Is Notre Dame’s No. 3 Spot Secure?
No. 3 Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish are perfect on the season, yet their playoff security is questionable.
The Fighting Irish don’t have a conference title game to compete in this weekend but they hope their 12-0 record will be enough to keep them where they are.
Notre Dame doesn’t belong to a conference, which has led many to dispute whether their record can be evaluated the same way as Alabama’s or Clemson’s, as both are undefeated. ACC play is not nearly as competitive as SEC, but Clemson has repeatedly proven themselves to be a conference-wide contender.
In 2017, Deshaun Watson led the Tigers to a huge win over Alabama in the national title game. The year before, they only lost to Alabama by five points. While Clemson’s quarterback spot has been a less secure spot on their squad this season than when they had Watson, they’ve overcome the changes, and will go on to face No. 24 Pitt in the ACC Championship game. A win for both Alabama and Clemson secures their respective No. 1 and No. 2 spots.
So, how can a team like non-conference Notre Dame, despite being undefeated, be considered better than a one-loss team, such as Oklahoma or Ohio State, who play a much more competitive schedule? Ohio State fell hard in a 29-point loss to unranked Purdue, but maintained their almost-spotless record against the Wolverines this past weekend when they defeated No. 4 Michigan, 62-39. The win immediately put them back into playoff talks.
However, No. 5 Oklahoma have the chance to avenge their only loss on the season, which came against Texas, 48-45, in the Red River Rivalry game. A loss of only three points is much better than Ohio State’s 29-point defeat. If Oklahoma can avenge their only loss, which came to a rival, and Ohio State wins their conference, what case can still be made for Notre Dame? If Georgia defeats Alabama and Alabama were to slide to the No. 4 spot, would there be a replacement for No. 3 Notre Dame in the event of an Oklahoma or Ohio State win?
Notre Dame has had their fair share of close calls. This past weekend, they barely made it out of USC, in a 24-17 game that was up for grabs until the final moments. In another example, they were able to achieve a come-from–behind win against then unranked-Pitt, 19-14.
Despite all of the above, however, Notre Dame has essentially secured their spot. While fans of conference-ridden teams, like Oklahoma, UCF, and Ohio State, are potentially angered by the Fighting Irish’s spot, they will be relaxing this weekend, studying Clemson, and watching to see who will take the No. 4 spot before the final selection is made.