Yesterday, the first College Football Playoff Rankings were released, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish grabbed the #3 spot. They trail Georgia and Alabama, in that order, and are one spot in front of the defending national champs, the Clemson Tigers.
Sitting at 7-1, the Irish began the season undefeated. Other than a 1-point loss at home to unbeaten and #1 playoff seed (#2 in the AP) Georgia, their season has gone without a hiccup. They’re a complete team, with a Heisman candidate on offense and a top-20 defense. They’ve played the 7th toughest schedule so far this season, and that looks like it’ll get even tougher as long as The U and Stanford keep rolling.
As far as looking at the rest of the field, I think this is a very fair spot for ND. You can debate Notre Dame’s accomplishments if you want to. You can question their legitimacy and point out that they’re not even out of the weeds yet due to two road games against ranked teams – something head coach Brian Kelly is historically not good at winning. You’d be right, too.
Obviously, you’re not going to put them above two undefeated SEC teams. Georgia and ‘Bama have obliterated nearly everyone in their path. But aside from them? Right now? Today?
Clemson has that bad loss to Syracuse. That’s going to basically dog them all the way until those final rankings are released, because Syracuse, in a word, sucks. Their two marquee wins are against #13 Virginia Tech and #14 Auburn. They have the luxury of being the defending champs, which I think gives them an edge if things get close. But this isn’t the same Clemson team, and they’re far from a sure thing.
Oklahoma (#5 seed) has escaped a couple of times after throttling Ohio State in The Shoe, but they lost at home to an upstate Iowa State program. The way the Cyclones have played have probably saved the Sooners from falling a few spots lower than where they are, but they still have to go on the road at Oklahoma State and play TCU at home in back-to-back weeks. Their tough part of the schedule starts this week.
Despite Ohio State‘s impressive comeback this past weekend, they haven’t blown me away me, to be honest. Talent-wise? Yeah, they’re easily the second best team in the nation on paper. I know Urban Meyer is a second-half coach, but I still can’t get over being blown out at home against another potential playoff opponent. Ohio State, the current #6 seed. has one ranked team left on their schedule – #24 Michigan State. I think that leaves a lot of questions about this team, as they’ve rightfully had no problem blowing out teams like Army, UNLV, Rutgers and Maryland.
My biggest problem with the rankings thus far was that Wisconsin is at the 9 spot. I mean, they are unbeaten in the Big 10. But upon further digging, I can’t disagree with where they are. Wisconsin has yet to play a ranked team this season. Unless Iowa or Michigan manages to get into the top-25 within the next few weeks, they won’t have played a ranked team until they make the Big 10 Championship. I don’t mean to disrespect Wisconsin when I say this, but you can’t possibly expect to be in the playoff when you don’t play anyone.
Notre Dame managed to beat Michigan State on the road, and Michigan State has proven that they’re a quality team, as they’ve broken into the top-25. They’ve blown out two previously top-15 teams in USC and NC State in back-to-back weeks. They still have two, potentially three, ranked teams on their schedule. At this point in the season, I think all the Irish have to do now is win out and they’re in.
Cover photo from Saturday Blitz.
Other media from One Foot Down.