CFP rankings 2.0 go according to form as Notre Dame moves up a spot to No. 3.
The scariest, and perhaps most intriguing, part of the Notre Dame’s postseason future is the wave of hypotheticals that may never come into play.
Being undefeated with the best FBS win this season made Tuesday’s second-week reveal of the College Football Playoff rankings both relatively unnerving and unsuspenseful as the Irish (9-0) moved up a spot to No. 3.
Alabama, fresh off its 29-0 throttling of previous No. 3 LSU, remained No. 1. Clemson, which tortured former ND defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and the Louisville Cardinals (77-16) last Saturday, stayed at No. 2.
And Michigan, the team that brightens ND’s résumé the most, is No. 4 after winning its eighth straight since the 24-17 season-opening loss to the Irish, Sept. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium.
No. 5 Georgia (8-1) and No. 6 Oklahoma (8-1) are the two teams best positioned if someone in the top four loses.
Unlike last week, the top six teams in this week’s CFP rankings mimic the top of the Associated Press poll.
If the playoff started today, Alabama and Michigan would meet Dec. 29 in the Cotton Bowl at Arlington, Texas, in one semifinal, with Clemson and ND clashing in the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla., on the same date.
The CFP National Championship is set for Jan. 7 in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
ND’s only other opponent — past or upcoming — in the CFP top 25 is Syracuse (7-2) at No. 13. The Irish face the Orange Nov. 17 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx in a Shamrock Series off-site home game.
Next up for the Irish is a Saturday night (7:30 EST; NBC-TV) date with Florida State (4-5) in the final Notre Dame home game of the season. The Seminoles, at No. 19, were one of five ND opponents that were in the AP preseason top 25.
Should the Irish lose one of their three final regular-season games, their eroding strength of schedule would become a point of debate, but not necessarily a trap door out of the playoff conversation.
And the most fascinating argument might be when comparing ND with a Michigan team that appears to have improved significantly since September but did lose the head-to-head meeting and also was less impressive in its win over their one common opponent, Northwestern.
Next Tuesday’s CFP rankings how moves back into its regular 7 p.m. EST time slot on ESPN. The final reveal is on Dec. 2. That’s also when the semifinal pairings and other New Year’s Six matchups will be announced.
3. Notre Dame
8. Washington State
9. West Virginia
10. Ohio State
14. NC State
16. Mississippi State
17. Boston College
18. Michigan State
20. Penn State
22. Iowa State
23. Fresno State