Arizona, W 38-30
  • Temple @ SMU, W 60-40
  • Wake Forest, Off
  • Boston College vs. NC State, L 24-8

In last week’s article, we discussed the round robin chaos that was about to start in the Big 12 and Oklahoma State didn’t disappoint with their beat down of TCU. We also predicted a potential “Shakeup Saturday” last weekend with a slew of upsets, but we really only got one of the ones we asked for when Nebraska beat Michigan State. But it was still a decent “Shakeup Saturday” with losses by TCU and Memphis.

The Big Picture – A Look at the Power 5 Conferences

ACC – Clemson controls its destiny. It’s hard to imagine they don’t win out.

Big 12 – The chaos has begun. Starting last weekend and continuing through Thanksgiving weekend, TCU, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Baylor will all play each other. One game is down and TCU now has one loss and has fallen from the unbeaten. If Oklahoma State or Baylor finishes the season unbeaten, I think they will bypass Notre Dame if the current top three remains the same. If one-loss Oklahoma wins out, I think they will also jump the Irish if the current top three remains the same. There are two major reasons for this:

  1. Oklahoma would have beaten three top 15 teams (including two top 10 teams) in consecutive weeks, which is rated as the #1 remaining strength of schedule.
  2. Oklahoma would be a conference champion.

I agree there’s an opportunity they don’t jump the Irish. But I think their resume over the final month would be impressive enough and the committee has shown the ability to reset their rankings every week. If you just look at Texas being a bad loss for the Sooners, the committee is very willing to let those go (e.g. Ohio State vs. Virginia tech and Stanford vs. Northwestern).

Big Ten – Last weekend, Nebraska kicked off the case to shut out the Big Ten from the playoffs, but more things still need to happen. Let me explain. Before last weekend, it looked like the winner of Michigan State vs. Ohio State would be an undefeated Big Ten champ. But now that the Spartans have lost, if they (or Michigan) can beat Ohio State and then go onto beat Iowa, the Big Ten champ will have one (or more) losses.

Pac-12 – We know for Notre Dame to get into the playoffs, the Pac-12 will be shut out. Stanford and Utah currently control their own destiny. Stanford needs to win every remaining game (except for Nov. 28) to support ND’s case. If they lose at all, then so does ND.

SEC – Alabama controls their own destiny, but any loss puts control back into the hands of the Ole Miss (currently 2 losses) vs. LSU (currently 1 loss) winner who would face Florida (currently 1 loss) in the SEC Championship. I think only Alabama has a shot to be the SEC representative in the playoffs. So if they lose, the SEC is out.

This week’s games

Saturday, November 7

  • #1 Clemson @ Syracuse – Clemson’s next test will likely come in the ACC Championship game. Can’t see them being challenged until then. Cheer for Clemson.
  • #2 Alabama @ #17 Mississippi State – The Crimson Tide is starting to look scary. They might be the one team in the country right now that you don’t want to play. This week, Mississippi State gets their turn at the Tide. This is a home game for the Bulldogs and former Heisman candidate and dynamic duel-threat quarterback Dak Prescott lead them. Cheer for Mississippi State.
  • #3 Ohio State @ Illinois – Expecting the Buckeyes to roll here, as they get JT Barrett back from the one game suspension. Cheer for Illinois.
  • Minnesota @ #5 Iowa – In back-to-back weeks, Minnesota has played Michigan and Ohio State very tough. In fact, Minnesota probably should have won the Michigan game. The Gophers could do everyone a big favor and beat Iowa this weekend. Cheer for Minnesota.
  • #12 Oklahoma vs. #6 Baylor – Baylor should be on “upset” alert. Although I’m not sure it would be a big upset. Having watched multiple games from both teams this year, I think Oklahoma is the better complete team. Cheer for Oklahoma.
  • Oregon @ #7 Stanford – This game should scare all Irish fans. Yes, Oregon is having a down year, but they are still scoring 42 points a game. They haven’t gotten a ton of help on defense this year, but if for any reason Stanford’s offense has an off day, an Oregon upset would be devastating to Notre Dame’s playoff hopes. Cheer for Stanford.
  • #8 Oklahoma State @ Iowa State – On this weekend in 2011, undefeated and #2 ranked Oklahoma State played unranked Iowa State. The Cyclones won 37-31 in 2 OTs. Iowa State has played a brutal schedule this year, but they have been competitive for the most part and have been able to score points. This is a quintessential trap game. Cheer for Iowa State.
  • Arkansas @ #9 LSU – Even after being dominated last weekend against Alabama, the Tigers are still alive in the SEC west. They would need Alabama to lose again, and then LSU would need to beat Ole Miss. Look for LSU to bounce back in this game. Cheer for LSU.
  • #10 Utah @ Arizona – Utah is still alive in the Pac-12 South and could play for the Pac-12 Championship. If Utah were to trip up once more, it puts USC in a position to control its own destiny in the South. Cheer for Arizona.
  • #11 Florida @ South Carolina – Florida had an ugly win last week against Vanderbilt, kicking a go-ahead field goal in the final two and a half minutes, then survived Vandy’s attempt to drive the field. Florida has looked decent this season (vs. Ole Miss, Missouri & Georgia) and looked shaky (vs. ECU, Kentucky, Vanderbilt). They have one loss to LSU, but have secured the SEC East and will play in the SEC Championship game. A loss before that game would be helpful (either to South Carolina or Florida State); then the Gators can go on and win the SEC title and then the SEC is possibly eliminated from the playoffs. Cheer for South Carolina.
  • Maryland @ #13 Michigan State – Expecting a rebound from the Spartans this week after the controversial upset last week at Nebraska. Should be a tune-up before next week’s battle against Ohio State. Cheer for Maryland. 
  • Kansas @ #15 TCU – As we predicted, the chaos has officially begun in the Big 12, as TCU was blown out last week by Oklahoma State, turning the ball over four times. This was a key development to ND’s playoff hopes. In this game, TCU rebounds and might score 70 over the Jayhawks. Cheer for Kansas. 

Other Teams We’re Cheering For

Thursday, November 12

  • Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech

Friday, November 13

  • USC @ Colorado

Saturday, November 14

  • Pittsburgh @ Duke
  • Texas @ West Virginia
  • Virginia @ Louisville
  • Massachusetts @ Eastern Michigan
  • Miami (FL) @ #23 North Carolina
  • #14 Michigan @ Indiana
  • SMU @ #20 Navy
  • #22 Temple @ South Florida
  • #21 Memphis @ #24 Houston

Remaining Schedules for All Playoff Contenders

CFPTeamWeek 11Week 12Week 13Week 14
1Clemson@ SyracuseWake Forest@ South CarolinaACC Champ.
2Alabama@ Miss St.Charleston S.@ AuburnSEC Champ.
3Ohio State@ IllinoisMichigan St.@ MichiganBig 10 Champ.
4Notre DameWake Forest@ Boston College@ StanfordOff
5IowaMinnesotaPurdue@ NebraskaBig 10 Champ.
6BaylorOklahoma@ Oklahoma St.@ TCUTexas
7StanfordOregonCalNotre DamePac 12 Champ.
8Oklahoma St.@ Iowa StateBaylorOklahomaOff
9LSUArkansas@ Ole MissTexas A&MSEC Champ.
10Utah@ ArizonaUCLAColoradoPac 12 Champ.
11Florida@ South CarolinaFlorida AtlanticFlorida StateSEC Champ.
12Oklahoma@ BaylorTCU@ Oklahoma St.Off
13Michigan St.Maryland@ Ohio StatePenn StateBig 10 Champ.
14Michigan@ Indiana@ Penn Statevs. Ohio StateBig 10 Champ.
15TCUKansas@ OklahomaBaylorOff


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  1. @ Jeff.- something else for 8 team playoff. Would all schools reduce regular season game or games? Lost revenue. Of coarse not. Some some schools would be playing 14 to 15 games. Heavy load. I suppose some sports carry extensive seasons. Asking a lot though. $$$ talks. I am guessing in the near future, AD’s , Chanclors, Conference administrators and School presidents are going to be unsettled about being squeezed out of playoffs. Time will tell. Ought to get interesting though. Thanks.

  2. Right on, Hurls. ND can’t win games we don’t play in.

    I optimistically estimate that the odds of us winning 5 straight are 10 to 1 against us. Still, we have a decent chance.

    When we started the season, our odds were probably much worse….30 to 1 or something like that. We took some serious blows, but now we appear to be ascending. I am stoked!!!


  3. The current college football playoff system is under a 12 year contract. I dont see that changing before the current contract expires. I would like to see the CFP expanded to 8 teams sooner than later but doubt that happens before im eligible to collect my first SS check.

  4. @Woody O’Hardy – Excellent point. Such serenity reminds me of BK. Addressed about the sideline-incident, BK said ie. “I can only control the play on the field to san extent. I can control my sideline. That’s what I was doing.” As Woody says, (again ie.) ND can’t play games we don’t play in. We can only win our games. That’s what we shall do.” People are over-interpreting BK. Keep it simple, people.

  5. Jeff, … thanks for putting this all together. You’ve provided an easy to follow excellent ‘go-to’ reference center. One thing, I think ND at 4th over an undefeated Ok State team e.g., is a better TV draw. My final 4 in order…#1 Ohio St (undef) #2 Clemson (undef) #3 Alabama #4 ND. Alabama-ND final.

  6. I don’t see one loss Oklahoma jumping us considering we have a common opponent with very disparate outcomes. The powers that be may not like us, but we are good for business, so if we do our job and win out, we will be in.

  7. Assuming most fans expect increase to 8. Six spots would require a bye bracket. So we won’t like that. Just one of many problems of getting their is contractual agreements with playoff bowls/sponsers and who knows what else. I thought this contract/format had 10 year life span. Ugh. More $. Buyouts and lawsuits (maybe). Wouldn’t expect it to happen anytime soon. Picking eligibility for schools would probably be the easiest task. Getting there renegotiating it all would be a huge task. Thanks

  8. 8 Team Playoff
    Power 5 Conference Champs get automatic bid if they are the champs of their conference and only have 1 loss.
    Non Power 5 Conference Champs get automatic bid if they are the champs of their conference and are undefeated.
    The rest are decided by the committee to get to 8.

    Seems to be the most fair and simple way.

  9. Got to get in first. So right now I’ll hope for 4 straight which should include a top Bowl game. Still to many variables. To me it’s almost like teasing/dangling a carrot. Very encouraging though. Just finish the next 3 strong. That would be a great season. Thanks.

  10. I agree with Jeff for the most part. I’m not entirely confident the SEC would ever be left out though. The SEC is generally given a mulligan but we’ll see. It’s funny to think our future is tied to Stanford in a lot of ways, but it’s absolutely true. Stanford needs to win out, save for our game for them. Any loss by them would probably doom the Irish because too many other things would then have to go right for the Irish to get in. At the very least we need 2 of 3 conference champs to lose a game (Big 10 or Big 12, and Pac 12–but Stanford needs to be the conference champ with their lone loss to ND). That’s still a pretty tall order.

    ND fans should be prepared to fall out of the top 4 for the next 2 weeks in the CFB standings because of the weak opponents we will be facing. But that should not cause fans to lose hope because if the chips fall the right way, they will be right back in the top 4.

    But I also agree to some extent with Woody. As far as the team is concerned, they just need to take care of business. They can’t control Stanford, Oklahoma and all the other teams. They can only take care of what they need to do. And for the next 2 weeks, the only thing that will help is to obliterate Wake Forest and Boston College. They can still be dangerous teams, and esp. Boston College would love nothing more than to knock ND out of the playoffs. One thing BK has been good at is keeping them from looking ahead. But for us fans, it’s ok to look ahead, as long as the team keeps its priorities in order.

  11. Who cares??? Just play football and win games. Why worry about what other teams do? Win out! 5 straight and we win title. It is sudden death.

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