What a world we live in. On the final Saturday of the scheduled college football season, Notre Dame can sit back and relax, pick and choose who to cheer for, idly watch potential future opponents.
As things stand, the No. 3 Irish are likely to face No. 2 Clemson in a Playoff semifinal. It would take a wild day to change that. What would need to happen? What should Notre Dame fans hope for leading into Sunday’s pairings announcement (at about 12:30 ET on ESPN)?
If Pittsburgh wins as a 27.5-point underdog, the Irish would presumably jump Clemson into the No. 2 spot and could match up with current No. 5 Oklahoma. Of course, the committee could just flip Notre Dame with the Tigers and then nothing really changed except uniform colors, but it is at least conceivable the Sooners slide up to No. 3. This may be the only scenario in which the Irish avoid Alabama, Clemson and Georgia in the semifinal, a distinct want for any rational thinker.
If not that, then No. 4 Georgia beating No. 1 Alabama, even as 12.5-point underdogs, would create a litany of possibilities for the selection committee to consider. It would likely put an unbeaten Clemson atop the standings and Notre Dame against the Bulldogs. Make no mistake, Georgia is once again excellent and only considered a preferable opponent because Alabama and Clemson are that good. The best part for the Irish in this hypothetical is it pits those two against each other in the semifinal, presuming the committee would keep Alabama in the top four, as it should.
What if both upsets occured? It serves no greater good for Notre Dame. In fact, it may set up the Irish to face the Tide in the semifinal. No one wants that.
One of those occurring is the ideal. It sets up Notre Dame to face no more than one of the dominating duo as it chases its first title in 30 years. More likely? Chalk holds. At which point, neither Oklahoma nor No. 6 Ohio State has a good chance of upsetting Alabama, but the Sooners’ high-powered offense could at least make things interesting.
Is there a chaos scenario remaining? Not one feasible enough to warrant discussion. The odds of Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State all losing are roughly 25-to-1.
Going by the order of the day, Irish fans should cheer for Oklahoma (12 ET; ABC), then Georgia (4 ET; CBS), and presuming Alabama wins, then Pittsburgh (8 ET; ABC). Frankly, how Ohio State (8 ET; FOX) fares should hardly matter.
12 ET: Oklahoma -8 vs. Texas on ABC.
4 ET: Alabama -12.5 vs. Georgia on CBS.
8 ET: Clemson -27.5 vs. Pittsburgh on ABC.
8 ET: Ohio State -14 vs. Northwestern on FOX.
(Lines accurate as of late Friday afternoon.)