Much to the chagrin of a growing national narrative, Notre Dame is not in danger of missing out on the College Football Playoff in favor of two SEC teams if the Irish finish 12-0 this season, according to College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit.
Herbstreit was asked about the hypothetical by ESPN’s Laura Rutledge during Tuesday morning’s appearance on Get Up!.
“It’s officially the middle of October with all of these what if scenarios and man, this one’s a doozy,” Herbstreit said. “I honestly think if you got Notre Dame at 12-0, even though it’s Alabama losing to Georgia in this scenario, which I don’t think would happen, I still think Notre Dame would be up into the top four if they’re undefeated. I can’t imagine any scenario leaving Notre Dame out if they’re 12-0. The real issue would be if Alabama ran the table, Ohio State ran the table, Clemson ran the table and Notre Dame ran the table and you had an SEC game with Georgia narrowly losing to Alabama at the end … I just can’t imagine Notre Dame being left out.
“I know today in 2018 we don’t look at Notre Dame the same way we did in the 70s and 80s, but still — this is a different Notre Dame team with Ian Book and Dexter Williams and that defensive line than I think we’ve seen Notre Dame in the last eight or 10 years, even when they played Alabama and got blown out. This doesn’t feel like that kind of Notre Dame team.
“Brian Kelly has a different group and I think the (selection) committee, once they start evaluating these teams, will see this is a more complete Notre Dame team, especially with Dexter Williams at tailback. Everyone talks about Ian Book, but Dexter Williams at tailback is a legitimate threat with that Notre Dame offense.”
Last season, Alabama was selected for the Playoff as the No. 4 seed — ahead of 1-loss Big Ten champion Ohio State — despite not winning the SEC West and proceeded to beat Clemson and Georgia for Nick Saban’s fifth national title since 2009.
Notre Dame has quality wins over Michigan, Stanford and Virginia Tech and still has quality opponents Syracuse and USC — who own a combined of 7-5 this season — left in November. It’s unlikely the Irish play another Top 25 team, but as it stands, they’ll have three wins over nationally-ranked competition unless the Wolverines, Cardinal and Hokies flatline down the stretch.
Alabama and Georgia will dominate the strength of schedule conversation when Playoff rankings are released and are a two of eight SEC teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25. Georgia’s next four games all come against ranked teams — LSU, Florida, Kentucky, Auburn — and the Crimson Tide still have to play Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State.
Backloaded schedules will benefit the two SEC titans, but it’s not going to matter if Notre Dame finishes 12-0, Herbstreit says.