The Notre Dame football program made the CFP for the second time in three years, but does that really help the program?
Well, it happened. 31-14 was the final score of the Rose Bowl, and no one was surprised at all that the Notre Dame football team never had a shot. Even diehard Notre Dame fans knew what was going to happen before it did, as Alabama’s offense was too explosive.
Notre Dame played too conservative, and by halfway through the 3rd quarter the college football world collectively said, “Dagger.”
Now, the perception battle rages. Should Texas A&M have made it over Notre Dame (obviously not), did Cincinnati deserve a chance to prove themselves (obviously), did Oklahoma have the best chance to beat Alabama (quite possibly). Notre Dame deserved their spot in the College Football Playoff, regardless of how people treat the post-mortem on this game.
The question is, would it have been better to have missed the Playoff?
Texas A&M fans are on a rampage about being disrespected, claiming they deserved a shot, and they’re doing so cloaked in the safety of not being able to be humiliated in the Playoff. Instead, they drew the Orange Bowl against a solid North Carolina team that has a bunch of opt-outs.
If Notre Dame and Texas A&M switched spots though, it would be Notre Dame who got to lament about how they could have hung with Alabama better, because no one could beat them in the first round. Fans couldn’t pile on the perception of Notre Dame’s big game failures in the same way.
In the scenario that these two teams shifted spots, Notre Dame would be in the Orange Bowl, and they wouldn’t play North Carolina again, though. The Tar Heels would be bumped to a lower-tier bowl game.
Instead, based on bowl tie-ins, Notre Dame would draw someone from the SEC or B1G 10. Florida was already going to the Cotton Bowl, and Georgia to the Peach, so in this scenario, there’d be two SEC teams in the Playoff and no realistic fifth option for the New Year’s Six. Florida played in the Orange Bowl last year, and Georgia would want to stay home in Atlanta.
This leaves a B1G 10 team, like Northwestern based on standings, for Notre Dame to play.
Now, Northwestern has had a good season, but Notre Dame would have beaten them by two scores. It would have been the first major bowl win for the Irish in over 25 years. In its own way, that is a major hurdle to clear and it’s a step that they need to take at some point.
That would help with perception in a major way. Of course, if the draw was against Northwestern, as it likely would be, that may not help the perception as much as by beating Georgia. It would still help, though.