Notre Dame football: better but not playoff bound?

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Joe Broback

Contributor at Champion Insiders
Joe is a writer covering the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. He also currently writes for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, covering the American Athletic Conference since 2016. Joe enjoys collecting shoes, playing sports, and anything fitness related.
Joe Broback
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After a 30-3 beatdown at the hands of Clemson in last year’s playoff, there were questions surrounding Notre Dame’s program. How would they respond to facing an elite team on the road this year? What would a loss mean for their playoff hopes? We learned a few things about this Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team, but we’re not sure what the future holds in terms of their schedule.

When anyone discusses Notre Dame football, the Clemson game and the 2013 BCS National Championship Game against Alabama usually come up. Notre Dame’s situation is unique, but that also means they receive a ton of attention. Given they’re not in a conference, going undefeated brings out strong opinions from many. Last year was a perfect example of that. The Irish finished the year undefeated, but only a couple teams on their schedule finished in the Top 25. That led to the debate of if they should be allowed in the playoff or not with that resume. Then, they were blown out by Clemson. That will continue to be the debate until Notre Dame proves otherwise, but they took a step in the right direction Saturday.

While the result didn’t go their way, the Irish put up a good fight against Georgia. Ian Book and the offense didn’t dominate, but they were competitive the entire game. Defensively, the Irish made life tough for Jake Fromm and the Georgia offense. Notre Dame struggled against Clemson defending the pass, but that wasn’t the case against the Bulldogs. Fromm only managed to throw for 187 yards, with only one receiver eclipsing the 50 yard mark. A loss isn’t great, but Notre Dame showed they can compete on the big stage. Now, it’s a matter of their schedule being good enough to return to the playoff.

A better Notre Dame schedule?

To be fair, last year’s schedule wasn’t Notre Dame’s fault. Michigan, Northwestern, and Stanford were solid wins, but teams like USC and Florida State had down years. Normally, wins over those teams would look better. This year shows similar potential, but it’s a matter of if those teams can continue playing well. This week Notre Dame faces 18th ranked Virginia and will play two other currently ranked teams in USC (21) and Michigan (20). As it sits right now, wins over those teams wouldn’t warrant another playoff appearance with one loss. All the Irish can do is win out, and hope that a number of teams lose one or more games for them to be in the discussion.

Brian Kelly’s team showed they can compete with top talent, but it doesn’t look like that’s enough to get them in the playoff. It seems that this team must go undefeated to be in the playoff discussion unless they decide to schedule elite teams for every game. One loss doesn’t exclude them from the playoff, but they now rely on others teams to stumble. If they do get a chance at another elite team, they’ll need to show they can take another step and win that big game. Until then, it’s win out and wait.

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