Notre Dame doesn’t want to talk about the latest College Football Playoff poll.
But they might want to pay a little closer attention considering how last season shook out during the season’s final two weeks. Slotted at No. 6 in this week’s rankings, Notre Dame is in the same Week 13 position as Ohio State last year, which ultimately closed strong before winning the first championship of the playoff era.
The Irish outlook is clearly different than the Buckeyes with just one opportunity to impress the committee without a conference championship game. But it’s not that different. Notre Dame needs the same kind of help from Oklahoma State that Ole Miss offered last year, meaning beat an in-state rival at home.
The Cowboys get No. 3 Oklahoma in Stillwater on Saturday night. In the regular season’s final week last year, the Rebels upset No. 4 Mississippi State in Oxford.
Notre Dame doesn’t want to talk about any of that, not with No. 9 Stanford looming in Palo Alto, where the Irish have lost three straight. They see any mention of beating the Cardinal by an overwhelming margin to be absurd.
Stanford is 29-4 at home under David Shaw with just one of those losses – a 53-30 defeat to Oregon four years ago – coming by more than three points.
“I think it’s kind of ridiculous for me to sit here and talk that way about Stanford,” said linebacker Joe Schmidt. “I have too much respect for their football team and their football program.”
While Showtime has documented Notre Dame’s locker room reaction the playoff polls the past couple weeks, that scene figures to get cut in the next episode.
Jaylon Smith said he was surprised to see the Irish drop. Schmidt said he didn’t care. Matthias Farley didn’t watch the rankings show even when Notre Dame was in the top four. Sheldon Day, tongue planted in cheek, said he first learned of the Irish drop from the media the day after the rankings came out.
For Isaac Rochell, any conversation about playoff positioning or postseason politicking can’t start until next week.
“It would be foolish and naïve to focus on that when we have another game,” Rochell said. “We still have another week of football. If we win, then we can have the discussion. When we win, we can discuss that.”
That’s a conversation Notre Dame wants to have. But scoring margins, game control and strength of record metrics probably won’t be part of it. Already a three-point underdog against the Cardinal, just winning would be accomplishment enough.
“It doesn’t matter by how much we win, we just want to win,” Smith said. “All that matters is the game this weekend against Stanford.”
And can Notre Dame make the playoffs with an impressive performance?
“I think there’s always a chance,” Smith said. “I think it’s just a matter of us taking care of our business.”