Notre Dame is undefeated and ranked No. 5 in the country ahead of their game against Pitt on Saturday. Given the upcoming slate the Irish have, the team is a trendy pick to eventually make the College Football Playoff if they win out — a real possibility given there are no ranked teams remaining on the slate.
However, there are still obstacles and stumbling blocks out there, including at least five Power Five conference champions (and maybe a few others) that will think they, too, will be occupying a spot in the final four. Despite that fact that Notre Dame will be sitting at home on the final week of the season when conference title games are everybody’s focus, the school’s leadership is not fretting too much about getting left out in the cold even if they prove to be one of the best teams in the end.
“I have enormous confidence in the selection committee and the process,” athletic director Jack Swarbrick told CBS Sports. “What the prior years have demonstrated is they’re focused on the cardinal rule: Identify the four best teams.”
Interestingly, a lot of debate over the potential inclusion of the Irish has centered on the fact that the team, as a football independent, will not play a conference title game for a 13th data point on the season. While that is an opportunity to lose a game against a good team, it’s also a chance they can add to their resume and the possibility of strengthening the schedule even further is something that Swarbrick is open to provided NCAA rules change in the near future.
“We’d be happy to play a 13th game,” he said. “There’s only one [other] school (BYU) that’s told they can’t play a 13th game. We would love to do it.”
Teams are normally limited to a 12 game regular season schedule and then a conference title game appearance if they qualify. Teams are also permitted to play a 13th regular season game if they have scheduled a game at Hawaii. While it does not seem that Swarbrick is going to start putting the Rainbow Warriors on the docket every season going forward, it does sound as though he’s given some thought to getting creative to keep Notre Dame on a level playing field with some of their Power Five peers by the time the CFP Selection Committee starts to break things down.