Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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8 JANUARY 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL T he 12-team College Football Playoff is coming sooner than initially ex- pected, much to Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick's delight. Swarbrick was one of four people who crafted the 12-team format in 2021, only to see it shot down later that year but suddenly approved in September. The CFP cleared the final hurdle for 2024 expansion — as opposed to 2026 — when the Rose Bowl agreed Nov. 30 to amend its contract with the CFP and back down from its demands of spe- cial treatment in non-playoff years. The next morning, 2024 expansion was for- mally announced. With the move, Notre Dame's playoff access grows substantially. It's not that the four-team format was unkind to the Irish, who reached it in 2018 and 2020. They even had a loss in the latter season. But this new system gives them a much wider path and more margin for error. Here's a look at back at the seasons since 2014 where Notre Dame would have made the playoff if the 12- team field were retroactively applied to them and the years that would have been close misses. The top four seeds in the 12-team for- mat are reserved for conference cham- pions, meaning Notre Dame's highest possible placement is No. 5. First-round games are on campus, and all other rounds are held at neutral sites. 2021 SEASON Notre Dame record at time of selection: 11-1 CFP ranking: No. 5 12-team field: No. 6 seed Notre Dame would have dropped a spot from its ranking because No. 3 Georgia was not a con- ference champion, but still ranked above Notre Dame. The Irish would have hosted No. 11 Utah (10-3), the Pac-12 champion, and the winner would have played No. 3 Cincinnati (13-0), which won the American Athletic Conference and de- feated Notre Dame 24-13 earlier that year. 2020 SEASON Notre Dame record at time of selection: 10-1 CFP ranking: No. 4 12-team field: No. 5 seed Notre Dame was a top-four team, but not a con- ference champion (though it lost the ACC Champi- onship Game). It would have dropped to No. 5 as a result and hosted No. 12 Coastal Carolina (11-0). A win would have set up a meeting with No. 4 Oklahoma (8-2), the Big 12 champion. 2019 SEASON Notre Dame record at time of selection: 10-2 CFP ranking: No. 15 12-team field: Notre Dame would have been the fourth team out, behind No. 12 Auburn, No. 13 Alabama and No. 14 Michigan. 2018 SEASON Notre Dame record at time of selection: 12-0 CFP ranking: No. 3 12-team field: No. 5 seed Same thing as 2020 — under this scenario Notre Dame is a top-four team but not a top-four seed because it didn't win a conference title game. The Irish would have hosted No. 12 Penn State (9-3) at Notre Dame Stadium and, with a win, advanced to play No. 4 seed and Big Ten winner Ohio State (12-1). The Buckeyes were the No. 5 team in the CFP rankings. 2017 SEASON Notre Dame record at time of selection: 9-3 CFP ranking: No. 14 12-team field: The Irish would have been the second team left out of the playoff behind No. 13 Stanford (9-4), which beat them in the final game of the regular season. The last at-large team in the field would have been No. 11 Washington (10-2). 2015 SEASON Notre Dame record at time of selection: 10-2 CFP ranking: No. 8 12-team field: No. 8 seed Notre Dame would have hosted No. 9 Florida State (10-2) and advanced to play No. 1 Clemson (13-0), the ACC champion. The Tigers beat the Irish 24-22 earlier that season. PRE-PLAYOFF ERA AND TWO-LOSS CHANCES The playoff rankings weren't around before 2014. Doing this exercise with the BCS rankings would have been inexact, but it's likely the 2012 Notre Dame team that was 12-0 at time of selec- tion would have been the No. 5 seed even though its CFP ranking would have assuredly been top four. The Irish were 10-2 in 2006, 9-2 in 2005, 10-2 in 2002 and 9-2 in 2000. Going undefeated or 11-1 makes them a lock for the 12-team field. A 10-2 record puts playoff hopes up in the air, but far from extinguishes them. Notre Dame would have made the retroactively applied 12-team playoff one out of the two times it went 10-2 from 2014-22. There would have been nine Power Five teams with a 10-2 record left out in that span (not including the COVID-disrupted 2020 season): 2015 Northwestern (No. 13), 2015 Oklahoma State (No. 15), 2016 West Virginia (No. 16), 2018 Washington State (No. 13), 2019 Alabama (No. 13), 2019 Notre Dame (No. 15), 2019 Minnesota (No. 18), 2021 Oklahoma (No. 16) and 2022 Washington (10-2). Nineteen 10-2 teams and seven 9-3 teams would have been included in 12-team playoff fields from 2014-22 (also excluding 2020). ✦ UNDER THE DOME IMMINENT EXPANSION The 12-team playoff is arriving soon, and with it means more access for Notre Dame The 12-team College Football Playoff format that Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick helped craft will be implemented in 2024. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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