Opposition Round-up

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Notre Dame’s bowl projections and opponents’ results

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Notre Dame fell to No. 15 in the most-recent College Football Playoff selection committee poll Tuesday night. At this point, a bowl appearance in Orlando is a near certainty. Three possibilities remain, listed in order from most-to-least likely:

Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET: The Irish head to the Citrus if the Big Ten has a higher ranked non-Playoff participant than the SEC does. A second-tier SEC opponent would await in the Citrus Bowl, most likely LSU or perhaps Mississippi State.

In other words, if No. 8 Ohio State beats No. 4 Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship as bookmakers project, but No. 5 Alabama makes the Playoff rather than the Buckeyes, then a Notre Dame afternoon in the Citrus Bowl seems likely.

Camping World Bowl, Dec. 28, 5: 15 p.m. ET: If an SEC non-Playoff participant is higher ranked than all the Big Ten’s such teams, then the Irish will fall to the Camping World Bowl to face a Big 12 foe — Iowa State, for example.

Should the Tide be left out of the Playoff in nearly any way, it appears destined for the Orange Bowl, opening a Big Ten slot in the Citrus Bowl and moving Notre Dame to an evening discussing camping gear.

ND to the Citrus ND to the Camping World
Big Ten > SEC — Orange SEC > Big Ten — Orange
Big Ten to the Citrus Bowl

Cotton Bowl, Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m. ET: What would it take for the Irish to reach a Playoff-eligible bowl? Notre Dame would need to move into the top 12. If No. 10 USC blows out No. 12 Stanford in the Pac 12 championship, the Cardinal could fall below Notre Dame. Subsequently, No. 3 Oklahoma embarrassing No. 11 TCU might drop the Horned Frogs past the Irish. That would still not be enough, though.

What if the Badgers beat Ohio State by something along the lines of 70-0? Then, and only then, the Buckeyes might drop out of the top 12 and open the possibility for Notre Dame to face current No. 13 Washington.


So much chaos is needed to move the Irish into the top 12 despite a rather strong schedule. Ten Irish opponents made bowl games, only Miami (OH) and North Carolina the exceptions. Eight of the 12 exceeded preseason expectations, totaling a 91-51 record, a .641 winning percentage.


Georgia (11-1): The Bulldogs remain in the Playoff hunt thanks to a 38-7 win at Georgia Tech. If Georgia tops No. 2 Auburn in the SEC title game (4 p.m. ET; CBS), then it should leap from No. 6 to the needed top four. It may be difficult, though, with the Tigers favored by two points and a combined point total over/under of 48.5. The Bulldogs will need to flip the script on an expected 25-23 conclusion.

USC (10-2): The Trojans enjoyed their first off week of the season. That rest may play a part in USC being favored by four in the Pac 12 championship against Stanford (8 p.m. ET on Friday; ESPN). An over/under of 58.5 creates a theoretical final of 31-27.

Miami (10-1): The Hurricanes fell 24-14 at Pittsburgh on Friday, endangering their Playoff hopes. A victory over Clemson to claim the ACC could still vault No. 7 Miami into the top four. It would be a notable upset, considering the Hurricanes are 9.5-point underdogs with an over/under of 47. Rough math makes for a 28-19 Tigers victory.

Stanford (9-3): If the Cardinal top USC on Friday, it should be headed to the Fiesta Bowl.


Temple (6-6): A 43-22 win at Tulsa got the Owls to bowl eligibility, though the six triumphs still fall ever so slightly below the preseason win total over/under of 6.5 victories.

Freshman running back A.J. Dillon provided the spark that changed Boston College’s season, carrying the Eagles offense through the latter half of the year. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Boston College (7-5): The Eagles finished the regular season on a high note with a 42-14 walloping at Syracuse, once again carried by freshman running back A.J. Dillon. The stalwart took 23 carries for 193 yards and three touchdowns to finish his debut campaign with 1,432 yards and 13 touchdowns on 268 rush attempts. Boston College’s closing stretch of five wins in its final six games cleared the win total over/under of four all on its own. It seems worth noting the Eagles visit South Bend in 2019, before Dillon will be eligible to declare for the NFL Draft.

Michigan State (9-3): The Spartans routed Rutgers 40-7. Much like Notre Dame’s rebound of a season, Michigan State had no trouble surpassing its expected 6.5 wins.

Miami (OH) (5-7): The RedHawks concluded their season last Tuesday with a 28-7 win at Ball State. Miami entered the season favored to win the MAC’s Eastern Division, instead finishing third, so consider the season fitting of the spirit of an under.

North Carolina (3-9): The Tar Heels’ misery ended with a 33-21 loss at North Carolina State, finishing the season well short of the preseason’s over/under of seven victories.

North Carolina State (8-4): Speaking of the Wolfpack, it needed that victory to clear its over/under of 7.5

Wake Forest (7-5): The Demon Deacons finished the year on a down note, dropping the finale 31-23 to Duke, yet clearing the over/under of 5.5.

Navy (6-5): The Midshipmen lost 24-14 at Houston on Friday, but will have a chance to further their win total next weekend against Army (3 p.m. ET; CBS).


For thoroughness’ sake, all four teams playing this weekend cleared the overs on their win totals. Georgia — 8.5; USC — 9.5; Miami — 9; Stanford — 8.5.

Notre Dame’s Opponents and Playoff Competition: Results and Upcoming

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Winning at Stanford would give Notre Dame its third win over a team in this week’s College Football Playoff selection committee top 25, with the Cardinal moving up one spot to No. 21 on Tuesday.

In Irish coach Brian Kelly’s mind, that résumé might yet warrant Playoff consideration.

“Our mission is still to hold out hope for one of the Playoff spots,” Kelly said Tuesday. “… It’s trying to prepare [his team] for one more game and finishing off the season on a high note.”

Kelly’s mission may be far-fetched, though he is certainly aware of as much. However, it is not yet beyond fathoming.

“If you’re in the top eight, you’re strongly considered,” Kelly said. “… The teams that are up there have all had one bad day, and we had one bad day, too.”

Remaining at No. 8, Notre Dame will need a few teams to have another bad day in the next two weekends. This past bland weekend left the top 12 largely unchanged, only Miami moving up to No. 2, knocking Clemson down to No. 3. A conspiracy theorist might think that set the groundwork for a tight Clemson victory in the ACC title game next weekend leading to both ACC finalists making the Playoff. With that in mind, make the first Irish-preferred domino a Miami victory in that game.

Kelly should also hope No. 6 Auburn beats No. 1 Alabama this weekend before losing to No. 7 Georgia next weekend. No. 5 Wisconsin topping No. 9 Ohio State next weekend in the Big Ten championship would likely aid Notre Dame’s cause, as would No. 12 TCU upsetting No. 4 Oklahoma in the Big 12 final.

For Notre Dame to make the College Football Playoff, Heisman front-runner Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma will likely need to lose at some point in the next two weeks. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

That scenario would leave Georgia, Miami and Wisconsin as likely locks for the Playoff. The conversation around the fourth Playoff spot would revolve around a one-loss Alabama, a two-loss Clemson, a two-loss Oklahoma, a two-loss TCU and a two-loss Notre Dame.

Of course, that all only comes into consideration if the Irish beat Stanford this weekend.

Arguments could be made for each of those five possibilities. Spending time on those could quickly be time spent on fantasy if all five of those dominos do not fall perfectly.

In that case, it remains simple for Notre Dame. Beat the Cardinal and make a Playoff-eligible bowl, which one likely depending on if Miami makes the Playoff or not. If the Hurricanes are in the Playoff, then the Irish may be heading back to Miami Gardens and the Orange Bowl. If Miami lands at its home venue, than a Notre Dame victory this weekend should send Kelly to the Cotton Bowl.

An Irish loss in Palo Alto still sends them to Orlando in one form or another, be it the Citrus Bowl (Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET) or the Camping World Bowl (Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m.).

As a refresher of the Playoff contenders and their remaining slates:
1) Alabama: at No. 6 Auburn; with a victory in the Iron Bowl, then head to face No. 7 Georgia in the SEC championship.
2) Miami: at Pittsburgh, vs. No. 3 Clemson.
3) Clemson: at No. 24 South Carolina, vs. No. 2 Miami.
4) Oklahoma: vs. West Virginia; most likely vs. No. 12 TCU in the Big 12 title game, though the Horned Frogs have not secured that finish just yet.
5) Wisconsin: at Minnesota; vs. No. 9 Ohio State.
6) Auburn: vs. No. 1 Alabama; with a victory in the Iron Bowl, then head to face No. 7 Georgia in the SEC championship.
7) Georgia: at Georgia Tech; vs. the Iron Bowl victor.
8) Notre Dame: at No. 21 Stanford.
9) Ohio State: at Michigan; vs. No. 5 Wisconsin.

Notre Dame’s Opponents
Temple (5-6): The Owls lost 45-19 to undefeated Central Florida. Temple now needs to beat Tulsa (4 p.m. ET; ESPN News) to secure bowl eligibility. The Owls are favored by three with a combined point total over/under of 59, indicating a 31-28 conclusion.

Georgia (10-1): The Bulldogs trounced Kentucky 42-13, cashing in on another efficient performance from freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, who finished 9-of-14 passing for 123 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Georgia is favored by 11 against Georgia Tech (12 p.m. ET; ABC), an over/under of 51.5 pointing to a 31-20 result.

Boston College running back A.J. Dillon is the Eagles offense sole reliable producer at this point. (Getty Images)

Boston College (6-5): The Eagles secured a 13th game to the season by beating Connecticut 39-16 in Fenway Park, even though they were without starting quarterback junior Anthony Brown. Freshman running back A.J. Dillon picked up the slack, taking 24 carries for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Boston College now travels to Syracuse (12:20 p.m. ET; ACC Network) as 3.5-point favorites with an over/under of 56.5, roughly equaling a 30-27 score.

Michigan State (8-3): The Spartans moved up one spot to No. 16 in the CFP poll after beating Maryland 17-7. They can’t win the Big Ten, but they can win at Rutgers (4 p.m. ET; FOX), favored by nearly two touchdowns with a 26-13 decision sounding reasonable only if Michigan State comes out flat.

Miami (OH) (5-7): The RedHawks season ended Tuesday night with a 28-7 win at Ball State. Entering the year with seemingly-realistic aspirations of winning the MAC, missing out on a bowl game entirely makes for quite the disappointing season for former Irish assistant Chuck Martin.

North Carolina (3-8): The Tar Heels won their second straight, beating FCS-level Western Carolina 65-10. That win streak is likely to come to an end at North Carolina State (3:30 p.m. ET; ESPNU) this weekend. The Wolfpack is a 16-point favorite with an over/under of 56. Quick math makes for a 36-20 Tar Heels loss.

USC (10-2): After a 28-23 victory over UCLA, the No. 11 Trojans can finally enjoy a week off, their first of the season, before the Pac 12 title game next Friday. They will face either Washington State or Stanford then, depending if the Cougars beat Washington this weekend.

North Carolina State (7-4): A 30-24 loss to Wake Forest is the first real letdown of a loss for the Wolfpack since the season opener, only otherwise dropping games to Notre Dame and Clemson.

Wake Forest (7-4): Head coach Dave Clawson can put the final cherry on top of a resoundingly-successful 2017 with a victory against Duke (12:30 p.m. ET; ACC Network). Bookmakers certainly expect as much from the Deacons, making them 12-point favorites with an over/under of 58, leading to a 35-23 projected score.

Miami (11-0): The Hurricanes overcame a slow start to top Virginia 44-28. Just shy of two-touchdown favorites for its trip to Pittsburgh on Friday (12:00 p.m. ET; ABC), Miami will be fine with a 33-19 victory.

Navy (6-4): The Midshipmen will look to rebound from their 24-17 defeat at Notre Dame by traveling to Houston on Friday (12 p.m. ET; ESPN). While it would be an upset, Navy just might win, only a 4.5-point underdog with an over/under of 55. That’s a theoretical 30-25 nod toward the Cougars.

Stanford (8-3): The Cardinal put the pressure on Washington State to keep it out of the Pac 12 title game by beating Cal 17-14. After starting 1-2, this has been a strong turnaround for David Shaw’s charges. As of this early Wednesday a.m. typing, Stanford welcomes Notre Dame as 2.5-point underdogs with an over/under of 57. Hypothetically, that points to the Irish prevailing 30-27.

It should be noted, that over/under ticked upward by two points after Shaw said star junior running back Bryce Love is “day-to-day” Tuesday.

Notre Dame’s bowl likelihoods and opponents round-up

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If discussing Notre Dame’s bowl possibilities, the new No. 8 ranking in Tuesday night’s College Football Playoff selection committee poll means only so much. One most also project how the Irish will finish the season.

If Notre Dame wins its last two games (v. Navy; at Stanford), a spot in a playoff-eligible bowl is assured. A loss makes for some time in Orlando.

A Playoff-Eligible Bowl
A process of elimination helps guess which of the four possibilities is most likely. Presume USC continues on its current post-Irish tear and wins the Pac 12. The committee will attempt to avoid rematches, preventing Notre Dame from facing the Trojans in the Fiesta Bowl. If Clemson beats Miami in the ACC title game — and remember, that will be held in Charlotte, N.C., not in Hard Rock Stadium — then Miami will get to enjoy a home game in the Orange Bowl and the Irish will not be there, either.

As much as some might profess a desire for revenge, Notre Dame should be glad to avoid the Orange Bowl for a while. Between last weekend and the 2013 BCS title game vs. Alabama, the last two Irish appearances in that stadium have resulted in a combined 83-22 score for the other guys, including a 55-0 combined halftime margin.

That theoretical situation leaves the Cotton Bowl and the Peach Bowl for Notre Dame. The latter has one slot filled by the highest-ranked Group of Five team, almost certainly Central Florida. The time in Dallas goes to two at-large teams. With three SEC teams in the committee’s top 7, the championship game loser seems destined for the week in Atlanta and the Peach Bowl.

There has been debate about who is better: Penn State running back Saquon Barkley or Notre Dame’s Josh Adams. They could meet in a bowl game. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

That narrows this pool to only the Cotton Bowl. However, this changes quickly if the Hurricanes win the ACC. At that point, with the Irish likely higher-ranked than any non-playoff SEC or Big Ten teams, Notre Dame would head back to its 10th circle of hell.

Who would the Irish face in Dallas? Some quick projecting makes the likely opponents either Auburn or Penn State.

An Orlando Bowl
If Notre Dame falls to either Navy or Stanford, two possibilities come into play. The Irish would head to Orlando for either the Citrus Bowl (Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET) or the Camping World Bowl (Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m. ET). Nothing Notre Dame does would influence which it is.

Excluding Playoff teams, the highest-ranked SEC or Big Ten team goes to the Orange Bowl. (As referenced above, the Irish also fit into that determination, but right now this conversation hinges on Notre Dame falling to 9-3 or even 8-4.) If that is a Big Ten team, then the Irish enjoy New Year’s near Disney World. (Checks which one is which, yep, World is in Orlando. Land is out west.) If all three of Alabama, Auburn and Georgia remain in playoff-eligible bowls, the opponent here would be the fourth team in the SEC, meaning Mississippi State or perhaps LSU.

Should an SEC team claim the Orange Bowl berth, then the Big Ten heads to the Citrus and Notre Dame claims the ACC’s spot in the Camping World Bowl to face a Big 12 foe, likely Oklahoma State though possibly TCU.

But, isn’t there a chance …?

Will Grier is good, but he probably is not good enough to upset Oklahoma twice in two weeks. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Yes, Lloyd Christmas, there is a chance of the Irish falling backward into the College Football Playoff. The most-likely scenario involves current-No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Miami and No. 5 Wisconsin all finishing the season undefeated, and No. 4 Oklahoma losing twice to West Virginia and cult hero quarterback Will Grier.

At that point, the debate would be between 10-2 Notre Dame, 10-2 Georgia (currently No. 7), 11-2 Clemson (currently No. 2) and 11-2 Ohio State (currently No. 9). Based off committee chairman Kirby Hocutt’s comments Tuesday night, the edge would go to Clemson. The committee is giving the Tigers some leeway for suffering their only lose to-date largely without their starting quarterback due to a concussion. Even when he played at Syracuse, an injured ankle robbed Kelly Bryant off much of his dynamism.

Clemson also travels to South Carolina, so add a Gamecocks upset to the Irish wish list. For thoroughness’ sake, perhaps hope Georgia Tech also upsets Georgia in two weeks.

Of course, after enough chaos, 13-0 Central Florida (currently No. 15) should enter the conversation simply out of principle.

Opponents’ Round-up
Temple (5-5): The Owls beat Cincinnati 35-24 on Friday, but now brace for a visit from undefeated Central Florida (12 p.m. ET; ESPNU). The Knights are favored by two touchdowns and given their need to hope for chaos and impress the committee, perhaps that margin is too slim. A combined points total over/under of 56 hints at a 35-21 conclusion.

Georgia (9-1): The Bulldogs suffered their first loss, a 40-17 whooping at Auburn. These things happen at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Georgia gets to recover with a visit from Kentucky (3:30 p.m. ET; CBS). Favored by three touchdowns with an over/under of 51, Georgia should cruise to something along the lines of a 36-15 victory.

Boston College (5-5): In a pyrrhic defeat, the Eagles both lost to North Carolina State 17-14 and lost their starting quarterback freshman Anthony Brown for the season to a right leg injury. Brown had led the way to Boston College’s resurgence from a 1-3 and 2-4 start, possibly saving head coach Steve Addazio’s job in the process.

The Eagles still hope for bowl eligibility, and that may cement another season for Addazio. This weekend gives them a ripe chance at securing it with a visit from Connecticut (7 p.m. ET; CBS Sports Network). Even without Brown, Boston College is favored by 21.5 points with an over/under of 50.5. A 26-14 victory would satisfy Addazio just fine.

Michigan State (7-3): The Spartans’ upstart hopes came to a sudden halt with a 48-3 loss at Ohio State. Suffice it to say, the Buckeyes are motivated.

Michigan State can return to the positive side of the ledger this weekend against Maryland (4 p.m. ET; FOX). Favored by 16.5 points with an over/under of 43.5, bookmakers expect the Spartans to prevail 30-13.

Miami (OH) (4-6): The RedHawks kept their bowl hopes alive with a 24-14 victory over Akron last Tuesday. They will need to keep on winning tonight (Wednesday) against Eastern Michigan (7 p.m. ET; CBS Sports Network). Favored by 2.5 points with an over/under of 50, Miami would hypothetically squeak by 26-24, but do not underestimate the Eagles.

North Carolina (2-8): The Tar Heels won. The Tar Heels won. Repeat, repeat, the Tar Heels won.

North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 34-31 on Thursday, ending a six-game losing streak. The Tar Heels should make it two in a row this weekend, hosting Western Carolina (3 p.m. ET; ACC Network).

USC (9-2): The Trojans won their third consecutive game by multiple possessions since falling in South Bend, this time 38-24 at Colorado. To conclude their season, they will look to do the same to UCLA (8 p.m. ET; ABC). Expectations are for USC to indeed finish with an exclamation point, favored by 16 with an over/under of 71. Putting up 43 in the final week of their regular season would probably be okay with the Trojans.

North Carolina State (7-3): Barely squeezing past Boston College was enough for the Wolfpack, looking to stay in the mix for a playoff-eligible bowl should both Clemson and Miami somehow make the Playoff. North Carolina State heads to Wake Forest this weekend (7:30 p.m. ET; ESPNU) as two-point underdogs. An over/under of 63 hints at a 32-30 final. That seems like a lot, and it seems like the wrong team is favored.

Wake Forest (6-4): The Demon Deacons scored 64 in a come-from-behind victory over Syracuse, trailing 38-24 at halftime but outscoring the Orange 24-0 in the fourth quarter to notch a 64-43 victory.

Miami (FL) (9-0): The Hurricanes won this past weekend, if anyone missed that bit of information. They now host Virginia (12 p.m. ET; ABC). Expect another blowout. Bookmakers project a 35-16 result.

Navy (6-3): The Midshipmen barely got past SMU, 43-40.

Stanford (7-3): The Cardinal upset Washington 30-22 on Friday thanks to home-field advantage and a short week for the Huskies. It welcomes Cal (8 p.m. ET, FOX) this weekend with expectations of a two-touchdown victory, perhaps something along the lines of 35-20.


Note: This space will continue to refer to the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange and Peach bowls as playoff-eligible bowls this year, not pieces of the “New Year’s Six.” The Cotton Bowl will be held Dec. 29 this year while the Fiesta and Orange Bowls are on Dec. 30. Those aren’t exactly New Year’s.

CFP Contenders & Notre Dame’s Opponents: Oklahoma & Wisconsin loom

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For all the talk about 13 data points this time of year, only a few games on each schedule matter. The College Football Playoff selection committee focuses on those when putting together each week’s poll, the most-recent having been released Tuesday night with Notre Dame still at No. 3.

The Irish opened their season by beating Temple; No. 5 Oklahoma began with a 56-7 victory over UTEP. Neither much matters anymore. Notre Dame beat Miami (Ohio) 52-17; No. 4 Clemson hosts the Citadel in two weeks. The eyes naturally move past both games when looking at the schedules. The Irish outran Boston College 49-20; No. 6 TCU rolled past Kansas 43-0. Frankly, the Horned Frogs’ conference opponent remains one of the country’s weakest teams no matter affiliation.

Rather than dissect the various birds’ weekends, a look at the Sooners, the Tigers and TCU makes more sense. Thus, in order of pertinence, import and meaning, the weekly look at opponents pivots from the teams scheduled to the teams who may yet be scheduled for January. In November, that context becomes the more important determining factor, rather than the all-inclusive content of September and October.

Clemson (8-1): In not moving the Tigers past the Irish this week, the committee may have made it impossible to do so moving forward. Clemson’s résumé received a greater boost this weekend, beating now-No. 23 North Carolina State 38-31, despite not leading until the second half and needing a last-minute interception to seal the road victory. Close as it was, the win means more than Notre Dame’s 48-37 topping of Wake Forest.

Yet, the Tigers remain a step back. Even if the best Irish opponents fall apart, diminishing the value of those wins, they may already be worth enough to keep Notre Dame staked ahead of Clemson. The biggest boost the Tigers can get from their past would be No. 10 Auburn beating the top-two teams a total of three times. The Irish would welcome that unlikely scenario, as it would greatly diminish two claims to top spots, even if that meant Clemson jumped to No. 1.

The Tigers still host Florida State (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) and the Citadel, have a trip to face South Carolina and meet a yet-to-be-determined foe in the ACC title game. That schedule will not elevate Clemson more than will Notre Dame’s remaining games, including a trip to that likely ACC title game challenger, No. 7 Miami.

Oklahoma (8-1): The Sooners, however, could still jump both the Irish and the Tigers. A 62-52 win over now-No. 15 Oklahoma State was not enough to push Oklahoma into the top-four, but three more games against top-25 opponents, including two against No. 8 TCU, could do it. Neither Notre Dame nor Clemson face as many remaining challenges.

This is not saying the Sooners’ overall résumé is better than either of the two ahead of it. This is saying if the committee already sees it as close, there is enough yet to come to move it ahead in those eyes. Those opinions are, after all, the only ones that matter.

That slate begins this weekend vs. TCU (8 p.m. ET, FOX) with Oklahoma favored by a touchdown. A combined point total over/under of 62.5 posits the Sooners as 34-28 victors and more pressure on the committee to consider moving Oklahoma and Heisman-frontrunner quarterback Baker Mayfield into the Playoff field.

TCU (8-1): Frankly, the next entry on this list is more pertinent, but having the Horned Frogs follow their upcoming opponent makes organizational sense.

TCU has little-to-no chance of jumping Notre Dame. This past weekend’s 24-7 victory against Texas didn’t much help the cause. Sure, the Horned Frogs still have up-to-two top-10 games remaining, but the Irish have one themselves. If TCU wins both this weekend and in the Big 12 title game down the line, that will not likely be enough to make up for a lackluster schedule thus far.

Oklahoma differentiated itself from the rest of the Big 12 with its win at Ohio State in September.

But what about undefeated Wisconsin at No. 8? The 9-0 Badgers could finish 13-0 with only one win of value. Even with Iowa vaulting itself into the top-25 this week thanks to a blowout of the Buckeyes, Wisconsin beating the No. 20 Hawkeyes on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) will not impress much. And yes, presume that will happen. The Badgers are favored by 12 with an over/under of 46, a theoretical 29-17 final.

It is hard to fault Jonathan Taylor and Wisconsin for winning all their games in a major conference. (Getty Images)

The question Notre Dame must wonder: Will an undefeated Power Five conference champion really not make the Playoff? If both Oklahoma and Wisconsin win out, this answer will matter a great deal.

This space does not know this answer, but it will also not fault a team for winning every game on its schedule.

The question may not matter, but it is the question at hand.

Because no one else in the Big Ten can make a claim. Ohio State fell to No. 13 after the Hawkeyes raced to a 55-24 victory. Quarterback J.T. Barrett dashed his Heisman hopes with four interceptions. Meanwhile, Penn State dropped to No. 14 thanks to a 27-24 loss at Michigan State, boosting the Spartans to No. 12. This did the Irish two favors: It removed a CFP contender from the conversation and it made September’s win at Michigan State that much more impressive.

Then comes the SEC: No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Alabama and the aforementioned No. 10 Auburn: If Georgia (9-0) and Alabama (9-0) keep winning until they meet in the SEC title game, presume both are in, no matter what Wisconsin worries may exist for others. Both face tests this weekend, though.

The Bulldogs are favored by 2.5 at Auburn, a 25-22 possibility on the horizon (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS). The Tide, meanwhile, heads to No. 16 Mississippi State expecting to cruise to a two-touchdown triumph (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).

If either is upset, that alone will not end Playoff plans, but it would create for a lot more hypotheticals to be bantered about. Let’s cross that bridge if/when we get to it.

For thoroughness’ sake, No. 9 Washington (8-1): The Huskies need some sort of chaos ahead of them to expect a bid. For now, a 38-3 win vs. Oregon didn’t hurt, and neither would a 28-22 notch Friday night at Stanford (10:30 p.m. ET, FS1). Then again, Pac-12 road teams have fared terribly on Friday nights this season.


That covers Georgia, Michigan State and Miami — oh, right, Miami came in at No. 7 in the new poll thanks to its 28-10 victory over now-No. 17 Virginia Tech — and there was a mention of North Carolina State (now heading to Boston College for a 12 p.m. ET kickoff on either ESPN2 or ABC depending on your region) and Stanford (fell out of the poll thanks to a 24-21 defeat to now-No. 19 Washington State). That leaves one more of Notre Dame’s impactful opponents to be mentioned.

USC limited Khalil Tate to only 161 rushing yards and three total touchdowns. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

USC (8-2) rose to No. 11 in the poll, making the Trojans the second-ranked two-loss team, behind Auburn. A 49-35 win vs. Arizona might not have been expected to provide such a jump in the standings, but the committee clearly respects what the Wildcats have done since inserting sensation Khalil Tate at quarterback. USC, just like Georgia, Michigan State and Miami, still controls its own path to its conference title game. That path should not struggle with this weekend’s obstacle, a trip to Colorado (4 p.m. ET, FOX). Favored by nearly two touchdowns with an over/under of 63.5 would make for a 38-25 Trojan victory.

As for the rest of the Irish schedule:

Temple (4-5): The Owls won 34-26 against Navy on Thursday, and now head to Cincinnati for a Friday-night matchup (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Favored by 2.5 with an over/under of 47.5 creates a 25-22 distraction while you ready for a night on the town.

Boston College (5-4): The Eagles come off a bye with the aforementioned date with the Wolfpack as only three-point underdogs. There could be value there, now that North Carolina State’s ACC hopes were dashed by Clemson. Perhaps the Wolfpack will struggle and fall on the wrong side of a 28-25 result.

Miami (OH) (4-6): The RedHawks beat Akron 24-14 on Tuesday night, now readying for a meeting with Eastern Michigan next Wednesday. MACtion, it is the opiate of the midweek miserable.

North Carolina (1-8): The Tar Heels head to Pittsburgh on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) having had nearly two weeks to prepare in hopes of overcoming a 9.5-point spread in the Panthers favor. A 29-22 score is not a normal football score, and expecting North Carolina to keep it that close might be unreasonable.

Wake Forest (5-4): Can the Deacons secure bowl eligibility at Syracuse? The 3 p.m. ET kickoff, not nationally-televised, has no favorite, only an over/under of 63. A 32-31 nail-biter never hurt anyone.

Navy (5-3): After that loss to Temple, Navy seeks bowl eligibility vs. SMU (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network), despite being 4.5-point underdogs. SMU has snuck up on the general public this year, and just may do that to the Midshipmen, as well.

Notre Dame’s Opponents: Six still hold conference title hopes

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How Notre Dame’s complete slate of opponents fares each week is becoming less and less important. A few of them remain pertinent to any discussions regarding worthwhile wins, but at least half the schedule is merely conversational filler at this point. If some of those entries become briefer with time, that is the reasoning.

Just how many times can it be said North Carolina is having a terrible season, anyway? And is that a harsh reflection on the word terrible?

As a whole, Irish foes fared well last weekend, finishing 6-2 when not including Notre Dame’s defeat of North Carolina State. This coming weekend does not bode to conclude as well, with only three favored of nine playing (again, not including this week’s Irish guest, Wake Forest). Four of those underdogs, though, could notch season-altering wins and further bolster any Notre Dame claim to a schedule so strong it warrants inclusion in the College Football Playoff despite its blemished record.

Temple (3-5): The Owls return from their bye all-but needing a win to keep bowl hopes alive. Undefeated No. 15 Central Florida awaits Temple on Nov. 18. If presuming that is a loss waiting to happen, the Owls need to win all their other games, including Thursday against Navy (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). As eight-point underdogs, though, that seems somewhat unlikely. A combined points total over/under of 55 equals a 31-23 conclusion.

Florida’s defense had absolutely no answer for Georgia senior running back Sony Michel. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Georgia (8-0): Some of these entries are getting shorter because the teams are plain bad. The summaries of the Bulldogs’ victories get repetitive because they are brutally-familiar at this point. Georgia beat Florida 42-7 on Saturday, jumping out to a 42-0 lead thanks to two forced turnovers and 137 yards and two touchdowns from senior running back Sony Michel. He needed all of six carries to inflict that damage.

The Bulldogs cruised so easily backup Gators quarterback and former Notre Dame starter Malik Zaire attempted one pass fewer than Georgia starter Jake Fromm did. Fromm finished 4-of-7 for 101 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Bulldogs did not need him much. Zaire finished 3-of-6 for 36 yards in the blowout.

Now Georgia readies for one of its toughest challenges of the season in South Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS). Despite the Gamecocks presenting a stiffer test than Florida may have, the Bulldogs are favored by a whopping 24.5 points in a game with a low over/under of 46. A 35-10 finish may be accurate, but the game itself will hardly be that competitive.

Boston College (5-4): Who are these Eagles and what did they do with the bumbling Boston College seen earlier this season? To extend their winning streak to three, the Eagles routed Florida State 35-3 on Friday. Freshman running back AJ Dillon led the way with 33 carries for 149 yards and a touchdown, part of a ground effort that gained 241 yards on 55 attempts, holding the ball for 35:15.

Not to be outdone, the Boston College defense forced three turnovers.

Eagles head coach Steve Addazio can enjoy this victory for a bit with Boston College on bye this weekend.

Michigan State (6-2): Spartan hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff fell by the wayside thanks to a triple-overtime 39-31 loss at Northwestern. Michigan State sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke did all he could to keep the Spartans in the game, throwing for 445 yards and a touchdown on 39-of-57 passing, but his offense managed only 95 rushing yards and turned over the ball three times.

Michigan State’s hopes of winning the Big Ten remain intact, though. That path commences at noon ET on Saturday (FOX) against Penn State. The Spartans are 7.5-point underdogs with an over/under of 49. If they could find a way to turn the tables of a 28-21 conclusion, they would still control their own chances at winning the conference.

Miami (OH) (3-5): The RedHawks come off their bye week hoping junior quarterback Gus Ragland is healthy enough to lead an upset of Ohio tonight (8 p.m. ET, ESPN 2). That’s right folks, we have reached the time of year when there is football on national television each and every night of the week. It will not last long, so enjoy the luxuries provided by MACtion while they last.

Miami is a 9.5-point underdog with an over/under of 55.5, hinting at a 32-23 final score.

North Carolina (1-8): The Tar Heels actually had a chance against Miami (FL) on Saturday, but they could not convert two early scoring opportunities to their maximum potential, instead settling for field goals to take a 6-0 lead. The Hurricanes then responded to take a 17-6 lead and that was about that en route to a 24-19 Miami victory. The score wasn’t even that close, with a late touchdown diminishing North Carolina’s deficit.

Here is the good news for the Tar Heels: They will not lose this week. They have it off.

Trojans junior quarterback Sam Darnold can keep USC’s conference title hopes alive with a victory over Arizona and emerging Heisman-hopeful quarterback Khalil Tate this weekend. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

USC (7-2): In a year in which the Rose Bowl will not necessarily host the traditional Big 10 champion vs. Pac-12 champion matchup, Notre Dame is still watching those two conferences intently. Much like Michigan State’s, the Trojans kept their conference hopes alive by topping Arizona State 48-17. Junior running back Ronald Jones ran for 216 yards and two touchdowns on only 18 carries while junior quarterback Sam Darnold threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns on 19-of-35 passing. Their performances were all part of a 607-yard offensive explosion.

USC will all-but settle the conference’s South division this weekend against Arizona (10:45 p.m. ET, ESPN). In a contest between last year’s midseason sensation (Darnold) and this year’s, Wildcats sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate, the elder is favored by seven points with an outlandish, if it wasn’t in a #Pac12AfterDark situation, over/under of 73. A 40-33 contest could last well into Sunday morning. It will obviously last even longer if even more points are scored, which seems quite possible.

North Carolina State (6-2): The Wolfpack can still win the ACC after falling to Notre Dame 35-14 this weekend. That decision will take a large step in one direction or the other against Clemson on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC). As a touchdown-underdog with an over/under of 51, North Carolina State surely wants to flip the tables on a 29-22 outcome.

Wake Forest sophomore receiver Greg Dortch will miss the rest of the season due to injury, an announcement made only days after Dortch repeatedly torched Louisville’s defense to spark the Deacons to a 42-32 victory Saturday. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)

Wake Forest (5-3): The Demon Deacons arrive in South Bend high from a 42-32 victory over Louisville. Depending on your view of the perceived success or failure of the Cardinals’ season, that win may not mean much, but no matter how it is viewed, Wake Forest beat one of the ACC’s recent powers, something it had not done since a 6-3 win in double overtime against Virginia Tech in 2014.

Senior quarterback John Wolford leaned on sophomore receiver Greg Dortch to keep pace with Louisville. Dortch finished with 167 yards and four touchdowns on 10 catches while Wolford threw for 461 yards and five scores on 28-of-34 passing, an average of 13.56 yards per attempt.

Dortch has since been ruled out for the season, a crucial loss for the Deacons as they head to Notre Dame as 13.5-point underdogs with a current over/under of 57. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC.) If anything, a 35-21 final would make Wake Forest the first Irish opponent to break 20 points this season. That seems unlikely.

Miami (FL) (7-0): The Hurricanes did not need another nail-biting finish, but they still got off to a slow start in slipping past North Carolina 24-19.

Miami will essentially play for its conference division title against Virginia Tech (8 p.m. ET, ABC). It should be a close one, which may play into the Hurricanes’ favor. They certainly are not fazed by a competitive fourth quarter, even if 2.5-point underdogs with an over/under of 50. A 27-24 conclusion would be worth watching before flipping over to USC and Arizona, even if the Hokies knock Miami from the ranks of the undefeated.

Navy (5-2): The Midshipmen exit their bye with a short week, heading to Temple on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). Favored by eight, Navy should come out ahead in a 31-23 evening.

Stanford (6-2): Without junior running back Bryce Love (ankle), the Cardinal baaaaaaarely managed to get past Oregon State on Thursday, scoring a touchdown with 20 seconds left to win 15-14. The score came only thanks to a Beavers fumble to set up a short field.

Stanford will risk a five-game winning streak at Washington State as two-point underdogs (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX). A 55-point over/under creates a theoretical final of 28-27 in the Cougars favor.