Notre Dame is entering the 2015 season as one of the trendy picks by some to make a run at the College Football Playoff, but Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel does not think the Irish should even be in the conversation regardless of what happens this fall.
Pinkel, while making his rounds through the summer ESPN car wash in Bristol, suggested no independents should be considered for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The lack of a conference championship is what drives home Pinkel’s point, but it seems like a clear shot at Notre Dame, the only independent likely to sniff the playoff conversation moving forward (sorry BYU fans).
Gary Pinkel said no independents in @CFBPlayoff. “Give Notre Dame year to join a league. They don’t have independents in NFL”
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 20, 2015
Notre Dame has a deal in place with the ACC to be a member in most sports, but independent in football. That comes with a scheduling agreement to include five ACC teams on Notre Dame’s schedule on a rotating basis. That is good for the ACC and good for the Irish. But Notre Dame’s schedule does not stop at six power conference opponents from the ACC. This year Notre Dame also plays Texas (Big 12), USC (Pac-12) and Stanford (Pac-12). That would be nine games against power conference opponents (one more than Missouri has scheduled unless you include BYU).
Should the Irish go 11-1, would Notre Dame suffer a similar fate experienced by Baylor and TCU last season? Both Baylor and TCU were left out of the College Football Playoff with 11-1 records. The lack of a conference championship game ended up hurting the Bears and Horned Frogs (as did Ohio State’s 59-0 demolishing of Wisconsin). This is a hypothetical that is nearly impossible to answer without knowing more information. How many power conference champions end the year undefeated or with one loss? How many suffer two losses but reap the benefit of a conference championship victory? What is the one game Notre Dame lost, and how did they lose?
Notre Dame has some good hurdles in front of them this year with road games at Clemson and Stanford and USC at home, not to mention Boston College in Fenway Park and a potentially tricky road game at Pittsburgh. Pinkel may not need to lose much sleep over Notre Dame getting in the playoff, especially at the expense of the SEC. A one-loss SEC champion should be considered a lock to reach the playoff in just about any season.
All I know is now I would love to see Missouri and Notre Dame in a bowl game.