There were plenty of reasons to write off Notre Dame as a College Football Playoff contender after the Irish lost Oct. 2 to Cincinnati, 24-13, in South Bend.
The Irish were 4-1, but even those four victories looked either shaky or closer than anticipated. The defense wasn’t settled. The offense was hit or miss. There was even a debate about who should play quarterback.
Maybe most important, Notre Dame’s usually impressive schedule lacked any opponents who could provide a signature victory. USC and Stanford were a mess. UNC hadn’t panned out. Even the teams it defeated – Florida State, Toledo, Purdue and Wisconsin – appeared just so-so at the time.
Yet here we are, not even two months later, and the Irish are very much alive in the playoff chase, a slow and steady climb back into contention fueled by the fact Notre Dame hasn’t lost another game and in part because just about everyone else in America has.
Notre Dame is 10-1 heading into a season-ending game with Stanford. Beat the 3-8 Cardinal and the Irish will sit back and hope for multiple paths to the playoffs to open up for them.
Notre Dame defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey (7) puts pressure on Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Jordan Yates (13) on Saturday. (Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
While predicting what a human committee will decide is imperfect, it stands to reason Notre Dame probably needs any two of the following to happen:
None of these are far-fetched. And if any two happen, then the playoff committee is about out of obvious contenders. It would likely need to put a two-loss team in ahead of the Irish and while there may be some debate on that, would the committee really?
The two-loss Tide? That would mean an SEC title game rematch between No. 1 seed Georgia and No. 4 seed Alabama. If the first one isn’t all that close,…