Conrad Ukropina kicked Notre Dame out of College Football Playoff contention last weekend. But the fact Notre Dame-Stanford came down to a game-winning field goal also all but assured the Irish of a New Year’s Six bowl bid.
Notre Dame dropped two spots to No. 8 in the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday night.
With its regular season complete and only North Carolina owning a legitimate chance to jump Notre Dame in Sunday’s final poll – that would require the Tar Heels knock off No. 1 Clemson in the ACC title game – it’s hard to imagine the Irish tumbling out of the Top 10.
The Irish are followed by No. 9 Florida State, No. 10 North Carolina, No. 11 TCU, No. 12 Baylor, No. 13 Ole Miss, No. 14 Northwestern, No. 15 Michigan, No. 16 Oregon, No. 17 Oklahoma State and No. 18 Florida. Baylor will face lowly Texas this weekend while Florida gets Alabama in the SEC title game.
Even if North Carolina, Baylor and Florida all won and passed Notre Dame, the Irish would still be in New Year’s Six contention. ACC runner-up Georgia Tech made the Orange Bowl last year despite being ranked No. 12 in the final poll.
Clemson remained No. 1 this week followed by No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Iowa, No. 5 Michigan State, No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Stanford.
Iowa and Michigan State face each other in the Big 10 title game, which might impact Notre Dame’s bowl opponent.
If bowl bids were assigned today, Notre Dame would get Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 1), with Iowa making the playoffs and Michigan State making the Rose Bowl as the Big 10’s highest-ranked team outside the playoffs. But a lopsided Big 10 title game would drop the loser below Ohio State in the final poll, which could mean Notre Dame draws Iowa or Michigan State in the Fiesta.
The Irish last faced the Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl 10 years ago, while the Spartans come back on the schedule next season. Notre Dame hasn’t faced Iowa since 1968.
Should Notre Dame move to the Peach (Dec. 31), it’s more likely to get an ACC opponent in Florida State or North Carolina.
The Irish could also draw the highest-ranked Group of Five team, which will be Houston or Temple. If the Owls beat the Cougars in the American Athletic Conference title game this weekend that would mean a potential rematch with the Irish, which is likely to be avoided by the committee.
Regardless of where Notre Dame ends in the bowl season, it got a little more certainty about its destinations on Tuesday night.
No. 8 should be enough to get the Irish into a top tier bowl.