Perhaps the biggest threat to the SEC’s continued championship dominance and appearances in the College Football Playoff is a successful Notre Dame season, particularly if the Fighting Irish go undefeated.
The talk ramped up this week as an undefeated Notre Dame entered the top five of the Associated Press poll.
On ESPN’s “Get Up!,” Kirk Herstreit laid out a worst nightmare scenario for Alabama fans if Notre Dame is able to finish the regular season 12-0. Add in undefeated teams like Clemson and Ohio State, which appear increasingly possible, and that spells trouble for the team that loses the SEC Championship Game. In this hypothetical scenario, it’s Alabama.
“It’s officially the middle of October with all of these what if scenarios and man, this one’s a doozy,” Herbstreit said, according to quotes compiled by Bama OnLine. “I honestly think if you got Notre Dame at 12-0, even though it’s Alabama losing to Georgia in this scenario, which I don’t think would happen, I still think Notre Dame would be up into the top four if they’re undefeated. I can’t imagine any scenario leaving Notre Dame out if they’re 12-0. The real issue would be if Alabama ran the table, Ohio State ran the table, Clemson ran the table and Notre Dame ran the table and you had an SEC game with Georgia narrowly losing to Alabama at the end … I just can’t imagine Notre Dame being left out.”
The danger about evaluating Notre Dame is that while the Fighting Irish don’t have the stranglehold on television like they did in generations past, the national brand remains strong. There’s a prevailing theory that the CFP is a TV show, and in an attempt to secure high ratings, the committee would select Notre Dame from a national perspective. Sure, Herbstreit believes this is a different Notre Dame team than recent years. Without saying as much, this team is more appealing to those coaches on the committee than say, for example, the 2012 team that lost to Alabama in the 2013 BCS National Championship. Never mind a generation or more ago.
“I know today in 2018 we don’t look at Notre Dame the same way we did in the 70s and 80s, but still — this is a different Notre Dame team with Ian Book and Dexter Williams and that defensive line than I think we’ve seen Notre Dame in the last eight or 10 years, even when they played Alabama and got blown out. This doesn’t feel like that kind of Notre Dame team.
“Brian Kelly has a different group and I think the (selection) committee, once they start evaluating these teams, will see this is a more complete Notre Dame team, especially with Dexter Williams at tailback. Everyone talks about Ian Book, but Dexter Williams at tailback is a legitimate threat with that Notre Dame offense.”
Notre Dame has resume wins over Michigan, Stanford and Virginia Tech and still has quality opponents Syracuse and Southern Cal. One interesting game could be Navy on Oct. 20, which could provide the much-needed upset from the SEC’s perspective.