Make no bones about it, Notre Dame football looked really good Saturday night. But they haven’t made the College Football Playoff… yet.
Contrary to popular belief held by fans and pundits alike following Notre Dame’s win over Michigan last night, Notre Dame has not yet made the College Football Playoff.
Look, I am as happy as any other Irish fan on the planet right now. Winning the first game of the season against one of Notre Dame’s storied rivals in Michigan is certainly a great start. But at the end of the day, that’s all it is: a start.
Winning a game that provided so much hype leading up to it can often result in overly-emotional, knee-jerk reactions. Taking emotion out of the picture and thinking logically leaves us with a simple fact: We do not yet know how good Notre Dame is. We also do not know how good Michigan is.
What looks like a signature win now could look like a lackluster one in 8 weeks if Michigan is a .500 (or worse) team by then. We were all so pumped after that 31-0 blowout against Michigan in 2014. That win was followed shortly after by a monumental collapse in November. The Irish finished 8-5 that season.
I also remember leaving Notre Dame Stadium last season after they smoked USC. We were all drinking the playoff Kool-Aid. And then the embarrassment at Miami happened. And then the stagnant effort against Stanford happened. That win against USC was all but swept from memory. What was once an impressive win transformed into a fluke, seemingly in the blink of an eye.
If we are being honest with ourselves, Notre Dame fans are painfully aware of how quickly the narrative can change. Yet, so many of us still find ourselves drooling over playoff projections that include Notre Dame in the mix. Maybe it is us wanting to revel in the glory now in the event of a collapse in the near future. Maybe we actually believe these projections. Whatever the case, the first week of the season is not the time to seriously consider the thought of Notre Dame making the College Football Playoff
But some members of the staff at ESPN released their playoff projections after week one anyway. Three of the four staff members have Notre Dame in the playoff as of today. It is hard to assert with any certainty, but I imagine Michigan would have found themselves in a similar position in the eyes of these ESPN reporters had they won last night.
The landscape of college football is such that each and every game has the potential to completely change everything for a team. One game can catapult a team below the radar into the spotlight. One game can take a team that is on top of the world and dash their hopes of a playoff run.
Look, I am not trying to be negative here. I am absolutely pumped that Notre Dame beat Michigan last night. I am just trying to provide a dose of reality.
Yes, there were flashes of brilliance last night from Wimbush, the defense, and the rest of the Fighting Irish squad. But there is also a lot to work on. We need to stay focused on improving each game rather than looking ahead to so many things we have no way of knowing, perhaps the most unknowable of which is Notre Dame’s playoff fate this early in the season.
Let’s all enjoy this win. And then let’s take a deep breath, pump the breaks, and recognize it is only one game. One game in a series of at least 12. One game that’s impact we will not know for quite some time.