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Week 3 CFP Implications: It’s Time to Talk Notre Dame

There are a lot of major stories to take away from Week 3. Ohio State struggled, Mississippi knocked off Alabama, Stanford steamrolled USC, and TCU almost blew a game against SMU without anyone noticing. We will definitely get to all of that. There is one team, though, for whom the discussion is most pressing. It’s the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Week 3 CFP Implications: It’s Time to Talk Notre Dame

The Irish have the looks of a solid offense, even with a backup quarterback at the helm. Their defense looks stingy and dominating. And, perhaps most importantly, they are building a resume that will be competitive with any other team in the country.

When we came into Week 1 of this season, it was easy to look at Notre Dame’s schedule (nine Power 5 teams, including two of the top teams from each of the ACC and Pac 12) and think that if they managed to get through those 12 games unscathed, they would deserve to be in the Playoff. Now, three games in and the Irish looking near-unstoppable, we have to really realize what this means.

First things first. If Notre Dame runs the table, they are in. That means, among other things, that at least two of the power conferences would left out of the Playoff this year. It also decreases the likelihood of the Big Ten (or any other conference) putting two teams into the Playoff, as that would mean leaving out a third conference. Of course, this all depends on how the rest of the country stacks up and which teams have solid resumes, but it’s way too early to try to project those.

Notre Dame is looking at facing a minimum of four ranked teams this year (Clemson, Georgia Tech, USC, and Stanford). There is a serious potential fifth, as well, with Temple picking up some traction in many of the major polls. That is far more than most teams face and certainly more than most Playoff contenders (except for maybe some of the ones in the SEC West) will face during the year. It’s time to stop wondering what happens if Notre Dame goes undefeated–that’s a given. If Notre Dame can go 11-1 against this schedule, though, it will be hard for there to be four resumes better than the Irish’s out there. Will the committee consider sending a team that didn’t go undefeated and doesn’t have a conference to the Playoff? We may very well find out as this season moves on.

Week 3 CFP Implications: Teams Eliminated from Playoff Contention

We did not put this section in CFP Implications last year because, with no real knowledge or precedent to see how the committee worked, it would have been a bit presumptuous to try and guess who had no real chance of making the playoff. Now, though, we can bring this section (which we had back in the BCS days) to this column. We are going to be very gun-shy on eliminating teams early in the season, but we highly doubt we will ever have to bring back anyone we eliminated. So far, we have eliminated 53 teams, just over 40% of FBS. We are also down to just six Group of 5 teams remaining, though Toledo and Ohio probably never even had a chance to begin with.

AAC: Only Temple, Memphis, Houston, and Navy have not yet been eliminated
ACC: Louisville
Big XII: Kansas, Iowa State
Big Ten: Purdue, Rutgers
Conference USA: All have been eliminated.
MAC: Only Toledo and Ohio are not yet eliminated
Mountain West: All have been eliminated
Pac 12: Washington State
SEC: None
Sun Belt: All have been eliminated
Independents: Army, BYU

On to the rest of the country. First, let’s talk about the Buckeyes. Ohio State looked awful on offense and never found a rhythm. Will this hurt their Playoff chances? Not at all. One bad game won’t matter because they won it. We saw what happened last year though when Florida State looked unimpressive week after week. If the Buckeyes have too many performances like this, the committee will do something about it.

The SEC saw the biggest shake-up, with Ole Miss knocking off Alabama and LSU beating Auburn in impressive fashion. That’s the way much of the country is seeing that LSU/Auburn result, which is a shame. Yes, Leonard Fournette is a beast of a running back. But LSU has major questions at quarterback and their defense does not look up to normal LSU standards so far. Auburn’s offense has been awful this year with highly-hyped quarterback Jeremy Johnson unable to lead it successfully. This same Auburn team needed a miracle to survive FCS Jacksonville State a week ago. I don’t use this space to editorialize often, but it is an embarrassment that Auburn is still ranked in the Coaches’ Poll. So let’s not get ahead of ourselves on how we view LSU for beating them. LSU might be a very good team. We just don’t know it yet–and certainly beating Auburn this year doesn’t prove it.

Ole Miss, on the other hand, proved they are a very good team. Sure, they got a lot of help from mistakes by Alabama. But this defense was unbreakable for the first 55 minutes of this game and the offense took advantage of every weakness the Alabama defense showed. This is a talented team and is clearly very well-coached. After what they did to Alabama, I don’t know what other SEC teams can challenge them. Going undefeated will not be easy, but this team looks Playoff-ready and it’s just Week 3. The one area they can improve on is closing out the game, though. It would have been very disappointing for all that amazing effort to have gone to waste because they let Alabama come back.

Let us close by talking about the Big XII. Right now, this conference again looks like the most likely to be left out of the Playoff. Yes, they have two teams in most people’s Top 5. But both Baylor and TCU (especially TCU) have looked very bad on defense (and that’s a compliment), something that will cost them in this year’s Big XII. Baylor has zero margin of error with their joke of a nonconference schedule. TCU will get some leeway because of that win over Minnesota, but with the way their defense played against SMU they won’t even be close enough to the Playoff picture to matter. They have been decimated by injuries but they need to find some way to fix their problems.

The bright spot for the Big XII, though they also have defensive woes, is that Oklahoma looks to be on the way back up. With a road win over Tennessee and no FCS opponent, the Sooners have the best non-conference resume of any Big XII team. They can almost definitely afford a loss and still get a CFP invite. Which might be important for the Big XII this year, because this conference looks wide open and it doesn’t seem likely that any team will run the table.


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