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College Football Playoff Roundtable: Should Notre Dame be able to have its cake and eat it too?

We’re deep-diving into the playoffs this week.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

With it being the bye week, and the season past its halfway mark, we thought it would be helpful, or at least interesting, to spitball about the College Football Playoffs. Now in its fourth year, there appears to be just one mortal lock on the eve of the Committee’s first playoff rankings. So, we’re taking stock of the season with all of our editors and contributors. Moreso than other years, 2017 has a lot divisiveness in just composing a four-team field; and that disagreement is particularly sharp when it comes to conference strength, merits of championships, the value of ranked wins, and other metrics of more or less dubious validity.

I’m moderating these roundtables, and today am joined by erstwhile Senior Editor, CB and our newest football contributor, podcast host Brad Kanning.

If the playoff field were announced today, what would the field be and the seedings (in order):

CB: Alabama, Penn State, Georgia, TCU

BK: Alabama, Penn State, Georgia, TCU

What undefeated Power 5 team needs to remain undefeated to enter the field of four, and why: Alabama, Wisconsin, Miami, TCU, Georgia or Penn State?

CB: Wisconsin, because they ain't played nobody, PAWWLLL! Seriously though, their schedule is very weak. Come December, Michigan might be the only ranked team they have played all year. The Badgers should stroll to 12-0. If they do and lose the Big Ten Championship Game, they are not getting in.

BK: If I’m on the committee, it has to be Wisconsin. Their schedule is laughably bad. Their hardest game in the regular season will be either Iowa or Michigan and the mighty offenses both teams have. For all the hell Alabama catches for “not playing anyone” after breaking their opponents season, Wisky has a schedule that could ruin a Jenny Craig diet with a single glance due to all the cupcakes. They absolutely need to beat either Ohio State or Penn State in the conference title game to have a shot, and even then it’s not a shoe in.

As of today, what one-loss Power 5 team is in the most trouble and why?

CB: Michigan State because they have a serious case of Struggle-win-itis. Plus, they still have to play Penn State and at Ohio State. Washington State is a close second.

BK: Clemson. The loss to Syracuse could be what keeps them out of the playoff. NC State leads the Atlantic Division ahead of Clemson, but Clemson plays them in two weeks. They need that head-to-head win to take back control of the division to play in the conference title game against what seems to be Miami. Still, getting past Miami then is going to be no easy task either. Thankfully for Clemson, they are the reigning National Champs, so that will help their case, even though the committee would never admit that.

With the unsteady play by the PAC 12 and the ACC, as well as the cannibalization in the Big 12, is this the year that a conference gets two teams in? Penn State-Ohio State, Alabama-Georgia, Bedlam winner-TCU, etc?

CB: Yes. Despite what the bozos on ESPN tell you, this is not a democracy. The Committee will pick who they think are the best four teams.

BK: It’s tough to say right now, because I would have thought Penn State would have gotten in over Ohio State last year. We still don’t know what the committee will do yet in these situations. I think they want to possibly avoid having two teams from the same conference in, especially the SEC. If any potential situation could actually happen though, it would be Alabama and Georgia.

Georgia looks to have the best win in the country, as of now (@ND). For both teams to make the playoff though, both will need to be undefeated and UGA would need to win in a close game. Imagine the backlash if that happens and two SEC teams make the playoff. *computer melts down*. The committee loves conference champs not named Penn State, so if UGA is 13-0 they are in. If Bama is 12-1 they still have a shot (Ohio State last year) but it would depend on what the other top 5 teams look like then and if you can justify putting Alabama in still (they will).

The playoff committee has, by and large, seemed to use adhere to the old BCS computer rankings to determine the field, especially when making determinations between Nos. 4 - 8. Along the way, the committee cobbles together differing reasons each week for the Top 25. Should we have just used a BCS plus-one model then, or is the playoff format preferable? Why?

CB: The BCS was too bogged down on what bowls the teams go to because Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany thought it was so damned important for his champion to play the PAC champion in the Rose Bowl. Doing a BCS plus-one model is opening up another round of whining and conjecture. Who gets to be the plus one? Rose Bowl Champ vs Sugar Bowl Champ? What about the Orange Bowl Champ or Fiesta Bowl Champ? Or what about the plucky little Boise team that beat Oklahoma??? No thank you.

BK: I think the playoff format gave the people what they wanted so far. Outside of who’s ranked 4-6, fans of teams 7th and below can’t really argue being left out of the playoff, and only have a gripe for what bowl tie-in they are in line for. I like how they start fresh each week and the committee should continue to do it the way it does.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Notre Dame
Potential playoff rematch?
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Do you see the playoffs expanding in 2026 when the present deals are up? And, should they?

CB: Oh dear sweet Lord I hope not. If you go through the history of college football, there have been many instances where as many as three teams have had arguments for the #1 spot. But I can never recall a year when four have deserved it, much less five or more. So, why should #5 thru #8 or #16 teams get a shot? So, they can injure a key player on a top team? Please spare me the comparisons to basketball. Football is a brutal sport and games take a week to recover. Basketball teams can play two games in one day.

BK: Yes I do. It’s the same reason marquee home-and-homes are a dying event: Straight Cash Homie. It’s no secret how much money the playoffs are making compared to the BCS format, and that’s what almost everything comes down to. I don’t think they should, but I’m also not against it. If you have one year before 2026 where a major program is left out (Bama, OSU, Oklahoma, etc) in favor of a team that’s not a perennial favorite, it will definitely happen.

Can one-loss Notre Dame overtake a one-loss conference champion for inclusion in the field? Why or why not.

CB: Yes, as long as UGA does not take a nose dive. Their one point loss to the Bulldogs looks better each day. Coupling that with resounding wins over their other opponents to date (all by 20+ points) and hypothetical wins over NC State, Miami and Stanford is enough to convince me... and the Committee.

BK: No. Or should I say that I hope not. Notre Dame needs to be punished for their arrogance and for joining a conference in all major sports but football. The committee has made it clear they love a conference champ, and if it was 1 loss Notre Dame vs 1 loss Penn State last year, instead of Ohio State, I think Penn State would have gotten the last spot over The Fighting Irish. Unless Lou Holtz is on that committee, I feel comfortable in my stance.

Switching gears for a second, who is the Group of Five champion and making a big money bowl?

CB: It will probably be the winner of the AAC. IMHO, South Florida and UCF will face off Nov. 24 as undefeated teams. UCF being the home team will win and then defeat Memphis in the AAC Championship Game.

BK: Got to ride the hot hand right now and say UCF. Scott Frost is killing it there. Now, that’s not to say as the end of the year gets closer and his name keeps getting tossed around with job openings, it won’t affect his team though. We’ve seen it happen before.

Finally, what is your end-of-season projected field and seeding, including national champion?

CB: Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia Clemson — Alabama over Ohio State

BK: Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia —- Alabama over Ohio State

Tomorrow, we dip into the deep end again, this time with Ole’ Whistlebritches and Brent Taylor.

What did CB and BK get right? What did they get wrong? Should Notre Dame be punished for its half-hearted ACC schedule that omits a conference grind and conference title game?