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Why Notre Dame Fighting Irish playoff hopes keep shrinking

Notre Dame keeps pulling out wins … and yet its playoff hopes are nosediving.

The Fighting Irish’s chance to reach the College Football Playoff now (14 percent) is one-third of what it was heading into the season (42 percent), according to ESPN’s Playoff Predictor. That preseason number was based on the fact that Notre Dame’s schedule was easy enough that going 11-1 was a reasonable possibility.

But that projection also required Notre Dame to be, well, good, which isn’t particularly clear now.

As the old saying goes: Good teams don’t barely beat Ball State and Vanderbilt. The offense is concerning, and if anything, quarterback Brandon Wimbush has played worse than he did a year ago.

None of that will matter if Notre Dame (3-0) can win out, but that’s looking increasingly unlikely. The Fighting Irish have a 25 percent chance to finish 11-1 or better, which is 10 percentage points lower than their chance to pull that off was before the season — and that was three wins ago.

To add to the bleak picture: 11-1 looks less likely to get the Fighting Irish into the playoff than it did before. The SEC is threatening to put two teams back in the playoff (49 percent chance!) and the Big 12 is looking a heck of a lot feistier than it did a few weeks ago (more on that in a bit). Ultimately, going 11-1 puts Notre Dame’s playoff chances only into the low 40s, because there now appears a higher chance that there will be four conference champions with one loss or fewer.

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