Notre Dame’s Road to the Playoffs – Week 9

-Tom

We are merely a week away from the first ever release of the NCAA Playoff Committee’s Rankings.  The Irish hit a bump in the road this week, however, seemed to gain the respect of the pollsters even after a loss.  Notre Dame fell to #7 (AP) & #8 (USA Today) in this weeks voting.  However, it’s not a terrible drop.  They’re still in good position to secure one of the 4 spots. Granted they will need a little help, but as long as they win out, they will be strongly considered. 

I don’t know how this new system will work.  Obviously it’s at the discretion of the voters.  So just because ND is on the outside looking in with the major polls, next week they could be in the top 4, depending on how they’re viewed in those persons eyes.  Under the assumption that the Irish have a few hills to climb, I’m going to look over those teams ahead of us and figure out their road to the final 4 also.

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Notre Dame has a pretty favorable schedule remaining, in terms of quality of opponents and of winnable games.  As of now, two remaining opponants are in the top 25 (at Arizona State, at USC).  They also have a home game against a 6-2 Louisville team.  Louisville’s next opponent happens to be Florida State at home.  Hopefully they give a good showing, maybe pull off an upset.

Now the rest of the field

1) Mississippi State – 6-0 – AP – 1, USA Today – 1

at Kentucky
Arkansas
UT Martin
at #4 Alabama
Vanderbilt
at #3 Ole Miss
SEC Championship

The Bulldogs have 2 games against teams ranked higher then the Irish.  This bodes well for us.  If I had to cchoose, I’d rather they win out.  This will give Alabama their second loss and Ole Miss their first loss, assuming neither team loses along the way

#2 Florida State – 7-0 – AP – 2, USA Today – 2

at Louisville
Virginia
at Miami
Boston College
Florida
ACC Championship

Aside for Louisville, FSU has a pretty easy schedule.  I’m torn over this. Logically it makes sense to want the Seminoles to win out because it looks better for the Irish’s strength of schedule. It also leaves a chance for an epic rematch.

#3 Ole Miss – 7-0, AP -3, USA Today – 3

at #24 LSU
#5 Auburn
Presbyterian
at Arkansas
#1 Mississippi State
SEC Championship

Aside from a cupcake game insterted into the schedule, Ole Miss probably has to run a gauntlet to get to the final four.  If they get through this, they earned their playoff spot.  They have a phenomenal defense. Their rise to prominence makes the SEC even stronger than it was, which is scary.

#4 Alabama, 6-1, AP – 4, USA Today – 4

at Tennessee
at #24 LSU
#1 Mississippi State
Western Carolina
#5 Auburn
SEC Championship

Alabama doesn’t have a very easy road to the dance either. Although this isn’t the dominant Alabama team of the past few years, they have arguably the best coach in the nation and will be tough for whomever they play against.  Since they are one of the 1-loss teams, it would serve ND best if they lose along the way.

#5 Michigan State, 6-1, AP – 8, USA Today – 5

Michigan
#13 Ohio State
at Maryland
Rutgers
at Penn State
B1G Championship

I gotta be honest, I don’t get how the Spartans made such a leap.  It’s also odd to see such a difference in the two polls, with them being 8th in the AP and 5th in USA Today.  Also, they jumped Oregon, who rolled over them earlier in the season.  They have a rather easy schedule remaining, except for Ohio State. Problem there is that if OSU knocks them off, it will draw the Buckeyes into the playoff picture.

#6 Auburn, 5-1, AP – 5, USA Today – 6

South Carolina
at #3 Ole Miss
Texas A&M
at #9 Georgia
Samford
at #4 Alabama
SEC Championship

I can’t see Auburn getting through this stretch unblemished.  3 top 10 teams and A&M, they have their work cut out for them.  They’re battle tested though, coming off an appearance in last years title game. 

#7 Oregon, 6-1, AP – 6, USA Today – 7

at Cal
Stanford
at #19 Utah
Colorado
at Oregon State
PAC-12 Championship

Year in and year out, Oregon is consistently at the top but fails to get over the hump.  They tend to get exposed and fold in big games.  They had a bad lost agaisnt Arizona at home.  The road game against Utah and the Civil War game on the road against Oregon State are the biggest tests remaining. 

ESPN.com currently has the 4 playoff teams as Mississippi State, Florida State, Ole Miss and Alabama.  ND is 7th.  The one issue thats going to come into play is whats the point of having a playoff if there’s going to be 3 SEC teams in it.  As far as I’m concerned, if you can’t win your conference, you shouldn’t play for a national championship.  Obviously I don’t make the rules, and when it comes down to it, I can see why you’d want it more open.  SEC teams can’t help that the SEC is so damn good.  This is just one of the many questions that will start to be answered next week

Depending on how you look at it, the Irish are either at an advantage or a disadvantage in that they don’t play a conference championship.  The championship games are just another opportunity for teams to get knocked out.  On the other hand, they’re also an opportunity for bubble teams to pick up a quality win, especially in regards to the SEC. The lack of a championship game didn’t hurt Notre Dame in 2012.  But this year is a whole new ball game

There’s plenty of other teams in the picture, such as Georgia, Ohio State, Kansas State and Baylor.  I’m going to leave them out today because they’re all still behind the Irish in the polls.  Weekly I will update all of this based on how Notre Dame is standing.  Next week should be very interesting when the new rankings come out.  I’m sure there will be a lot of discussions, and as always, a lot of contreversy.  The Irish can only control what they do.  Hopefully the boys can win out, and look good while doing it, and let the people in charge do what they have to do.

Follow me on twitter @GetsThruBuckner

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