Notre Dame football has caused its share of debate in regard to the College Football Playoff. Would expansion favor Notre Dame’s title hopes?
Many people have weighed in with their opinions of whether or not the College Football Playoff should expand from four teams to eight. For Notre Dame fans, there should be mixed feelings about whether expansion is to the benefit of the Fighting Irish.
Many fans and websites (including this one) have weighed in on what expansion would mean for the Irish. The most likely scenario for expansion is that the playoff committee would increase the field to eight teams and keep the current selection and ranking method. Undoubtedly, this would be the best scenario for the Irish to get into the playoff. Surely, expansion would increase the likelihood of Notre Dame making the playoff.
But outside of merely getting in to the playoff, would expansion help the Irish win the playoff?
It seems safe to say that the Notre Dame football program is still in a slight rebuilding stage. That building started after a 4-8 year in 2016. After watching Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff, it seems clear that the rebuilding isn’t quite finished–at least Notre Dame fans hope it’s not.
Notre Dame seems to be in a place to compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff most years. Getting over the hump means continued recruiting efforts, developing talent, and establishing depth. For Notre Dame, getting over the hump isn’t going to be easy.
In terms of the College Football Playoff, Notre Dame fans should want to keep the current format. Think about it: As it stands, Notre Dame will make the playoff in most years it deserves to be there. Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick even made headlines in recent days, saying that Notre Dame will explore adding a 13th game to its schedule to appease the “13th data point” argument for getting into the playoff.
But as we’ve seen, even when Notre Dame has been deserving of being there, that doesn’t mean they have the ability to truly compete in the playoff. As it stands, the Irish have a better chance of pulling an upset–or maybe two–than they do of winning three straight games against other teams better than or equal to Notre Dame in talent.
Had the College Football Playoff featured eight teams this past season, Notre Dame would have seen Ohio State in the quarterfinals before having to play Clemson (assuming the Tigers would handle Michigan) in the semifinals.
In the current state of the program, it seems highly improbable (or maybe downright impossible) for the Irish to win three straight games against teams like Ohio State, Clemson, and Alabama.
Could Notre Dame get hot at the right time and play back-to-back great games at the end of December and in early January? Yes. But the more obstacles you put in front of Notre Dame, the less likely it is for the Irish to perform well in the playoff. For the sake of Notre Dame ever winning a National Championship, the playoff needs to continue to feature four (or fewer) teams.