The Notre Dame Fighting Irish ain’t played nobody.
That is, at least, the opinion of Tim Tebow, the Florida Gators’ former Heisman winning quarterback, who discussed the Fighting Irish on ESPN’s “First Take” this morning.
Here’s the exchange, which we will comment on below:
MAX KELLERMAN: Let’s stay right with Notre Dame, Tim. Number one, they host Pitt. They have no more ranked opponents on the schedule. So how do they avoid a trap game the rest of the season? And if they win out, can you keep them out of the playoffs or the playoff?
TIM TEBOW: Well, they better avoid the trap game. They’re not playing — they don’t play a top 25 ranked team and they’ve, they’ve only played one in Michigan and Michigan under Harbaugh has never won a ranked road game ever! Not one!
And so, you know, I think that we have to look at this Notre Dame team and say, yes, they’ve been impressive. They’ve been getting better. Ian Book has done a great job since he’s, he’s taken command of the ship.
But at the same time we’ve got to see them play against someone that’s good. Stanford’s not good. Virginia Tech’s not good. I know we want to hype it up because they’re Notre Dame, but let’s wait and see when they play somebody that is good.
And listen, if we’re comparing a Notre Dame team versus a one loss LSU or one loss Oklahoma, who’s going to get that nod? I think that is very tough and I think that Notre Dame has to be undefeated to make it in. And, you know, I think they’ll get a lot of support because of their tradition. But they better be undefeated to give themselves a chance and they better hope another Power Five conference loses so they’re competing against a one loss team.
Oh, Tim, where do we even begin?
First off, Notre Dame has played three Top 25 teams this year — and won all three games. Tim is using one because that’s technically true, as of today. The Michigan Wolverines are the only remaining ranked team, after the Stanford Cardinal and Virginia Tech Hokies fell out of the Top 25.
See, Tim, that’s the funny thing about ranked teams. If you beat them, they tend to slip in — and sometimes even fall out of — the Top 25 rankings.
Second, Jim Harbaugh’s pathetic record on the road against ranked teams isn’t a demerit on Notre Dame’s resume. It’s an indictment of his own coaching in big games. I get that talking heads like Tebow need to make some sort of argument, but to cast aside Michigan, Stanford and Virginia Tech like they’re no big deals seems imprudent — especially when he moves to introduce the Oklahoma Sooners into the conversation.
Tebow’s ultimate position — that Notre Dame has to be undefeated to make the College Football Playoff — is probably right. If an 11-1 Irish is comparing its resume to a 12-1 Big 12 Champion Oklahoma and a 12-1 SEC Champion LSU for a final spot then, yes, I think the Playoff committee gives the nod to LSU for beating the Georgia Bulldogs (twice?) and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The chances of that particular scenario playing out seem relatively slim.
FiveThirtyEight’s College Football Playoff predictor gives the Irish a 38 percent chance of winning out (or a 62 percent chance of losing before the season concludes), the Oklahoma Sooners a 13 percent chance of running the table and the LSU Tigers a 2 percent chance of beating Georgia, Alabama and everyone else.
In Tebow’s scenario of LSU and Oklahoma running the table, those two teams actually have the best odds of making the playoff (99 and 82 percent, respectively). The last two spots would be among these three teams: at least one-loss Clemson Tigers (60 percent chance), a one-loss Ohio State Buckeyes (51 percent chance) and the one-loss Irish (40 percent chance).
Tebow said he wants to see Notre Dame play someone good before we should buy the hype. I’m not sure that opponent exists on the remaining schedule, which sort of puts the Irish in a untenable spot in Tebow’s argument.
Ultimately, I don’t think the College Football Playoff will pick a one-loss Irish over a more deserving team because of some ill-defined notion of “tradition” or “hype.” The way, of course, to remove all doubt is for Ian Book and company to win the remainder of their games.
Will Tebow be a believer then? I’m sure he’ll let us know...loudly.