Focus for Notre Dame rest of way? Just win

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

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SOUTH BEND – Every Notre Dame football fan will be glued Tuesday night to ESPN for the release of the College Football Playoff Committee’s first poll.

Right?

Well…

C’mon folks, get a life. Go outside and walk the dog. Shoot hoops with your kids in the driveway. Go bowling.

Do something, but don’t waste your time fretting over a poll assessing football before Halloween.

That first poll – and all the others leading up to the one that counts – aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

In terms of the Irish, wherever they’re situated in the poll is irrelevant. The only thing that matters with 6-1 Notre Dame is winning football games. That’s the only thing it controls.

Five games remain and the margin for error has disappeared. The competitiveness of college football has enhanced the attrition of undefeated teams in recent weeks. Survival gets tougher and tougher. It’s a given now that at least two one-loss teams will make the final four. Maybe more.

If the Irish slip one more time, all that’s left is an all-out push to avoid Shreveport.

Working against Notre Dame in the stretch run is the lack of an impressive adversary. The Irish hardly face a Murderer’s Row of talented teams to finish the season.

The only quality opponent left on the Notre Dame schedule – Arizona State (Nov. 8) – is the one that wasn’t supposed to be there.

When Notre Dame aligned with the Atlantic Coast Conference, the agreement was that – to remain independent in football – the Irish had to schedule five ACC teams each year. No problem going forward, just put the slots in the schedule and let the ACC fill in the teams.

However, the 2014 schedule was already in place. It would be necessary for two of the existing teams on the schedule to be moved to a future schedule.

Temple (4-3) obliged by moving its game in Philadelphia to 2015. The plan was to also move the Sun Devils. However, Steve Patterson, who was the ASU athletic director at the time (he’s now at Texas), made a public campaign to force Notre Dame to honor the contract. Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick relented and convinced ACC foe Wake Forest to defer its time on the Notre Dame schedule to next year.

Little did Swarbrick know he was trading 2-6 Wake Forest for 6-1 Arizona State.

Patterson’s public tantrum could be the salvation of the Notre Dame season.

But, then again, there’s other business at hand. Navy (4-4), Louisville (6-2), Northwestern (3-4) and Southern Cal (5-3) will hardly cause playoff selection committee members to sit up and take notice the way some of those Southeastern Conference elimination games will.

They’re all games in which Notre Dame will be favored. However, they’re all games the Irish could lose with a sub-standard effort or performance.

If Notre Dame fans skip Tuesday night’s poll release fanfare, they could apply that college football viewing time allotment to unbeaten Florida State’s Thursday night visit to Louisville. That has all the makings of an upset waiting to happen.

Would a Louisville victory take a little of the oomph out of Notre Dame’s loss to Florida State? Or, would a Louisville upset enhance the stakes for the Irish when the two meet Nov. 22 in South Bend?

Whatever the case, that game will have some sort of impact on the Irish fortunes.

Unlike the poll released Tuesday night.

Wide receiver Corey Robinson and Notre Dame have five more games to worry about more than a possible spot in the postseason playoff.SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN