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Notre Dame Football: The path to the top 10 is a real goal for the Irish


NCAA Football: California at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the College Football Playoff committee has released its latest set of rankings, the overall picture of a final ending to the season becomes a little clearer. While Notre Dame’s path to a New Years Six bowl game is still very rocky — there’s still a path.

But that’s not the path I want to talk about.

I want to talk about how Notre Dame can end the season ranked inside the top 10. When the Irish were voted as the #5 team in the country before the season began, the normal naysayers were out and about shouting that the Irish were overrated again. Evidence to the contrary made it clear that Notre Dame has been properly ranked for the last five years, but none of that mattered once the Irish lost to Marshall — and the point was further hammered home with its loss to Stanford.

Through it all, the Irish have put together really good wins, with the best one being the 35-14 thrashing of the then #4 Clemson Tigers. It’s why Notre Dame is back in a position no one thought was possible just a month ago, and that’s a solid 10-3 top 10 finish.

Keep in mind... the committee doesn’t vote after the bowl games, so the rankings will have to come from the polls that people consider worthless in the Coaches and AP Top 25.

For the Irish to finish in the top 10, they need to keep winning of course, but they also need other things around them to happen. The “things” aren’t as wild as needing the Iowa Hawkeyes to win in the Big 10 Championship game in 2021, and with 3 weeks left there are plenty of ways to go about it. This week, I’ll concentrate on this week and then we can reevaluate next Tuesday.

10 Utah Utes vs 12 Oregon Ducks

WANT: Utes

It isn’t just because of poll math that it would be better for Notre Dame here. It creates a stronger USC game as the Tojans only loss came at the hands of Utah. Either helps this week, but a Utes win helps slightly more for next week.

7 USC Trojans vs 14 UCLA Bruins

WANT: Trojans

Obviously... we really want that prime time game in L.A. to have as much hype as possible. Like Penn State, USC has no ranked wins — none. This would give them a little more shine.

Oklahoma Sooners vs 22 Oklahoma State Cowboys

WANT: Boomer

Not a huge deal, but it would be one less 3 loss team surrounding the Irish.

Navy Midshipmen VS 20 UCF Knights

WANT: Mutual Respect

If Navy was a true friend, they would take care of this UCF team that stands right next to ND in the polls.

3 Michigan Wolverines VS Illinois Fighting Illini

WANT: Bert

It’s not going to happen, but if Michigan were to lose to both Illinois and Ohio State in consecutive weeks, that would make life worth living (and push ND ahead of Michigan whose best win is against an overrated Penn State team that will have no ranked wins this year).

15 Kansas State Wildcats VS West Virginia Mountaineers

WANT: Country Roads

Kansas State has no notable wins this year either. At #15 they are a big roadblock for the Irish to rise — which is ridiculous.

9 Clemson Tigers VS Miami Hurricanes

WANT: Dabo

Notre Dame’s best win needs to remain Notre Dame’s best win and the only blemish on the Tigers record (for now).

11 Penn State Nittany Lions VS Rutgers Scarlet Knights

WANT: The Sopranos

While unlikely, a Rutgers win here is a win for truth and justice.

13 North Carolina Tar Heels VS Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

WANT: Duke’s Mayo

Like with Clemson, Notre Dame needs UNC to win until they don’t.

21 Tulane Green Wave VS SMU Mustangs

WANT: Pony Express

Tulane is another team that surrounds ND and just needs to fall back another notch for breathing room.

14 Ole Miss Rebels VS Arkansas Razorback

WANT: Pork loin

It’s easy... an Ole Miss loss means at least a one spot rise in the rankings.

Just watch

While there is no way all of these things go Notre Dame’s way, half of them would be really good for the Irish. We will reevaluate on Tuesday with PHASE 2 — as long as the Irish take care of their own business on Saturday against the Boston College Eagles.