4. NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
Last Week: Won vs. Boston College (3-8) in Boston, 19-16
This Week: at Stanford (9-2)
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) November 23, 2015
I was burned last week ranking Iowa ahead of Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish weren’t coming off a sluggish win over a 3-win opponent. Notre Dame will be dinged for its 19-16 win over Boston College, but not so dramatically as to knock the Irish out of the Top 4.
The popular opinion Oklahoma can jump Notre Dame this week, based on the Sooners’ quality of wins late, doesn’t hold water with me. Not yet, anyway.
The Playoff committee could be faced with a burdensome dilemma evaluating Michigan State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma against each other. Sparty has the clearest path into the Playoff by virtue of its likely Big Ten Championship Game, but the Irish and Sooners both sitting at 11-1, closing out the regular season with wins over Stanford and Oklahoma State, could be headache-inducing.
Such a scenario gives Oklahoma victories over 10-win Oklahoma State, a possible 11-win Baylor and nine-win TCU. Notre Dame’s claim is staked on beating the likely division champions of the American Athletic Conference, the Pac-12 North champion and potentially the Pac-12 South champion (USC). The Fighting Irish also won over common opponent Texas.
This head-to-head scenario perhaps more than any other will be the most revealing insight into the committee’s process. Both programs are brand names, so that notion goes out the window. Oklahoma’s hypothetical resume looks stronger at the top, but Notre Dame’s is meatier in the middle with a stronger loss.
The committee’s path of least resistance is a Notre Dame loss at Stanford. Oklahoma State beating Oklahoma and the Irish winning simply resets the one-loss independent vs. one-loss Big 12 champion possibility with a different team.