Deemed the nation's No. 10 team, the Irish have a chance to move up steadily with wins over Navy, Northwestern, Louisville, and USC over the next five weeks. A win at Arizona State on Nov. 8 could elicit a two- to-three team leap in the Committee's eyes.
And it wouldn't hurt if Louisville were to upset Florida State Thursday night, thereby raising the Cardinals profile for their Nov. 22 matchup with the Irish in South Bend...and an 8-3 USC team replete with a November win over UCLA would likewise raise Notre Dame's overall profile should the Irish prevail thereafter in the Coliseum on Thanksgiving Saturday.
You see where this is going?
Beating ASU, and Louisville, and USC, and perhaps Navy and Northwestern -- that's the hard part. The easy part? Watching between 10 and 14 of the 17 contenders fall by the wayside over the next 39 days.
Among the 17, only Florida State does not face a fellow contender. Along with the Seminoles, a team that could arguably (however unlikely) lose, but still be voted among the top four, only undefeated Mississippi State could theoretically be afforded a slip, pending the opponent, of course.
(For a breakdown of the 17 contenders remaining schedules, click here)
So who should Irish fans root for? How about Mississippi State? The Bulldogs can take out Alabama and Ole Miss. One of the latter can likewise knock out Auburn. Auburn can knock out Georgia. So too could the SEC West Champion in the dominant conference's title game. And Arizona State winning out -- save for its Nov. 8 date with the Irish in Tempe -- would take care of both dark horse Utah and likely Pac-12 North champ Oregon.
How about the three remaining contenders from the Big 12? You can bet TCU, Baylor, and Kansas State will canibilize each other. After all, K-State plays both and TCU travels to Morgantown to take on the red-hot West Virginia Mountaineers. Baylor gets Oklahoma in Norman.
You think any from that lot emerges unscathed?
As for the top-heavy Big 10? Expect two from the Nebraska, Michigan State, and Ohio State triumvirate to fall, as the latter pair square off Nov. 8 in East Lansing with the winner facing the Cornhuskers in the conferences title game. Can Nebraska get past Wisconsin or Iowa? Would one-loss Ohio State jump one-loss Notre Dame? Can Michigan State beat Nebraska a second time if it must?
In other words, nothing has changed for Irish fans, or Rebels fans, or Tigers fans, or Spartans fans.
November is the time for change.
And it's an exceptionally hard time to win in college football.