This weekend’s games have the potential to impact Notre Dame football.
Notre Dame football fans are lucky. We don’t have to worry at all this weekend. We can sit back and simply enjoy the games with the knowledge there is almost no way the Irish will be denied a College Football Playoff spot. However, there are a number of games that could have a huge effect on the Irish going forward.
Here is the ten conference championship games ranked from least important to most important for Notre Dame football.
10. Sun Belt: Appalachian St-Louisiana
It’s impressive that Louisana made it to this. Appalachian St was supposed to be here. For both teams, a conference championship is the pinnacle of winning. Appalachian St will just be disappointed that they don’t have a NY6 shot.
9. MAC: Northern Illinois-Buffalo
For the Irish, the MAC Championship Game holds almost no interest. Buffalo has been a bit of a surprise this season, but they do have a few players that have legitimate NFL potential. Tyree Jackson, the Bulls QB, is the most notable amongst them.
8. C-USA: Middle Tennessee-UAB
No one outside of C-USA fanbases care much, but this is the most surprising conference championship game matchup. In 2016, UAB didn’t have a football team, but now they can win a championship. It is a great story, and definitely worth checking out.
7. Mountain West: Fresno St-Boise St
There is still an outside shot that the winner of this game represents the Group of 5 in the NY6. It is also a rematch game of last season’s Mountain West Championship Game, adding intrigue to what should be a competitive contest.
6. PAC 12: Utah-Washington
The PAC 12 is miles behind the rest of the Power 5. Both of these teams have three losses and no shot at the College Football Playoff. Only in a backwards world, where Notre Dame were to miss the Playoff, would the Irish see either of these two during bowl season. However, these two schools could be very important to the PAC 12 redeeming its reputation moving forward, which would help a Notre Dame team that plays USC and Stanford annually.
5. AAC: UCF-Memphis
I’m not saying UCF will make the College Football Playoff. I am saying that there is still an outside chance if UCF gets the chaos it needs to have happen. That’s a long shot. It’s even longer with McKenzie Milton’s awful injury. This game will be the fourth time in two seasons they play, and the fifth week in two seasons they’ve prepped for one another (due to a hurricane). UCF has won all of those matchups. This should be fun to watch just for pure entertainment.
4. ACC: Clemson-Pitt
There’s no way that Pitt wins, everyone assumes. I’m not going to predict that, either. It would be unreasonable. However, if the Panther were to win, the College Football Playoff would be turned on its head. First off, Notre Dame’s win over Pitt would look a ton better. Clemson would then be liable to miss the Playoff with what would be a very weak resumé.
3. B1G: Northwestern-Ohio St
Ohio St still has a shot at the College Football Playoff, not that they should. However, if they beat Northwestern and get some help, they’ll be the four seed for the Playoff. If the Irish and the other two teams assumed to be in the Playoff could have things go the way they want, the Buckeyes would make the Playoff.
2. Big 12: Oklahoma-Texas
Of the Power 5 Conference Championship Games, this should be the most entertaining. It’s the best rivalry game of the weekend. It is also very important that Texas is the only team Oklahoma lost to this season. Therefore, avenging that loss could very well justify their entry into the Playoff, just like it did for Georgia last season. Also, with the SEC Championship Game as it is, OU winning could potentially keep Notre Dame out of the College Football Playoff.
1. SEC: Georgia-Alabama
This is the most anticipated game of the weekend by far. Alabama is in. That’s win or lose. As a Notre Dame fan, I’m praying they win for a simple reason — if Georgia wins, they’ll both be in. Combine this with an Oklahoma win, and it is the only somewhat reasonable way that Notre Dame could still miss the College Football Playoff. Even in that scenario, it is unlikely the Irish miss the Playoff, but it is a concern — and worth noting.