The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a tough obstacle to overcome on Saturday in order to stay playoff relevant. The No. 6 ranked Irish, travel to a hostile environment to take on the No. 24 ranked Virginia Tech. While the Irish are currently favored to win with a spread of (-6.5), they know that a primetime game at Lane Stadium will be no walk in the park on Saturday night.
A win over the Hokies is all the Fighting Irish are worried about this week. But as kickoff inches closer, we can’t help but think ahead at what might be in store for Notre Dame later on down the line. With a few upsets between last weekend and this weekend, everything is beginning to fall into place for Notre Dame’s playoff chances as week six approaches for them.
ESPN recently reviewed and simulated the chances of each nationally top-ranked team this past week. As the top four teams right now are obvious choices with Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, and Ohio State, Notre Dame is on the borderline of cracking the top-four at number five. Obviously, their undefeated record has them relevant, but as always with Notre Dame, their schedule toughness has the experts questioning their chances of being a contender.
What Does the Simulator Say?
If the computers and algorithms over at ESPN do, in fact, know more than us, then Notre Dame would be happy to hear that they had the fifth-best chances of making the playoffs heading into this weekend. Although there’s a significant dropoff from Clemson to Notre Dame, the Irish have a 47-percent chance of making the playoffs, and a six-percent shot of winning the title, according to ESPN.
Notre Dame’s remaining SOS rank is No. 61, which is why the win over Stanford was so important. Virginia Tech snuck back into the rankings at No. 24 this week, but would the Hokies fall right out again if they lose at home to the Irish on Saturday? Sometimes the value of wins over “ranked” opponents can be blurry. Notre Dame hasn’t cracked the top 15 in offensive (No. 31) or defensive (No. 19) efficiency yet. Notre Dame is No. 38 in scoring margin at 14 points per game. There are also only two games’ worth of statistics with Book as quarterback.
Behind the Irish was Oklahoma, who fortunately took a loss to the Texas Longhorns earlier Saturday afternoon. Michigan, Washington, and Penn State all fell behind and are pretty much longshots at this point to remain relevant in the race.
Right now, the Irish have to remain focused on this weekends matchup and are hopeful to lay a beatdown on the Hokies. They could use it to make a case for the playoffs as ESPN says their team ranks on both sides of the ball is exactly what Notre Dame should be worried about.
If they somehow find themselves falling short of beating Virginia Tech, then the Irish can kiss their playoff chances goodbye. On the other hand, if they win, the playoff committee will have to keep them in mind moving forward as they could make a serious run.