Notre Dame in the Playoff?
There are hundreds of newspaper articles and blog entries about last night’s game between Florida State and Notre Dame, which Florida State obviously won. With the win, Florida State moves to 7-0 and is positioned well for the college football playoff. Mississippi and Mississippi State are also undefeated (for now), setting one of them up to be in the playoff after they play at season’s end. Obviously, an SEC team WILL be in the playoff. Beyond that, everyone that matters (i.e. not Marshall) has at least one loss already. So who would get the final two slots? The Confidential analyzes Notre Dame’s potential to be in the playoff, despite losing to Florida State and hypothetically reaching 11-1.
If we assume that Florida State is 13-0, they are in. If we also assume that Mississippi and Mississippi State are undefeated in the Egg Bowl, with the winner getting the next slot after winning the SEC Championship game against the SEC East entrant, there are your two undefeated teams. With the rest of college football at 1+ losses, who gets the final two slots.
Well, some of this will depend on how the SEC shakes out. If the loser of the Egg Bowl is 11-1 with a loss to only the SEC champ, that school has a decent argument. The only loss would be to the #1 or #2 team in the country.
Of course, if Notre Dame is also 11-1 at that point, their only loss would also be to a #1 or #2 team in the country. Who else would have a BETTER loss?
Michigan State lost to Oregon, who would not be top 2. Oregon lost to Arizona, who would not be top 2. Baylor lost to West Virginia, who will not be top 2.
Alabama would have to have lost to Mississippi State, giving them two losses. Same with Auburn.
Now Georgia can make things interesting… they can get to 11-1 and be in the SEC Championship game. If they beat the Mississippi/Mississippi State winner to win the SEC, they could get it… with the loser also getting in… bumping out the Egg Bowl loser. Indeed, what is more likely, two Mississippi schools and 3 SEC schools… or 2 SEC schools and Notre Dame. And, if we assume that a Mississippi school wins out, that gives Georgia two losses, which has them fall behind Notre Dame anyway.
TCU’s only loss would be to Baylor, who is not top 2. An interesting 11-1 team, to be sure. Kansas State’s only loss would be to Auburn, who is not top 2. Of course, TCU and Kansas State still have to play yet, which would eliminate one of these teams.
Ohio State has one loss, but that loss was to unranked Virginia Tech at home. And they still have to play Michigan State. Nebraska has one loss–Michigan State. A Big 10 winner at 12-1 is in the discussion… but that can only be Nebraska or one of Michigan State/Ohio State. Minnesota at 6-1 is interesting, but to get to 12-1, they would have to beat Ohio State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. That seems unlikely. If it does happen, the one loss would be to TCU… not a bad loss, but not Florida State or an undefeated Mississippi school either.
Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah all have one loss. Utah has games against 5 ranked teams… any of whom can give the Utes a second loss to join the terrible loss at Washington State. Arizona’s path is more manageable, having beaten Oregon (which Michigan State could not do), but the loss to USC hurts. Arizona State would have to lose to Notre Dame for this discussion to matter, which eliminates them.
Just looking at losses, a 11-1 Notre Dame matches up as well as any other team in the country.
What about wins?
If Notre Dame gets to 11-1, they will have beaten: Stanford, Arizona State, and USC. While the schedule stacked up as tough at the beginning of the season, the woes in Michigan, Stanford, USC, and Louisville have not helped the cause. Northwestern, Syracuse, and North Carolina are possible bowl teams, but not certain bowl teams. The schedule is as challenging as Notre Dame can possibly schedule. Will it be enough?
If there is one thing that has dominated this season, it is upsets. So if Notre Dame can win out, we can expect a lot more craziness to accompany same. So this will depend on what happens everywhere else. If Notre Dame is one of the only teams with one loss, they have a great chance. If there are several teams with one loss, it gets less likely. Nevertheless, Notre Dame is very much alive in the discussion despite last night’s loss. And that keeps them in rare company right now.
To be sure, the loss means that Notre Dame no longer controls its own destiny. They can win out and be excluded. But if they win out, there is already an argument to be made that Notre Dame deserves to be in at 11-1. This will only get more interesting.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Does an 11-1 Notre Dame get in? Which two teams have the best possible 1-loss resumes?