Our blue and gold have a 42 percent chance of making the playoff, behind only the Clemson Tigers (67 percent), Alabama Crimson Tide (47 percent) and Georgia Bulldogs (46 percent). If the Irish beat the Michigan Wolverines in their opener Sept. 1, the model says that chance will improve to 53 percent. If they lose, the Irish’s chances of making the final four fall to 23 percent.
Seth Walder, who authored the article regarding the new “playoff predictor” metric, acknowledged Notre Dame was the biggest surprise of the top teams.
The Fighting Irish stand out as one team whose projection does not fit with the public perception. There are two major reasons for this:
1. Notre Dame is better than many people think. It doesn’t boast the sexiest offense, but the Fighting Irish actually ranked 12th in offensive efficiency last season -- a metric which considers the effectiveness of the unit on a play-by-play level and considers the strength of opponents faced. But more important than that, defensively, they ought to be stout. Notre Dame ranked 10th in defensive efficiency a season ago and is returning nine starters to that side of the ball.
2. As an independent, Notre Dame’s schedule strikes a nice balance in 2018. It’s difficult enough that a strong record would be an accomplishment and would catch the committee’s eye, but easy enough that 11-1 -- probably the record it needs to accomplish -- is within the realm of possibility.
ESPN’s model is trying to emulate the decision-making of the human College Football Playoff committee and, as such, identified five key factors that they believe the committee uses to determine each playoff team:
Strength of Record (how much teams have accomplished)
FPI (how good teams are)
Number of losses (incorporated into SOR but the committee places even more emphasis on losses)
Independent status (Notre Dame can’t be a conference champion, but all else being equal it might get more credit than a team that didn’t win its conference championship) -- despite the committee claiming it wants the four best teams.
The playoff predictor gives Notre Dame a 10 percent chance — at this point — to win the National Championship, which is better odds than it’s giving the entire Big 12.
So what do you think? To me, 42 percent feels incredibly high.
These numbers will change quite a bit as the season progresses — especially after the first weekend’s matchup against the Washington Huskies and the Auburn Tigers and Week 5’s clash between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Penn State Nittany Lions.
As ESPN updates its new “playoff predictor,” we’ll update you.