It has been a rough week for the Notre Dame football program. First, the school was blindsided when Brian Kelly, the winningest coach in school history, left for LSU on Monday. On Tuesday, the Irish were jumped in the College Football Playoff rankings by Oklahoma State with the Pokes at No. 5 and Notre Dame at sixth. Thus, it will take a small amount of chaos for the Irish to reach the playoff because they don't play this weekend.
If chalk holds on conference championship Saturday, No. 1 Georgia will beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game as a 6.5-point favorite and will enter the playoff as the No. 1 seed. No. 2 Michigan will beat Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game as a 10.5-point favorite and will enter the playoff as the No. 2 seed. No. 3 Alabama will not make the playoff with a loss to Georgia. No. 4 Cincinnati would get in by beating Houston as a 10.5-point favorite in the AAC Championship Game.
Notre Dame famously wants to remain independent so it can keep long-standing rivalries such as USC, Stanford and Navy – plus keep its NBC contract to itself. That independence likely will cost ND this year because it won't have a chance to impress the committee and if No. 5 Oklahoma State beats Baylor as a 5.5-point favorite in the Big 12 title game, the Irish are left without a chair. Remember, they got into last year's playoff while playing in the ACC.
If Alabama were to beat Georgia, both are getting in as would Michigan and presumably Cincinnati if they both win. Thus, the ideal and most realistic scenario for Notre Dame would be a Crimson Tide loss and an Oklahoma State loss to Baylor. The two-loss Bears are No. 9 and would not jump into the Top 4. Notre Dame is +2500 currently at Caesars Sportsbook to win the national title.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said that no decision has been made as to an interim coach for Kelly for whichever bowl game and that the school might not appoint one at all. He added that if the school does appoint an interim coach, that coach would not be considered for the full-time position. Swarbrick is meeting with Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman today and Freeman is considered a favorite for the full-time job along with Cincinnati's Luke Fickell.
In the College Football Playoff's seven-year history, only six Top 4 ranked teams in the penultimate rankings didn't make the playoff: No. 4 Georgia 2019; No. 4 Georgia 2018; No. 2 Auburn 2017; No. 4 Wisconsin 2017; No. 4 Iowa 2015; and No. 3 TCU 2014. The Horned Frogs were the lone team among that group to win its finale.
Every team in CFB history ranked first or second in the penultimate rankings made the playoff except in 2017 when No. 2 Auburn lost 28-7 to Georgia in the SEC title game and dropped to No. 7 in final rankings. This year's final rankings are Sunday.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Projected national semifinal lines
- No. 1 Georgia (-17) vs. No. 4 Cincinnati
- No. 3 Alabama (-5) vs. No. 2 Michigan
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