Are the Fighting Irish playoff worthy?


With week eleven in the books, Notre Dame remains undefeated after trouncing Florida St., 42-13. If the college football selections were to be made today, then the Fighting Irish would be in most likely playing Clemson for a spot in the National Championship.

The road to the College Football Playoff is not particularly easy for the Irish. More specifically, a perfect regular season is crucial. Notre Dame is not in a conference for football, which means there is no conference championship game that can win them some points with the playoff committee. Teams like Michigan and Georgia can lose a game in the regular season, which they have, and still have the same amount of wins as a team like Notre Dame plus a Conference Championship. As a matter of fact, Michigan is projected to make the playoff as a four seed which is one seed lower than Notre Dame who beat Michigan at the beginning of the season.

Strength of schedule is a huge indicator of who gets into the playoff. Take UCF for example. They completed an undefeated season last year, yet their strength of schedule withheld them from the CFP (College Football Playoff). However, because Notre Dame is not in a conference, they can beef up their schedule with some powerful competition. Assuming they win out, strength of schedule should be in their favor.

I talked to Notre Dame offensive lineman and Class of 2016 Elder grad, Tommy Kraemer, about their goals and expectations for the season. “At the beginning of the season we set three goals. Beat Michigan, undefeated at home, and 4-0 in November. Last season we were on a roll and had a chance to make the playoff but we crumbled in November.” The Irish have achieved two of their three goals so far, and they cannot be focused on the playoff when there is still work to be done. “Our main focus as the season goes on is to stay undefeated in November,” Kraemer said.

After the Irish fell out of contention for the playoff last year, their playoff chances this year were unknown. I asked Tommy if someone would have told him before the season that they would be number three in the country with a playoff spot on the line would he think they were talking crazy: “No it wouldn’t have been crazy. We’ve always believed we could be one of the top teams in the country.

Pullquote Photo

We worked our butts off in the off-season to get where we are. We have a special team that truly cares about each other. When you have those pieces, success will come.””

— Tommy Kraemer

This weekend, Notre Dame takes on Syracuse (Nov. 17). Syracuse is sitting pretty at thirteenth in the nation: a much more difficult challenge than expected at the beginning of the year. Ardent Irish fan Brady Murphy said, “Syracuse is on a roll. This game is a must win for Notre Dame. The Orange can give them a game, but if Ian Book is taking snaps, then I think the Irish come out on top.”

The last time Notre Dame made it to the Championship, the College Football Playoff was still a myth. In the 2013 BCS National Championship game, the #2 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide trounced the #1 ranked Notre Dame 42-14. With Alabama’s recent dominance the road to a Championship will most likely coincide with beating the Crimson Tide. Alabama is a college football juggernaut this year, and although it is a ways down the road, I asked Tommy what he thinks about a championship rematch: “to be honest, we haven’t watched a whole lot of Alabama, but they have athletes and we have athletes. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

With bowl season is right around the corner, the Fighting Irish are a force to be reckoned with.