Notre Dame is starting 4th in the 2018 College Football Playoff rankings – one spot where they reside currently in both the AP and Coaches Poll. The Irish, despite an undefeated record come in one spot behind a LSU team that is currently a 14 point underdog to Alabama and who also lost earlier this season to a pretty overrated Florida team.
To no surprise, Alabama is ranked #1 and Clemson is ranked #2 even though the Tigers haven’t been nearly as dominant as Alabama to this point in the season. Notre Dame’s 4th place ranking, however, is going to come as a surprise to many considering that the Irish are undefeated and are the only team in the top 4 to have a victory over a team in the top 5 – the 5th ranked Wolverines.
The playoff committee’s logic here is puzzling to say the least. Yes, LSU has an impressive win over Georgia, but Notre Dame has arguably the most impressive win of the season of any team in the top 5 considering Michigan is currently ranked 5th.
The good news for Notre Dame here is that no team that has started 3rd in the initial CFP Rankings has ever made it to the playoffs by the end of the season. LSU’s position in 3rd is almost certainly going to be short lived as well with the Tigers currently a two touchdown underdog to #1 Alabama at home this weekend. If Alabama takes out the Tigers, LSU will drop and the Irish will move up to 3rd assuming that they win this weekend over Northwestern.
Well, that is unless the CFP committee is buying into the ridiculous narrative that Michigan is somehow better than Notre Dame even though the Irish led their September 1 meeting from start to finish and didn’t allow the Wolverines to score an offensive touchdown until there was just over two minutes remaining. The Irish did so without Ian Book or Dexter Williams as well – two players that have completely changed the course of the Irish season.
Notre Dame’s lower than expected ranking in the initial rankings is a reversal of last year when the Irish were ranked higher than expected on the strength of their “good loss” to Georgia. Apparently to the CFP Committee it is better to lose and look pretty than it is to win and look ugly, even when you have a win over a top 5 opponent.
Regardless of where the Irish are ranked now, their mission remains the same – win out and they will be in the playoffs. That is all Notre Dame needs to be focusing on. Brian Kelly and his staff might even be able to use these rankings to rally his teams in a “no one believes in you” play.
Other than #5 Michigan, the only other past or future Notre Dame opponent in the initial top 25 is Syracuse at #19. Northwestern is on the fringe of the AP and Coaches Poll and likely is on the fringe of the CFP rankings as well. Who here thought that Syracuse would be ranked higher than USC, Stanford, and Virginia Tech by October 30 back in August? Put your hand down, you are lying. Notre Dame and Syracuse square off in two weeks in Yankee Stadium.