Notre Dame holds steady at No. 3 in CFP rankings but wins over ESPN crew

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Not that it matters in the big picture, but the Notre Dame football team seemed to win over the ESPN crew that reveals the College Football Playoff rankings.

As far as the rankings themselves Tuesday night, Notre Dame (11-0) finds itself exactly where it was the two previous weeks — sitting at No. 3, behind No. 1 Alabama (11-0) and No. 2 Clemson (11-0) and ahead of No. 4 Michigan (10-1). In fact, the top eight remained unchanged for the third straight week.

It’s the deepest into the season that Notre Dame has landed in the top four in the five years of College Football Playoff rankings.

ND’s 36-3 rout of previously No. 12-ranked Syracuse (now No. 20) and Michigan’s 31-20 tussle with Indiana on Saturday seemed to move, in particular Joey Galloway and to some extent Kirk Herbstreit, off the notion that Michigan deserved to jump an Irish team it had lost to on Sept. 1.

The debate and drama ended up centering on Group of Five heavyweight UCF (10-0) jumping past No. 10 Ohio State (10-1) into the No. 9 spot. It’s the first time that a Group of Five team has cracked the top 10.

“While UCF may not have the depth of talent of Ohio State, the committee felt that right now, today, UCF has the more all-around complete team,” selection committee chairman Rob Mullens said.

There are two more rankings reveals — one next Tuesday night at 7 EST (a shorter 30-minute version) and the one that matters, Sunday, Dec. 2 at noon. Notre Dame finishes its regular season Saturday night in Los Angeles with a date with arch-rival USC (5-6).

It’s just the fourth Trojan team with six or more losses ever to face the Irish in their 90 meetings. And it’s the 16th time USC has played an unbeaten/untied Notre Dame team — with the previous 15 breaking down to five times in midseason, 10 late in the season.

The Trojans are 4-10-1 in those matchups, with the last of those clashes a 22-13 Notre Dame victory six years to the day of Saturday night’s contest. That ND team was ranked No. 1 and went on to play Alabama for the 2012 BCS National Championship.

Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek's Trenton Simpson, a 2020 recruit, reported a Notre Dame offer on Feb. 12, 2018.

1. Alabama

2. Clemson

3. Notre Dame

4. Michigan

5. Georgia

6. Oklahoma

7. LSU

8. Washington State

9. UCF

10. Ohio State

11. Florida

12. Penn State

13. West Virginia

14. Texas

15. Kentucky

16. Washington

17. Utah

18. Mississippi State

19. Northwestern

20. Syracuse

21. Utah State

22. Texas A&M

23. Boise State

24. Pittsburgh

25. Iowa State