The Notre Dame football schedule will go a long way in helping to decide which four teams play for a championship.
Not all schedules are created equal, and Irish fans certainly know how true that is when it comes to the annual Notre Dame football slate. Simply due to Notre Dame’s independence, the Irish end up playing some of the biggest names in college football every year — and those games often weigh heavily on the College Football Playoff committee’s final four.
The 2018 season is no different. Sure — technically every game matters — but there are a handful of games on Notre Dame’s slate that are going to act as College Football Playoff qualifiers or eliminators. The intrigue surrounding these games stems from the fact that — as of right now — there’s not a game on the schedule that the Irish couldn’t win.
Here are the five Notre Dame football games in 2018 that will have the biggest influence in deciding the four teams that qualify for the College Football Playoff.
Sept. 1 vs. Michigan
Most of the “Way Too Early Top 25” articles have the Michigan Wolverines in or near the top ten to begin the season. Notre Dame can be found in the teens of the same articles and polls. A Michigan loss knocks the Wolverines into the teens and means they’ll likely need to run the table the rest of the year for a chance to play for a title. A win on the road to open the season probably plants Michigan firmly in the top ten. A Notre Dame loss probably knocks the Irish out of the Top 25. A win for the Irish puts the nation on notice that Notre Dame will be a major player in 2018.
Sept. 29 vs. Stanford
Stanford has a brutal slate of their own to begin the year. They could either be unbeaten or arrive in South Bend already with a loss or two. If they are undefeated, a win over the Irish on the road likely means they are a top five team when they head to Washington on Nov. 3. A loss to Notre Dame probably eliminates them from contention.
Oct. 6 at Virginia Tech
The Hokies are a sexy sleeper pick to win the ACC this season. If they are unbeaten when the Irish come to Blacksburg, it means they already took out Florida State. A win over Notre Dame in front of a national audience would announce Justin Fuente and Virginia Tech’s arrival onto the national scene into the playoff conversation. A Notre Dame win would probably be it’s strongest of the season — especially in such a hostile atmosphere.
Nov. 10 vs. Florida State
The Seminoles will have run a serious gauntlet by the time they head to South Bend in November. If they have one or no losses, this game will be one of their last hurdles before the final College Football Playoff selection show. Unless they run the table in the ACC, a loss to Notre Dame probably eliminates Florida State from playoff contention.
Nov. 24 at Southern Cal
Aside from an early-season trip to Stanford, the Trojans have a fairly manageable schedule. They avoid the Washington Huskies in the regular season, which is huge. Even with a loss to Stanford, they could very well be in the thick of things when it comes to the College Football Playoff race. A win over what will likely be a quality opponent in Notre Dame will help USC’s cause. A loss to the Irish at home to finish out the year probably eliminates Southern Cal.