During ESPN’s “College GameDay” broadcast from The Masters in Augusta, Ga., on Saturday morning, the GameDay crew discussed how Notre Dame’s victory over then-No. 1 Clemson last weekend has impacted the College Football Playoff picture.
Assuming both the Tigers and Irish win out in the regular season and meet again in the ACC Championship Game, Kirk Herbstreit believes if Clemson avenges its loss with a win in the rematch, that would assure the ACC of sending both teams to the playoff.
“If you think about it, if Notre Dame beating Clemson – if they’re able to win against BC and win out, and they go down the road and they get to the ACC Championship and Clemson wins all theirs – if they split, I think they’re both in,” Herbstreit said. “I think both those teams will secure a spot in the playoff.”
David Pollack asked Herbstreit if he would still feel the same way should Clemson – with star quarterback Trevor Lawrence back at the helm after missing last Saturday’s game at Notre Dame – not only beat the Irish, but dominate them in the ACC title game and win by a wide margin.
“I think it depends on what’s going on behind them (in the CFP race), but they have an argument – they beat Clemson,” Herbstreit said of Notre Dame. “They’re going to have the better win than anybody else. They’re probably going to be in if they split.”
In Pollack’s mind, the intrigue surrounding the competition for the four CFP spot decreased after Notre Dame’s win over Clemson, considering the increased likelihood of both those teams reaching the playoff, along with odds favoring both Alabama and Ohio State to make the final four.
“The playoff drama just kind of got shrunk a little bit now,” Pollack said. “I’d say Notre Dame now, because of that win, makes the odds a lot higher for two ACC teams to be in. So, everybody else was probably a little bit upset last week after watching that, the teams that are chasing – the Cincinnati’s, the BYU’s, the Pac-12, Oregon’s.”
Chris “The Bear” Fallica, a research producer and sports betting analyst for ESPN, agreed that the CFP committee would be hard-pressed to not put both Clemson and Notre Dame in the playoff, as long as the Tigers win the grudge match in the conference title game.
“There were three massive losers last week,” Fallica said. “Miami in the ACC because now, they’re not going to get to the ACC title game. I think they were expecting Notre Dame to lose. And Cincinnati and BYU. I think, unless it’s like 50 to nothing in the ACC title game, it’s going to be hard for the committee to leave those two one-loss ACC teams out with a win.”
The only thing that could shake up the CFP picture, in Fallica’s opinion, is if Alabama and Florida square off in the SEC Championship Game, and the Gators pull off the upset.
In that scenario, the committee would have to evaluate five strong contenders – Clemson, Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida and Ohio State – for the four spots.
“That would be the only thing that could really make it super dramatic,” Fallica said of a potential Florida victory over Alabama. “Then you have the five teams – then BYU and Cincinnati can totally forget about it. It’s going to be an interesting dilemma if Alabama does lose to Florida.”