Two-Loss Teams Key to Notre Dame's Playoff Path. And How That Could Happen

Tight ends Kyle Kmet (84) and Brock Wright share a smile with O.C. Chip Long after Bowling Green game.

Irish building good playoff case. Here are ways to minimize the damage of the Georgia loss.

Notre Dame has been like one of those nuclear submarines this season. It is stealthy. Lurking but rarely seen.

The SS Fighting Irish surfaced for one high-profile attempt at glory in Athens, Ga., one night. Other than that, the ND crew hasn't been seen much this fall.

And no, Virginia doesn’t count. Not Louisville, either.

That’s about to change, at least from a visibility standpoint. In its next two games, Notre Dame plays USC and Michigan. Even if the Trojans and Wolverines are not up to their expected standards, those games will generate more interest in the Irish.

At least the opponents’ uniforms will be classic, even if their play isn’t.

Which brings us to this point: Notre Dame is likely to be favored in all of its remaining games.

The question is: What are a one-loss ND’s chances of playing in the College Football Playoff?

The answer is: We don’t know yet for sure. But assuming that the ranks of the unbeaten dwindle—they always do—it will depend on how the committee views the Irish in comparison with other potential one-loss teams.

The best way to take the guesswork out of it is to root for that one-loss pool to be shallow. If recent history is a guide, Clemson will run the table and Alabama will be in, whether unbeaten or with one loss.

That leaves two slots for the Ohio States, Oklahomas and SEC playoff crashers. That means Notre Dame needs to root for mayhem in certain places around the nation.

It needs the SEC, which has four of the nation’s top seven teams (and five in the top 12) to start beating each other. That would be good for everyone outside the SEC, by the way.

Florida’s takedown of Auburn on Saturday was a start. The next step will come on Saturday in Baton Rouge, when the Gators play LSU.

Considering that LSU-Alabama, Alabama-Auburn, Georgia-Florida, Georgia-Auburn, LSU-Auburn and the SEC championship game are yet to come, there will be plenty of opportunity for the SEC to end this chatter about multiple SEC teams earning playoff berths.

If only one team manages to come out of those gauntlets unbeaten, or with one loss, the Irish would sign up for that immediately. Then again, so would every other playoff hopeful in the nation.

The same deal would apply in the Big Ten, where Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State remain unbeaten. A one-loss Michigan also would torpedo ND’s playoff chances because of their head to head meeting

In the Big 12, a one-loss Oklahoma or one-loss Texas would likely trump Notre Dame.

A one-loss Clemson might be vulnerable. But it would take a major upset for the Tigers to falter in the wobbly ACC. And Clemson already has had its close call, a 21-20 escape from North Carolina.

The Pac-12 is not in this discussion. We’re talking hypothetical situations, but. . . c’mon.

Here are some scenarios, within the three conferences that matter, for the dominoes to fall Notre Dame’s way. In other words, the fewer one-loss (and unbeaten) teams, the better.

Because no matter what the committee says, its most important stat is. . . Fewest Losses. (You could look it up.)

The domino games crank up in earnest this weekend. Clip and save, Irish fans!


Florida loses to LSU on Saturday and to Georgia on Nov. 2. Two-loss Gators.

LSU loses to Auburn on Oct. 26. And loses at Alabama on Nov. 9. Two-loss Tigers.

Georgia loses at Auburn on Nov. 16. And loses to Alabama in the SEC championship game. Two-loss Dawgs.

Auburn loses to Alabama on Nov. 30. Two-loss Tigers.

That leaves an unbeaten Alabama, plus a slew of two-loss SEC also-rans.

A lot of dominoes? Sure. But here’s the thing.

This doesn’t include any upsets by Missouri, which is 4-1 and has games left with Florida (home) and Georgia (away). Or by Texas A&M (4-2, with losses to Clemson and Auburn), which has Alabama at home and trips to Georgia and LSU. Stranger things have happened. And will happen.

SEC stalwarts have been great at dodging upsets by the Mizzous and Aggies of the world. But ya never know.


Oklahoma beats Texas Saturday, but loses at Baylor on Nov. 16 and loses its Texas rematch in the Big 12 title game. Two-loss Sooners.

Texas beats Oklahoma Saturday, but loses at Baylor on Nov. 23 and loses to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. Two-loss Longhorns.

Baylor loses to either Oklahoma or Texas and at Oklahoma State. Two-loss Bears.


Penn State loses on Saturday at Iowa, where this stuff happens all the time. And loses to Michigan on Oct. 19 or Michigan State on Oct. 26. Two-loss Nittany Lions

Ohio State loses to Wisconsin on Oct. 26 and at Michigan on Nov. 30. Two-loss Buckeyes.

Wisconsin loses to Michigan State on Saturday. And loses to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. Two-loss Badgers.

Technically, unbeaten Minnesota (5-0) and one-loss Michigan and Iowa (4-1 apiece) could finish with one loss. But. . . c’mon.

Let’s just stick with the above scenarios, OK? But get good odds, Irish fans, if you put money on them. Really good odds.