Notre Dame’s Road To The Playoffs – Week 10

I was going to make this post yesterday, but decided to wait until after the official playoff committee rankings announcement.  I wish I hadn’t.  I was expecting the rankings to resemble something similar to the AP/USA Today polls.  I was wrong.  Just like many of you on twitter, I was disheartened when I saw the Irish come in at 10.  However, I wasn’t outraged. 

Let’s be honest with ourselves.  Despite coming into the season with one of the toughest schedules in the nation, Notre Dame’s opponents have not held up their end of the bargain.  Based on the preseason polls, the Irish had 5 top 25 teams on their schedule (FSU, Stanford, ASU, USC, UNC).  They also were to play 4 teams that received votes (Michigan, Navy, Louisville, Northwestern).  It’s not exactly the SEC schedule, but top to bottom, that’s a pretty solid slate of games.  All that remain ranked are FSU, who beat us, albeit probably shouldn’t, have and ASU, who we have a game with in a few weeks.  USC and Louisville still received some votes, with L’ville coming in at 25 in one of the polls. 

The only quality win the Irish have/had was Stanford, but the Cardinal are proving to be no where near as good as people thought they were in August.  So the Irish really have an uphill battle to climb.  They need to go into Arizona State and dominate them. This will be their statement win.  You couple this with the way the FSU game played out, and then the Irish can at least maintain some respectability in the eyes of the playoff committee. 

Just a little background on how the committee comes up with it’s rankings. It will be based on several factors including strength of schedule, team records, head-to-head match ups, weather and injuries.  The major polls will not be used in coming up with the rankings.  The most weight will be placed on a team’s strength of schedule.  So as I noted earlier, Notre Dame is hurt by the teams they play having down years.  So as fun as it is to root for Michigan and USC to lose every Saturday, we as fans should be rooting hard for our rivals each week, as painful as it may be.

So now I’m going to list all 9 teams ahead of the Irish, and their key remaining match ups.  Since the AP and USA Today polls aren’t accounted for in the playoff rankings, I’m not going to waste my time by listing them on here.  We are going straight off the committee rankings.

1. Mississippi State – 7-0 – SEC

Key games: 11/15 – Alabama, 11/29 Ole Miss, SEC Championship

Like I noted last week, The best case scenario is for Mississippi St. to win out and hand both Alabama and Ole Miss their second losses.

2.  Florida State – 7-0  – ACC

Key games: 10/30 – at Louisville, ACC Championship

This is a common opponent with ND, so it’ll be another tool used to gauge how the Irish stack up

3.  Auburn – 6-1 – SEC

Key games: 11/1 @ Ole Miss, 11/15, @ Georgia, 11/29 @ Alabama, SEC Championship

Auburn controls their own destiny with this schedule.  If they get thru it, they earned their way in.  Can’t do anything about that.

4. Ole Miss – 7-1 – SEC

Key games: 11/1 Auburn, 11/29 Miss St., SEC Championship

The biggest problem I had with the rankings was that there were 3 SEC teams in the top 4.  Not to take anything away from Ole Miss, but I thought the whole point of the playoff was to make it fair for everyone else.   

5. Oregon – 7-1 – Pac 12

Key games: 11/8 @ Utah, 11/29 @ Oregon State., Pac 12 Championship

I thought Oregon should be #4 just for balance purposes.  They have quality wins over Michigan state and UCLA to help their resume.

6. Alabama – 7-1 – SEC

Key games: 11/8 @ LSU, 11/15 Miss St., 11/29 Auburn, SEC Championship

Plenty of chances for them to get knocked off.  They’re playing much better lately though,

7. Texas Christian University – 6-1 – Big 12

Key games: 11/1 @ West Virginia, 11/8 Kansas State, Big 12 Championship

This team can score and have a legit shot to get into the final 4.  They have quality wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and a nailbiter loss to Baylor.

8. Michigan State – 7-1 – Big Ten

Key games: 11/8 Ohio State, Big Ten Championship

I have real issues with the Spartans being ranked over the Irish.  They don’t play a great schedule, and got smacked around by Oregon.  Their quality win is a 5 point victory over Nebraska.  They have 2 common opponenets with Notre Dame (Michigan & Purdue)  ND had more imppressive victories against both teams.

9. Kansas State – 6-1 – Big 12

Key games: 11/1 Oklahoma State, 11/8 @ TCU, 11/20 @ West Virginia, 11/6 @ Baylor, Big 12 Championship

K-State doesn’t have an easy road to the final 4.  Personally I don’t think they will remain in the top 10 by seasons end. They have a quality win against Oklahoma and lost early in the year in a close one ot Auburn.

So that is that.  It’s not easy.  The Irish still have a chance.  Obviously they need help.  The one thing they have going for them is that a lot of the teams ahead of them have to play each other.  You can only hope that they all knock each other off evenly.  If we can hope for anything, it’s Mississippi State to run the table and take out Ole Miss and Alabama.  Otherwise, the rest will have to play out week by week.  All the Irish can do is play the games they have left and win football games. 

Reach me on Twitter @GetsThruBuckner

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