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Sport News   Is there a viable path for Notre Dame to the college football playoffs?  Yes

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Guess which school will participate in the relevant debates on the college football qualifiers over the coming weeks?

It’s Notre-Dame, of course. The Irish (10-1) are in 6th place in the latest college football qualifying standings, and there are still some valid points to be had in the coming weeks.

This is not a new trend. Notre Dame has been in the top six in the CFP rankings ahead of Rivalry Week in three of the past four seasons. There is nothing trivial about the program at this time.

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But is there a realistic path to the playoffs for a one-loss team without a conference championship game to bet on? Georgia, number one, can practically clinch a playoff berth with a win over Georgia Tech on Saturday before the SEC Championship game.

Notre Dame, however, can spark debate with the rest of the six legitimate playoff contenders by beating Stanford and going to the clubhouse with an 11-1 record.

Where are these potential debates with these six teams? SN takes a closer look:


How it can happen: What if Alabama lost the SEC Championship game to Georgia? How important would the score be? The Crimson Tide have a legitimate chance of being the first two-game losing team to make the CFP, and it could come at Notre Dame’s expense.

Prepare for the rationale for a 13th data point, even if that data point is Mercer, an FCS school that Crimson Tide played in week 2. This game should not count when comparing the two .

Not counting Mercer, opponents Alabama have a combined record of 73-59. Notre Dame’s opponents are 59-59. This strength of the calendar favors Alabama, and the CFP committee could favor it before the Irish.

Who wins? Would 11-2 Alabama win over 11-1 Notre-Dame? Yeah, unless it’s a blowout against Georgia.

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Ohio State and Michigan

Rust Belt’s three traditional powers have 10 wins heading into Rivalry Weekend, and the path for the Ohio State-Michigan winner is clear. Defeat the Big Ten West, possibly Wisconsin, champion in the Big Ten Championship game.

What if the Buckeyes or Wolverines lose this game? This would theoretically open the door for Notre Dame, which strangled Wisconsin 41-13 on September 25. The Badgers could be a three-game losing Big Ten champion, which could knock the conference out of the playoffs.

Don’t rely on what’s going on. The Big Ten East champion has won the conference championship each of the past seven years.

Who wins? Ohio State or Michigan (if they win the Big Ten)


It should be an open and closed affair for the Bearcats. Cincinnati defeated Notre Dame 24-13 on October 2, and that game took place at Notre Dame Stadium. If the Bearcats end up undefeated, then there is no logical explanation for putting Notre Dame a loss ahead of them.

Now, if the Bearcats lose to East Carolina or Houston in the next couple of weeks, get ready for that head-to-head victory that will be thrown out the window. It shouldn’t happen, but it absolutely could happen given the way the PSC committee has handled the Michigan State and Michigan outcome over the past two weeks.

Notre Dame has won its last six games averaging 22.7 points per game, and Navy was the only Group of 5 school on that list. It’s a thin argument, but it’s an argument the Irish could win.

Who wins? Cincinnati (unless they lose)

Oklahoma or State of Oklahoma

This is the last potential obstacle. Oklahoma or Oklahoma State could win their next two games (likely against each other) and finish as the Big 12 champion.

Oklahoma State is the most dangerous team in this scenario. The Cowboys have a 24-21 loss at Iowa State, but they’ve shown poor defense over the past month. Oklahoma still carries the branding of a team that has made the CFP four times, but the Sooners can’t beat Notre Dame.

Still, this conference championship game could make an impression, especially with the Irish out of sight, out of mind.

Who wins? Notre Dame (but it’s a draw)

Take back the watch

So knowing that, here’s where Notre Dame’s resume would compare to potential final resumes in two weeks time. Here are the possible CVs among the contenders, listed in order.

1. Georgia (13-0): There is no debate to be had here.

2. Alabama (12-1): The Crimson Tide are said to have five wins against ranked teams and one win over No.1 Georgia.

3. Ohio State (12-1): The Buckeyes would have four wins over ranked opponents at this point, and that includes top 10 wins over Michigan State and Michigan.

4. Georgia (12-1): If the Bulldogs lose to Alabama in the SEC Championship game, then they’ll be forgiven with a likely No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the CFP if the rest of the chalk holds.

5. Michigan (12-1): If the Wolverines finally beat Ohio State and then win a Big Ten Championship, they’ll be in the CFP with Jim Harbaugh as No.2 or No.3.

6. Cincinnati (13-0): The Bearcats are in a decent position knowing that either Ohio State or Michigan must lose, and they can now survive the two-SEC squad scenario. In addition, they have a tête-à-tête on Notre-Dame.

7. Alabama (11-2): Would the committee put the Crimson Tide to two losses against the Irish? We think they would unless they were knocked out by Georgia or stumbled against Auburn.

8. Notre-Dame (11-1): This is the position of the Irish. It’s just a matter of which resumes above them get eliminated. The Irish only have one win against a ranked opponent, and it could be four losses to Wisconsin.

9. Oklahoma State (12-1): The Cowboys can race against the Irish knowing they would have the luxury of a Power 5 championship. They could have five wins against ranked opponents at this point. Notre Dame should be worried here.

10. Oklahoma (12-1): The Sooners have brand value, but this streak of one-scoring losses is hurting their profile as well as a resounding loss to Baylor.

11. Ohio State (11-2): A loss to champion Big Ten West would wipe out the Buckeyes despite wins over Michigan State and Michigan at that time.

12. Michigan (11-2): The same rule applies. Even if the Wolverines finally conquer the Buckeyes, they still have to finish the conference title in Indianapolis.

13. Cincinnati (12-1): The Bearcats are done with just one loss, and they know it.

Will it happen?

Assuming the chalk holds, the Irish will likely be left out of the college football qualifiers.

Notre Dame fans have to get Alabama to lose in a blowout in the SEC Championship game and Cincinnati to lose to either ECU or Houston. A loss to Ohio State-Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game and the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State Division would be bonuses.

That said, Notre Dame will be in that final table conversation as long as the Irish beat Stanford on Saturday. A win would put them 52-9 over the past five seasons.

That kind of success will keep them in the playoff conversation.

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