Notre Dame Has Positioned Itself to be in CFP Top 4

Notre Dame has been building its College Football Playoff resume ever since Brandon Wimbush got strip sacked to end the Georgia game and the final seconds ticked off the clock.  Since that point, Notre Dame has been arguably one of – if not the – most dominating team in all of college football.  The Irish have ripped off six straight wins of 20 or more points for the first time since 1966 and when the first CFP Rankings are released on Tuesday, the Irish are very likely to be in at least the top 5, if not the top 4.

Based on the media reaction following Notre Dame’s 35-14 win over previously 14th ranked NC State this weekend, it shouldn’t be surprising to see Notre Dame appear in the top 4 on Tuesday.  Joey Galloway, Jesse Palmer, and even Kirk Herbstreit all have Notre Dame at least in their top 4 right now.  ESPN even has Notre Dame ranked 3rd in their current power rankings. Herbie has Notre Dame 3rd.

Now none of these media personalities rankings means a whole lot right now.  All that matters is what the CFP committee has Notre Dame ranked on Tuesday and ultimately where they have them ranked the first week of December.  What this tells us though is that Notre Dame’s dominating wins have people in the industry believing that this Notre Dame team is different than some past ones that have “been back”.

Unlike 2015 or even 2012 when Notre Dame had pretty good and maybe even great teams, this team is not winning games close – it’s winning by large margins.  The 2012 season saw it’s fair share of close contests – see Purdue, Michigan, BYU, Stanford, USC and Pitt specifically.  In 2015 Notre Dame sleep walked through games with Boston College, Wake Forest, Temple, and UVA and let would be blowouts of USC, Pitt, and Georgia Tech be closer on the scoreboard than they felt.

This year has been different.  With Notre Dame’s 21 point over NC State this weekend, Notre Dame has three wins by at least 20 points over teams currently ranked in the top 25.  If Notre Dame had three wins against Top 25 teams with any margin of victory, it would be cause for celebration.  The fact is, however, Notre Dame has three wins over currently ranked teams by 20, 35, and 21 points.  That is some impressive stuff folks.  And it’s not what we’re used to seeing from Notre Dame for a long, long time.

Notre Dame’s dominating wins have caught the attention of the media and likely will have the attention of the CFP Committee when they convene and release their initial rankings tomorrow.

If Notre Dame is indeed in the top 4 or 5 on Tuesday the Irish will have themselves in great position to make the playoffs – something that seemed unfathomable last November when they just finished a 4-8 season.  Powered by their running game, Notre Dame will not face a team with a top 75 run defense currently.  The Irish are ripping off 300 yard rushing outputs on a weekly basis and neither Wake Forest, Miami, Navy, or Stanford are average let alone stout against the run right now.  In short, Notre Dame has a great chance to run the table over the next four weeks.

Notre Dame will be jockeying with fellow one loss teams Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Penn State among others for playoff positioning.  Of all the one loss teams, Notre Dame hands down has the “best loss”.  A one point loss at home to the likely #2 team in the country qualifies as about the best possible loss one could have actually.   The CFP Committee will also be comparing the best wins however and Ohio State’s win over Penn State and Oklahoma’s blowout of the Buckeyes are both more impressive than any win Notre Dame has currently.

Notice who hasn’t been even mentioned here yet?  Wisconsin.  The undefeated Badgers have faced such a joke of a schedule that they are currently not getting much anywhere other than the Coaches Poll that is proving to be a joke this year.  Wisconsin will likely eek out an undefeated regular season without facing a single ranked opponent.  Nice scheduling Badgers.

The fact this is even a discussion is amazing honestly and Brian Kelly deserves a whole lot of credit for getting Notre Dame in this position.  Before the USC game I was refusing to even use the word playoff in relation to Notre Dame.  After last week’s beatdown of the Trojans, I started to think it was possible.  After this most recent convincing win over a ranked opponent, I’m now starting to think that the Irish are in the playoffs if they win out regardless of whatever anyone else does.

Notre Dame still has two games against currently ranked opponents, but the showdown with Miami might not feature two top 10 teams if the Hurricanes get clipped by Virginia Tech this weekend – something I think is very likely to happen.  Stanford has two ranked opponents between them and Notre Dame though – #25 Washington State and #12 Washington.  If the Cardinal split the Irish should see a ranked Stanford team in Palo Alto potentially standing between them and a playoff berth.

Ohio State, Clemson, and Oklahoma will all have their chances to make statements of their own to get into the Final 4.  Ohio State faces Michigan State in two weeks and Iowa this weekend.  There is also the chance that Michigan pulls off the miracle and finally beats Ohio State this year too.  Clemson has NC State this weekend and then not much else before the ACC Championship game.  Their loss to Syracuse, however, qualifies as the worst loss of all the losses from one loss teams.

The most problematic one loss team for Notre Dame could be Oklahoma.  The Sooners face #11 Oklahoma State this weekend, #10 TCU next weekend, and have the Big 12 Championship game. If the Sooners navigate that with just their one loss, they will potentially have a more impressive resume than the Irish.  What looked like a bad loss for Oklahoma to Iowa State looks better and better each week after the Cyclones just took down previously unbeaten TCU.

Again, the fact we are even debating this right now is still all pretty crazy.  A year ago Notre Dame had a disastrous season and many – myself included – thought that it was time for a change at Notre Dame.  Turns out we were all wrong.  It was actually time for many changes.  Brian Kelly rebuilt his program in a single off-season and all of those changes have Notre Dame poised to be firmly in the first playoff rankings that will come out tomorrow.  If you saw that coming a year ago, hats off to you my friend.  You might have been the only one whose name wasn’t Kelly or Swarbrick.

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  1. Frank , nice job on what lies ahead. I hoping CFP has Irish in top 4/5. If Irish do win out–that one point loss to Georgia might be deciding factor for Irish to be in final four. The team, as you mention, Oklahoma is cause for concern if they win out and the win over Ohio State earlier in season weighs in on SOS better than Irish. Ohio State ‘s win over Penn State–opened the door for Oklahoma. Lot’s of games ahead yet for all teams in contenion for playoffs. For the first time in many years—I see a Notre Dame team dominating opponents on both O and D. I see no let up — they just keep getting better game to game. Sure , there are improvements needed each game as the coaches/players realize — but this team is tuned in from freshmen to seniors and all are performing –the likes we have’nt seen in years. GO IRISH.

    1. Georgia and ND have that one point game, and BOTH teams have destroyed everyone else on their schedule. That kind of thing screams for a rematch. But both teams still have tough games coming.

      BGC ’77 ’82

  2. I really don’t care that OSU has the “best win” in barely beating Penn State by 1. They let Penn State put up 38 points on them AND if it wasn’t for Penn State playing soft after having that big lead (nice job coach), then Penn State probably wins anyway. Ohio State has not beaten anyone else worth anything. ND, as you pointed out, has three wins by HUGE margins against currently ranked teams, one of those on the road. How the hell can OSU get more love than ND or any other one loss team at this point? There is literally nothing that any of these schools can argue that ND shouldn’t be at the top of the 1 loss teams that is going to make any sense.

    We have the most quality wins by far, the best loss, and if us smoking every single team we have played other than Georgia isn’t enough for the “eye test”, then they are straight up ND haters only. This team deserves everything they get for being at the top 3 of the CFP. Even Galloway and Herbie, both OSU guys, see this. The AP is full of crap.

    1. I have to agree about OSU. I was amazed the AP vaulted them up to number 3. What? They haven’t exactly faced a gauntlet. PSU was their toughest game thus far. There is definitely an OSU bias. The thing is, OSU would get smoked by both Alabama and Georgia. OK looks like it may be the real deal. At this point you may see Alabama, Georgia at 1 and 2, OK either at 3 or 4, and maybe Miami filling the other spot because they are currently undefeated, though ND could still sneak in since Miami has been barely getting by a lot of their games. But we’ll play them so I’m not worried about them. The only problem might be if the committee is drinking the OSU kool-aide and puts them in ahead of us. Then you’d have to think what more do we need to prove?

      1. They are obsessed with Urban Meyer. That has a lot to do with it too. And I’m not so sure that Oklahoma is feeling comfortable that they beat OSU head to head and to get in ahead of them considering that Ohio State lost to Penn State and still got the spot ahead of them which was the biggest pile of BS and showed the entire country this thing is about money too. That is the “hidden” portion of the CFP rankings that nobody talks about. Fortunately for ND, their fans travel well and have a larger following too. But in reality, head to head should have Oklahoma ahead of OSU and right now that isn’t the case.

        I’ve always been worried about ND not having a 13th game. It is something the stupid committee can always use against ND even though we play one of the hardest schedules every year.

      2. True. Chances are one of the one loss teams is going to lose another game (just as long as it isn’t us). I suspect OK will be in at number 3 or 4. Same winning percentage, OK beat OSU handily. The question will be who gets the last spot? I’m just not that impressed with OSU. I mean, they didn’t beat PSU until the last 5 minutes. Is 5 minutes worth more than ND’s 60 minutes against Georgia? If we see OK and OSU in those final spots that could be a bad omen because we won’t play either of those two teams. If they both win out and win their conference championships, there’d be no reason to boot them out of the top 4 if they were already in before that.

      3. Not to mention OSU has played 2 ranked teams at home (penn state & oaklahoma) and given up over 34 pts a game!!! They cant stop anybody!!! WHERES PENN STATES BIG WIN THIS YEAR? Big 10 is overrated but the experts love MEYER.

    2. I’ve been hearing all yr how the BIG is best conference, etc and I think they aren’t. Big 12 has easy argument that their top 4 is better than BIG”s top 4. OU, OKSt, TCU, and Iowa ST versus Ohio St,. Penn S, Wisconsin with 4th maybe MSU or Michigan. I think top 4 should be Bama, Georgia, Notre Dame, Oklahoma

  3. Talk about playoffs in October makes me nervous albeit warranted.
    With injured Morgan and Wimbush and A. Jones, just beat Wake, of which I’ve seen no evidence that this team will not be focused on that essential mindset.
    Kudos to Kelly for the willingness to make changes. His demeanor after the Georgia loss assured he wouldn’t lose his team like he has in past season’s losses.
    Better late than never.
    Balis, Long, and Elko deserve credit for their strength and conditioning ( 4th quarter dominance instead of fourth quarter losses), their offensive game planning and patience with future Heisman consideration Wimbush, and their aggressive, depth-laden defense.
    I don’t ever recall more PBUs by ND DBs last game in the last half century.
    Enjoy the ride. It’s been glorious.

    1. I get a little nervous talking about playoffs at this point as well. Nothing happens with play off hopes if they don’t beat up Wake Forest on Saturday. Let’s worry about the next game after that.

      Have to agree with the sacred one (Michael the Archangel) on the turn around this year. Last year I noticed a few things that I am not seeing this year:
      i) they are not running out of gas before the end of the game, bravo boys – keep up the hard work
      ii) they keep their cool, i.e, no panicking,
      iii) there is evidence of some serious coaching (aka teaching), i.e., players are improving week to week and sometimes even within the game,
      iv) there is evidence of coaching adjustments during the game – offensively and defensively. Something that works against the defence is repaired and they force the opposition to do something else. On offence they seem to recognize just how many tools they have at their disposal and they are not afriad of using them.
      v) somebody has mentioned this before but they are not trying to backdoor their way through a game aka trick plays. The attitude seems to be, ‘Here come the Irish and you better be ready for us.’ and
      vi) there is evidence of game preparation, i.e., a game plan that has multiple levels of sophistication to it. Lat year’s game plans seemed to be limited to, ‘Go out there and play hard.’

      Of course if the Irish do make the playoff we’ll all be saying that we saw it coming in September. LOL

      Go Irish!!!!!

      1. Brad , nice post—-except for last sentence. I’m the only ONE to predict Irish would go 11-1 on UHND web site back even before season started. The majority went for 8-4/9-3 end results. Hey lot’s of dangerous teams ahead on Irish schedule. But, I think their closer to 11-1 than 8-4 or 9-3—the way things are going. GO IRISH.

      2. Yeah, I have to agree Brad. I’m still cautious when it comes to BK because of how often we’ve been burned with past “turnarounds” but this team has a different feel for all the reasons you mentioned. ESPN actually had a good article about Elko and about how he makes sure the defense understands why they are doing what they are doing, a marked difference from BVG when players would walk around with their hands in the air confused. And yes, there’s no tricks or gadgets other than the usual tricks you’d expect (play action pass, fake handoffs…that sort of thing). They have been coming prepared and ready to play, and they seem just as ready in the 4th quarter as they do 1st quarter. Not to say there’s not some room for improvement. Wimbush still needs to work on his passing for instance, but it is getting better week to week. And the defense is something else. As good as Elko’s reputation was coming in, I never thought we’d see this kind of turnaround so soon. Another indictment of BVG, as a lot of these players were on the team last year…so the talent was there, he just didn’t use it properly.

    2. MTA , no doubt about it. I’ll just add on the assistant coaches who bought into O and D newly hired Long/Elko . Autry Denson/running backs and Todd Lyght d-backs. Balis strength/conditioning coach is paying off–Irish are wide- eyed bushy tailed rabbits in 4th quarter.(well, all I could think of were rabbits). To corral NCST qb Ryan Finely–known for five & dime yard completions marching down field — Irish D-backs had to play up close—and what a job they did. Finely was 16 for 37 in completion / attempts. What a joy to see Love’s interception on Finley—and Dalien Hayes lead blocker on way to endzone. Go Irish.

  4. Wishful thinking, Sagarin has the Irish at #5. But, We can still control our destiny to the NC. Two tough road tilts still in our way.

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