Former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis was (in)famously opined during a press conference that Florida moved up in the rankings ahead of Notre Dame on a week for the Gators when they were “sitting at home eating cheeseburgers.” Well, this year, it was the Irish who benefitted on a bye week while the Gators saw their playoff hope evaporates. Overall, yesterday couldn’t have gone better for the Irish, who were at home instead of facing Wake Forest due to the ACC’s cancelation of the game.
Notre Dame was already #2 in the College Football Playoff rankings heading into yesterday, and nothing that happened will change that. Notre Dame’s position as one of the top four teams in the country, however, was solidified to the point that the Irish could be in the Playoffs even with a loss to Clemson on Saturday.
The first domino to fall in Notre Dame’s favor was North Carolina’s shredding of Miami. The Tar Heels blew the Hurricanes out of the water to the tune of 62-26 while rushing for 554 yards on the Miami defense. That is not a misprint. The same North Carolina offense that mustered just 87 yards on the ground against Notre Dame bulldozed through Miami’s defense.
North Carolina was ranked 17th in the country before embarrassing the 10th ranked Hurricanes. It’s safe to assume they will move up the rankings quite a bit this week and, in the process giving Notre Dame another very strong win on its resume. The Irish beat the Tar Heels 31-17 a few weeks back on the road.
That tweet came before Florida lost to an LSU team that got blown out last week by Alabama and limped into the game with a 3-5, so back to the Gators.
Their shocking upset at the hands of LSU might have eliminated them from contention for the CFP even if they turn around and upset Alabama next weekend in the SEC Championship. Dan Mullen already started politicking for a theoretical two-loss Florida team making the playoff over Ohio State immediately following his team’s loss. Still, no two-loss team has ever made it to the College Football Playoff.
This is an unprecedented year, but it still feels like a big stretch. A bigger stretch is even imagining a scenario in which the Gators could hang with the Tide after getting upset by LSU, but that’s another story.
Assuming Florida is out. There are really only five teams left with reasonable shots for the four playoff spots available – Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson, Ohio State, and Texas A&M. With ten wins already, Notre Dame is guaranteed to have, at worst, the third-most wins among those five teams. Brian Kelly started his campaign against the Big 10 weeks ago, so expect to hear more from Kelly this week about how the Irish will have played five more games than the Buckeyes.
Kelly won’t be the only one talking about the merits – or lack thereof – of a team that will have only played six games versus eleven. Dabo Swinney started last week as well, stating he is confident his team is one of the top four teams in the country and that nothing that can happen in the ACCCG against the Irish will change that. Commissioners from the SEC and ACC both have been adamant in their stances that an undefeated team that played six games doesn’t deserve a spot over a team that’s played eleven games even if that team has a loss or two.
Regardless of how the committee sees Ohio State moving forward, yesterday’s results strengthened Notre Dame’s for a playoff bid even if they were to lose to Clemson in the ACC Championship game – baring some sort of ridiculous UNC-Miami style blowout. If Saturday is a close contest, I can’t see the Irish being left out regardless of what side of that close theoretical contest they come out on.
No one wants to limp into the playoffs, of course, so the preferred route for the Irish is still beating the Tigers in the rematch this weekend and cementing their #2 ranking, and avoiding Alabama in the first round. Even if they don’t now, though, their path to the playoffs opened up a little more thanks to yesterday’s results.