In a season of chaos in a week defined by it for Notre Dame football, not enough of it happened on Saturday for Notre Dame to back into the playoffs, so now the Irish wait for their NY6 opponent.
The day started well enough for Notre Dame, with Baylor holding on to beat Oklahoma State in the Big12 Championship to knock out of one roadblock in Notre Dame’s way. All the Irish needed from there was for Georgia to finally beat Alabama in the SEC Championship. But, unfortunately, Georgia gonna Georgia. The Bulldogs were outclassed by the Crimson Tide despite being 6.5 point favorites. Georgia jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead, and things looked great for the Irish, but then Alabama remembered they were Alabama and beat up on Georgia like they tend to do.
After Alabama dispatched Georgia with relative ease, Notre Dame’s only hopes were an upset by Iowa. We said on the podcast that the only thing going for Iowa would be a potential emotional letdown after Michigan finally beat Ohio State. Welp that didn’t happen. Michigan pounded Iowa 42-3 and made the Hawkeyes look like a group of 5 school, not a conference division winner.
And with that, Notre Dame is headed to a New Year’s 6 Bowl – likely the Fiesta. It’s never a good thing whenever you need help from someone else to get in, and we learned that yesterday. Notre Dame does only have itself to blame, though. The loss to Cincinnati in October will haunt this program for years. Amazingly, that loss very likely could have changed the entire trajectory of the program for years to come. Had Notre Dame won, maybe Brian Kelly doesn’t take the money and run to Baton Rouge last week since a 12-0 Irish squad would have had their playoff bid already locked up?
The Irish feel like a lock for 5th seed when the final rankings come out tonight with a chance to finish in the top 5 this season in back-to-back years. The only question left for the playoff rankings is the order of the final four teams in. With Alabama’s win, they likely jump Michigan and move into the top spot to avoid a rematch with Georgia in the semifinals. On the other hand, the committee could also bump Michigan to 1, Alabama to 2, Cincinnati to 3, and drop Georiga to 4 to avoid a ‘Bama-UGA rematch in the semis. Either way, it feels like Michigan will get Georiga, and Cincinnati will get to learn what it is like to take on Alabama in the post-season.
If anything, finishing 5th with a loss and no signature win should have Notre Dame fans at least slightly optimistic about the Irish’s future chance at a playoff game with a loss. We all assumed that the Irish could never make the playoffs with a loss. Still, they’ll finish one spot away despite a loss and not having any other signature wins thanks to Wisconsin, North Carolina, USC, and Virginia, all vastly underperforming relative to their expectations this year.