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Get ready for Notre Dame to join the College Football Playoff party | Opinion | Sports

Wake up the echoes because Notre Dame football looks well on its way to being back.

The Fighting Irish are halfway home to securing a spot in the College Football Playoff. If coach Brian Kelly’s team keeps rolling with newly inserted junior quarterback Ian Book, plan on the 6-0 Fighting Irish in the four-team field. Three games ago, Book replaced the ineffective Brandon Wimbush, who threw just one touchdown in thee starts.

A 12-0 Notre Dame team won’t be denied a playoff spot. With Book, new life has been injected into the offense. In his three starts, the offense is averaging 46.3 points. With Wimbush, ND averaged 23 points.

The Irish’s defense is already strong, but Book is a difference-maker on offense. For the season (three starts), Book is completing 73 percent of his passes for 887 yards, nine touchdowns, just one interception and three rushing scores.

ND’s next three games are home to Pitt, vs. Navy on Oct. 27 in San Diego, then at Northwestern Oct. 3, a game that could potentially be tricky.

Its last three games looked difficult before the start of the season. Many circled the Florida State game in South Bend, Indiana, on Nov. 10, but the Seminoles are struggling at 3-3.

On Nov. 17, ND plays another neutral-site game vs. 4-2 Syracuse at Yankee Stadium, then closes out the regular season at USC on Nov. 24, a game that doesn’t appear as difficult as it did prior to the start of 2018.

The Fighting Irish are passing all eye tests, but their schedule could be an issue for some if the likes of FSU, USC, Stanford and Virginia Tech lose games down the stretch. Strength of schedule is always a factor for the CFP committee.

A team to watch for ND is Michigan. The Irish beat the Wolverines, 24-17, to start the season, but U of M has won five straight since that game. If coach Jim Harbaugh’s team keeps winning, it only helps the CFP chances for Notre Dame.

At this point, though, the Irish are playing so well, it might not matter.

Top 10

(last week’s ranking in parenthesis)

1. Alabama 6-0 (1): Won at Arkansas, 65-31

2. Ohio State 6-0 (2): Defeated Indiana, 49-26

3. Notre Dame 6-0 (3): Won at Virginia Tech, 45-23

4. Georgia 6-0 (5): Defeated Vanderbilt, 41-13

5. Clemson 6-0 (6): Won at Wake Forest, 63-3

6. Penn State 4-1 (9): Off last week

7. West Virginia 5-0 (NR): Defeated Kanas, 38-22

8. Washington 5-1 (10): Won at UCLA, 31-24

9. Michigan 5-1 (NR): Defeated Maryland, 42-21

10. Central Florida 5-0 (NR): Defeated SMU, 48-20

Watch list: Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, LSU, Miami (Fla.)

Top games to watch

Oct. 11

Texas Tech at TCU, 7:30 (ESPN)

Oct. 13

Minnesota at Ohio State, noon (Fox Sports 1)

Nebraska at Northwestern, noon (WEWS)

Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, 2:30 (WKYC)

Baylor at Texas, 3:30 (ESPN)

Georgia at LSU, 3:30 (WOIO)

Michigan State at Penn State, 3:30 (Fox Sports 1)

UCF at Memphis, 3:30 (WEWS/ESPN2)

Washington at Oregon, 3:30 (WEWS/ESPN2)

Missouri at Alabama, 7 (ESPN)

West Virginia at Iowa State, 7 (Fox Sports 1)

Wisconsin at Michigan, 7:30 (WEWS)

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