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A final summary of Notre Dame bowl possibilites

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UPDATE: Wisconsin ranked at No. 6, with Auburn somewhere behind the Badgers and Alabama in the College Football Playoff, removes the Camping World Bowl from these considerations. If Notre Dame is in the top 12, it will head to a playoff-eligible bowl, most likely the Cotton Bowl. If not, then the Irish will be in the Citrus Bowl facing an SEC team on Jan. 1.


By the time today’s first NFL game kicks off, Notre Dame will know its bowl destination. If not then, shortly thereafter. It entirely depends on the final College Football Playoff selection committee poll, though not entirely concerning where the committee slots the Irish. The poll is scheduled to be announced at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Three possibilities remain plausible enough to be outlined.

Playoff-eligible bowl, most likely the Cotton Bowl
This is the most unlikely outcome, but also the one deserving of the most debate. After the weekend’s conference championships, Notre Dame is one of three teams in the rational discussion for the 12th and final spot in the six playoff-access bowls.

In last week’s poll, TCU ranked No. 11, Washington at No. 13 and the Irish were No. 15. Since then, the Horned Frogs lost 41-17 to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. Neither the Huskies nor Notre Dame played, while No. 12 Stanford fell 31-28 to USC on Friday.

There is logic to elevating the Irish past TCU and Washington.

There is also one fact: The committee ranked the Huskies ahead of Notre Dame last week. It is a stretch to think Georgia’s and USC’s victories were enough to change that, especially when considering Miami’s face plant (lost 38-3 to Clemson) diminished the Irish claim.

If the Irish finish at No. 12 in the ranking, then a playoff-eligible bowl it is, and the Cotton Bowl seems the most likely destination. Central Florida is a near lock for the Peach Bowl due to proximity. USC is headed to the Fiesta Bowl for similar reasoning, and Miami is obligated to the Orange Bowl. Avoiding regular season rematches, Notre Dame would not head to either of those latter two.

An SEC team will almost undoubtedly oppose the Knights in Atlanta, and one way or another it is natural to move a Big Ten team to face the Pac 12 champion, befitting tradition. Then, either a remaining SEC team or Big Ten team — whichever conference does not snag the fourth spot in the Playoff — will face the Hurricanes.

That leaves the Cotton Bowl and, presumably, Penn State (Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Don’t hold your breath.

Citrus Bowl; Orlando, Fla. (Jan. 1, 1 p.m., ABC)
For the Irish to head to the New Year’s Day lead-in to the Playoff, Wisconsin must head to the Orange Bowl. The Badgers get that right only if they are ranked ahead of all non-Playoff SEC teams. In other words, Wisconsin needs to be ranked ahead of Auburn and possibly Alabama, if Ohio State claims the fourth and final Playoff spot.

The Buckeyes cannot go to the Orange Bowl, a quirk included in the contracts as something of a concession to the Rose Bowl in years where the Rose Bowl is a semifinal. Thus, even if Alabama makes the Playoff, it is the Badgers who need to fit in ahead of Auburn, not Ohio State.

In the case of Alabama making the Playoff, a conspiracy theorist could see the committee putting Wisconsin ahead of Auburn to be sure to send an SEC team to the Peach Bowl, held at the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. If the Tide do not make the Playoff, then that would no longer be a concern as the SEC would have two teams floating amongst the eight to be assigned to eligible bowls.

If any of this comes to be, Notre Dame would face an SEC team in the Citrus Bowl, theoretically LSU.

Camping World Bowl; Orlando, Fla. (Dec. 28, 4:15 p.m., ESPN)
If Alabama is not in the Playoff, then this is the reality awaiting the Irish. The Tide would head to the Orange Bowl, a Big Ten team to the Citrus Bowl and then Notre Dame plays the Thursday evening following Christmas.

This all also applies if Alabama is in the Playoff, but Auburn finishes ranked ahead of Wisconsin. The Tigers would subsequently head to the Orange Bowl, and the dominoes fall right back into place.

The Irish would face a Big 12 foe, perhaps Iowa State.


Nailing down which of the latter two scenarios is most likely hinges largely on if Ohio State or Alabama claims the final Playoff spot. If the Buckeyes do, then the odds tilt heavily toward Notre Dame going to the Camping World Bowl. If the Tide gets a chance to face Clemson for the third January in a row (from a selfish view, please let that be case), then the question would be if the committee gives merit to how close Wisconsin kept the Big 10 title game compared to the SEC’s blowout with Auburn on the losing end.

A meaningless prediction from these parts: Alabama gets in, Wisconsin heads to the Orange and Notre Dame beats LSU to start 2018.

A Championship Weekend Primer with a Notre Dame focus

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There are a few perks to Notre Dame being a college football independent. Its schedule varies and creates unique fan experiences, nearly every game is broadcast on national television, and the Irish season ends before the weekend of championship games.

No, that will not affect Notre Dame’s entry to the College Football Playoff. Not this year and not in seasons to come. As long as the schedule remains three-quarters filled with Power Five opponents, enough opportunities to prove their worthiness will always be available to the Irish, especially when compared to the Pac 12 or the ACC thanks to set scheduling parameters.

It means today can be an easygoing day enjoying good collegiate football with little-to-no stress. The day’s results will, however, alter where Notre Dame heads for it bowl game.

12:30 p.m. ET on FOX — TCU vs. Oklahoma with the Sooners as touchdown favorites.
4:00 p.m. ET on CBS — Georgia vs. Auburn in what is essentially a toss-up.
8:00 p.m. ET on FOX —Wisconsin vs. Ohio State with the lower-ranked, two-loss Buckeyes as six-point favorites.
8:00 p.m. ET on ABC — Miami vs. Clemson has the Tigers as 9.5-point favorites.

Once more, a recap of how these games determine the Irish bowl destination:

If the top four teams in the College Football Playoff all win (Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma, Wisconsin), then Notre Dame will enjoy the Dec. 29 Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

Most would prefer the Irish play on New Year’s Day in the Citrus Bowl, also in Orlando. It is not a significantly better bowl, but it would allow for easy viewing thanks to the holiday. The simplest sequence of events to make that a reality has Ohio State beating Wisconsin to edge No. 5 Alabama into the Playoff. This scenario works only if the Badgers are then ranked ahead of the SEC title game loser.

Any and all bowl assignments should be figured out Sunday afternoon and evening, beginning with the final College Football Playoff selection committee rankings released at noon ET on ESPN.

A STAT REGARDING THE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
Notre Dame played four of the Power Five conference champion contenders, including both Pac-12 participants. (USC beat Stanford 31-28 on Friday.) This is a unique circumstance also deriving from the Irish independence.

Only Texas and Georgia Tech played as many as three of the 10 teams this season, both going 0-3 in those games.

HERE, SOME RANDOM TRIVIA
Which Beatle was barefoot on the cover of the album, “Abbey Road”?

Answer at the bottom of the post.

THIS WEEK’S INSIDE THE IRSH READING:
Monday’s Leftovers: Notre Dame was always going to play this out at least one more year
A look at Notre Dame’s November in one word: Turnovers
Notre Dame’s bowl projections and opponents’ results
Where Notre Dame was & is: Defensive Line
Friday at 4: The results of 40 Notre Dame preseason predictions

INSIDE THE IRISH COVERAGE FROM THE STANFORD GAME
Notre Dame’s turnovers lead to a 38-20 loss and 9-3 finish
Things We Learned: Notre Dame is far from the finished product it once looked to be

THIS WEEK’S OUTSIDE READING:
Fortuna: Is this as good as it gets for Notre Dame under Brian Kelly? ($)
On the eve of the SEC championship, the league is a mess off the field — “This is the Exxon Valdez spilling a million gallons of New Coke and calling for help on ESPN The Phone. It is a breathtaking mashup of dysfunction, delusion, misplaced arrogance, mob mentality, panic and poor leadership.”
Tennessee fans got what they wanted, and now the school is the laughingstock of college football — “Often times, program tradition is a great thing. But sometimes it’s a toxic thing, and Tennessee appears to be finding that out now.”
How did Alabama find itself playing 10-plus minutes of a basketball game with only three players?
And how exactly did Alabama fare playing with only three players?


Paul McCartney, obviously.

Friday at 4: The results of 40 Notre Dame preseason predictions

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Accountability is the backbone of credibility. With that in mind, let’s laugh at how many of this space’s 40 Notre Dame and Irish-adjacent preseason predictions were woefully misguided.

(Sure, the bowl game seems applicable to some of the season-long stat thoughts, but the vast majority of these watches are ended.)

1) The completed Campus Crossroads project will receive largely positive reviews.
RESULT: Let’s call it a hit. (1-for-1)

2) The completed Campus Crossroads project will be largely an afterthought by season’s end.
RESULT: Now this is certainly valid. (2-for-2)

3) The videos remembering the 1977 national championship team will be a worthwhile usage of the new video board above the south end zone, and a nice way to ease Irish fans into comfort with the board.
RESULT: It took until the USC game in mid-October, but this proved accurate. (3-for-3)

4) Fans will initially balk at pre- and post-game shows on the video board.
RESULT: No one ever seemed bothered by those, actually. (3-for-4)

5) Those shows will become background noise.
RESULT: Claiming this even if they essentially started as background noise. (4-5)

6) The Chicago Cubs will be on the road the night of the USC game, in game six of the National League Championship Series.
RESULT: Well, this would have been accurate if the Cubs had not lost in five games to the Los Angeles Dodgers. (4-6)

7) The Cubs will be knocked out of the playoffs by the time North Carolina State visits Notre Dame a week later.
RESULT: Nailed it. (5-7)

8) At least one junior will prematurely declare an intention to return for his senior year despite NFL Draft possibilities.
RESULT: Perhaps partly a result of receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and tight end Alizé Mack having underwhelming seasons, this never came close to happening. (5-8)

9) Senior left guard Quenton Nelson will not make that mistake.
RESULT: Not that it is in doubt — he’ll head to the NFL — but Nelson never stuck his foot in his mouth during the season. (6-9)

10) Miami will be a warm and high-scoring affair.
RESULT: Warm? Yes. High-scoring? For only one side. (6-10)

11) DeShone Kizer will throw more touchdowns than Malik Zaire will.
RESULT: Kizer’s five are a handful more than Zaire has managed. (7-11)

12) Kizer will lose more turnovers than Zaire will.
RESULT: Kizer has thrown 14 interceptions and lost seven fumbles. Zaire, largely due to hardly playing, threw only one interception and lost just one fumble this season. (8-12)

13) Sophomore Chase Claypool will lead the Irish in special teams tackles.
RESULT: Claypool finished the season with one tackle. Suffice it to say, this was inaccurate. Freshman Jordan Genmark-Heath made 11 tackles this year, all to memory on special teams. If he did not lead Notre Dame in that category, he was certainly among the top few. (8-13)

14) Claypool will have more receptions than tackles this year.
RESULT: He had 28 more, in fact. (9-14)

15) Junior kicker Justin Yoon will set the school record for field goal percentage.
RESULT: Entering the season, Yoon had to make 9-of-16 kicks to claim that mark, needing all 16 to reach the minimum requirement of 50.  Indeed, Yoon finished the season 12-of-16. (10-15)

16) Irish special teams will win at least one game.
RESULT: Nope. It could be argued they played a pretty pivotal role in the loss at Stanford, too. (10-16)

17) Fifth-year senior Cam Smith will have the second most catches for Notre Dame.
RESULT: Partly due to a hamstring injury, Smith made only eight catches in five games. Even if he had been healthy, though, it is unlikely he would have kept pace with Claypool’s 29. (10-17)

18) Mack will have the second-most receiving yards.
RESULT: Marking Mack down as a disappointment may seem harsh, but he certainly fell short of nearly all expectations, including this one. Mack finished with 166 yards, finishing fifth for the Irish. Claypool lands at second in this category, as well, with 402 yards, holding off sophomore Kevin Stepherson and his 359 yards in only eight games. (10-18)

19) St. Brown will lead Notre Dame in all three receiving categories.
RESULT: 31 catches, yes. 468 yards, yes. Four touchdowns, trails Stepherson by one. (10.67-19)

Josh Adams‘ season went better than any reasonable predictions could have ever expected. (Getty Images)

20) Sophomore running back Tony Jones will finish with the second-most rushing yards, behind only Adams.
RESULT: Jones finished fifth with 232 yards. Junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush finished second with 765. (10.67-20)

21) Adams will rush for between 1,174 and 1,274 yards.
RESULT: Sometimes, missing a prediction is not a bad thing, such as when Adams rushes for 1,386 yards. (10.67-21)

22) Junior running back Dexter Williams will finish with the fourth-most rushing yards.
RESULT: Nailed it, though sophomore Deon McIntosh finishing ahead of Williams was never a consideration. (11.67-22)

23) Wimbush will gain more yards on the ground than Williams.
RESULT: More than double, in fact, 765 to 324. (12.67-23)

24) The Irish will average between 34.9 and 36.4 points per game.
RESULT: With 424 points through 12 games, the current average is 35.33. Bullseye. (13.67-24)

Junior linebacker Te’von Coney’s surge this season was certainly appreciated by the Irish. He made 99 tackles through 12 games to lead Notre Dame. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

25) Senior linebacker Nyles Morgan will make the most tackles.
RESULT: Junior linebacker Te’von Coney’s emergence rendered this inaccurate. Coney finished with 99 tackles, compared to Morgan’s 83. (14.67-25)

26) Senior linebacker Drue Tranquill will make more big plays than Morgan while finishing second in tackles.
RESULT: Tranquill finished third in tackles with 74, but the spirit of this foresight was always about the big plays. Lazily leaning on statistics gives Tranquill the edge. (8.5 tackles for loss including 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups including one interception, three fumbles recovered, one fumble forced = 15.5 — Coney had 13 TFLs, one fumble recovered and one fumble forced = 15, but actually only 14 because those two fumble actions came on the same play.) (15.67-26)

27) The defense will total 25-29 sacks.
RESULT: A strong bowl game could tilt this, currently sitting at 22. Considering three would exceed the season average, however, let’s be strict and mark this as a miss. (15.67-27)

28) The defense will force 25-29 turnovers.
RESULT: Twenty may have dwarfed last year’s 14, but it still falls short of this projection. (15.67-28)

29) The defense will allow between 23.6 and 25.1 points per game.
RESULT: That preseason prediction also included the thought of, “The defense will not return to the 2013 level of allowing only 22.4 points per game …” Rather, it exceeded that level and allowed 21.83. (15.67-29)

30) Notre Dame will hit the over on a win total over/under mark of 8.5.
RESULT: Check. (16.67-30)

31) The Irish will finish the regular season with a win at Stanford.
RESULT: *crickets* (16.67-31)

32) Unders: South Carolina under 5 (finished with 8); Georgia Tech under 6 (finished with five); Wake Forest under 5.5 (7); Stanford under 9 (9), and LSU under 9 (9).
RESULT: One correct, two wrong, two pushes. That is a loss at any sportsbook. (16.67-32)

33) Overs: Ohio State over 10.5 (finished with 10); Rutgers over 3 (finished with 4); Arizona over 4.5 (finished with 7); Oregon over 7.5 (finished with 7), and North Carolina State over 7.5 (finished with 8).
RESULT: Going 3-2 would count as a win at any sportsbook. (17.67-33)

34) Notre Dame will beat Georgia to reach the top 25 for the first time.
RESULT: *The return of the crickets* (17.67-34)

35) Four Irish opponents will be ranked at the end of the year.
RESULT: Six currently are: Georgia, Miami, USC, Stanford, Michigan State and North Carolina State. One could argue the semantics of six being ranked means four are ranked. Let’s go with that. (18.67-35)

36) They will not be the same four ranked teams as the beginning of the year’s USC, Stanford Georgia and Miami.
RESULT: Such a line implies only four would be ranked. This is obviously not the case, and serves as grounds to remove the previously credited point in accuracy’s favor. (17.67-36)

The end of the season may have been a letdown, but Irish coach Brian Kelly actually met most logical preseason goals. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

37) Notre Dame will remain in the top 25 for the rest of the season.
RESULT: Once the Irish reached the rankings, they stayed there. Valid enough. (18.67-37)

38) Notre Dame will finish the regular season ranked between No. 13 and No. 18 in the polls.
RESULT: Presuming Wisconsin does not beat Ohio State 140-0 this weekend, this should land in the black side of the ledger. (19.67-38)

39) The Irish will play a bowl game in Orlando.
RESULT: Again, barring a Bucky beat down of the Buckeyes, one could have booked flight plans in August. (20.67-39)

40) At least 15 of these will be wrong.
RESULT: Well, that was obvious.

Final score: 21.67 for 40, or 54.17 percent.
Such a positive percentage would pay for at least a few drinks if properly-deployed. There are worse track records to have in this gambit.


To add one more piece of prognosticator’s applause, if anyone closely read each week’s look at opponents’ schedules, the reader may have noticed certain thoughts intermixed. Those thoughts finished the year 38-21. Now that would buy a few rounds.

Where Notre Dame was & is: Defensive Line

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Entering the season, Notre Dame’s defensive line may have been the biggest positional question on the roster. Entering bowl preparations and the subsequent offseason, the Irish front is now the unit with the fewest questions around it.

WHERE NOTRE DAME WAS
Let’s pull a quote from the “Things to Learn” preceding preseason practice, which adds an emphasis to wonderings about the defensive tackle spot, although the broader concerns applied to the entire line.

“Will someone step forward and make an impact at defensive tackle?

“… Junior Jerry Tillery and senior Jonathan Bonner are the presumptive starters at the moment. Tillery has shown the talent necessary to provide the desired effect, but it has been on display inconsistently at best. …”

Tillery was the most-established lineman in a group returning zero sacks from the 2016 season. Note: That is not an exaggeration. No defensive lineman still on the Irish roster recorded a sack a year ago. In April’s Blue-Gold Game, a pass rush was visible, but it was taken with a large grain of salt due to the red jerseys worn by the quarterbacks.

The summer departure of senior tackle Daniel Cage due to health reasons did not help the lack of confidence in the defensive line’s depth, experience or talent pool.

WHERE NOTRE DAME IS
Let’s start with that stat. The Irish managed 22 sacks this year, led by Tillery’s four and up from last season’s 14 total. Fifteen of this year’s quarterback takedowns came from the defensive front. That alone marked improvement, but it hardly illustrates the reasons for optimism moving forward.

The aforementioned preseason practice ponderings pointed to the three freshmen defensive tackles — Kurt Hinish, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Darnell Ewell — as possibilities to supplement Tillery. Ewell arrived at Notre Dame the highest-rated recruit of the trio, but it was Hinish and Tagovailoa-Amosa who contributed greatly this season while Ewell preserved a year of eligibility.

Joining the youth movement, sophomore end Khalid Kareem broke out, surpassing classmate Julian Okwara as a notable threat for seasons to come and possibly pulling even with sophomore Daelin Hayes.

In all these instances, with the arguable exception of Hayes, their stats are worth mentioning, but they do not encompass how many snaps these young players handled, almost all of them competently. (Hayes stands out in a good way: His stats are better.) As a whole, they transformed the defensive line from a position seemingly lacking both talent and depth into the source of the Irish defense’s strength.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING
In 2016, Notre Dame allowed 182.4 rushing yards per game (No. 72 in the country), 378.8 total yards per game (No. 42) and 39.0 percent of third downs to be converted (No. 60). This season, the Irish have given up 153.2 rushing yards per game (No. 48), 366.7 total yards per game (No. 44) and successful third downs only 33.5 percent of the time (No. 28). Clearly, each metric improved in defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s first season with the Irish.

Sophomore defensive end Daelin Hayes may have recorded only three sacks this season, but his constant threat to opposing quarterbacks such as USC’s Sam Darnold impacted the game much more. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Jr. tackle Jerry Tillery: 52 tackles; 8.5 tackles for loss; 4.0 sacks
So. end Daelin Hayes: 28 tackles; 6.5 TFLs; 3.0 sacks
Sr. end Andrew Trumbetti: 27; 4.0; 0.5
Sr. tackle Jonathan Bonner: 27; 3.5; 2.0
Sr. end Jay Hayes (no relation): 26; 3.5; 1.0
So. end Khalid Kareem: 18; 5.5; 3.0
So. end Julian Okwara: 16; 3.5; 1.5
Fr. tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa: 12; 1.5; 0
Fr. tackle Kurt Hinish: 7; 0.5; 0

COMING QUESTIONS
Of the above nine-man rotation, only Trumbetti has used up all his eligibility. His was a successful and productive senior season, but not so much so there should be any concern about the combination of Kareem and Okwara seeing more playing time and suitably replacing him.

Both Tillery and Bonner have decisions to make. Each has another year of eligibility remaining. Tillery’s size alone makes him an intriguing NFL prospect. If he were to declare for the NFL Draft, it would be conceivable he be a mid- to late-round pick. Bonner, meanwhile, has said he does not intend to pursue a fifth year, but those things can change when a coach expresses an interest.

Senior defensive end Jay Hayes put together a stout third season of competition, setting the stage for him to lead an established defensive line next year. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

As far as forward-looking unknowns, though, the Notre Dame coaches undoubtedly have strong ideas of what to expect in both instances. This is not a position group hinging on a player making some dramatic leap in spring practice to fill an unforeseen hole in the roster. The two Hayes and the bevy of first-year contributors created an established commodity, one Elko will lean on in 2018.

On top of that, add in Ewell. A full season in a collegiate weight room brought the tackle enough development he was being featured in strength and conditioning highlight videos by season’s end. He will play next season, with or without Tillery and Bonner, and he could quickly reestablish himself as the lead force in his class.

A season ago, it was normal to doubt if enough defensive linemen could earn playing time for the Irish. A fall with a nine-man, youth-heavy rotation proved that answer to be a yes, a certain and resounding yes moving forward.

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.