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Ward: Take a deep breath before things get crazy again

| Friday, December 4, 2020

I won’t be the first person on planet earth to claim to know anything about how the College Football Playoff committee works. But in my gut I am fairly certain of one thing: Notre Dame makes the playoff no matter how sloppy their loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship. I’ll be ignoring plenty of possible hypotheticals in Notre Dame’s first conference championship and focusing on the most likely scenario — The Tigers come in hungry and get a revenge win. 

Notre Dame has already locked in their spot at the ACC Championship but in all likelihood Clemson’s star quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, will be back, once again making Clemson the clear and heavy favorite. But as the ACC added some more wiggle room to the remaining teams schedules, things started to get weird. 

Again, let me repeat: I have no clue what in the world goes on within the CFP committee. But in their short history they have shown us that they like the big draws. Just ask anyone in Ohio what they thought of the committee a couple years ago when they let Notre Dame in over the Buckeyes; there is still a bitter taste leftover in Columbus, I’m sure. 

Courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics
Irish sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton, left, and graduate student defensive end Ade Ogundeji, center left, wrap up Clemson senior running back Travis Etienne while senior linebackers Drew White, center right, and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah look on during Notre Dame’s 47-40 double overtime win over Clemson on Nov. 7. The Irish sit at No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings and boast the best win of any team in the FBS having beaten the No. 3 Tigers when they were ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll.

So let’s talk about the huge question mark looming over the powerhouse that is Ohio State. Buckeye fans will hate to hear it, but even though they are currently sitting at No. 4 in the rankings, I think they are flying under the radar. That isn’t to say that OSU isn’t getting media attention, or the eyes of every Power Five team in the country aren’t on them, because they 100% are. But the Big Ten and Kevin Warren seem to have set them up to fail.

Ohio State is getting attention for all the wrong reasons right now. They aren’t dominating teams like they did last year, and they need to be when they have such little wiggle room. People aren’t talking about their football; they are talking about how they look off the field. 

The media noise plays a huge role in all of this despite what coaches and athletes say about ‘tuning it out.’ Kirk Herbstreit came under fire for his comments on Tuesdays rankings show when he suggested that Michigan possibly “waves the white flag” for their matchup against Ohio State to avoid sheer embarrassment. As pleasing as this comment was to me — and I’ll try to forget my disdain for Michigan for a moment — I think the fact that Herbstreit apologized is laughable. Of course it is the right move to appease the people in Ann Arbor, but why should he apologize for considering totally legitimate hypotheticals?

Not to take too much of a tangent, but Jim Harbaugh’s seat is hotter than a cast-iron skillet sitting in a pool of molten lava. Do you think he’s looking forward to getting slaughtered by yet another Ohio State team? I don’t think so. The fact there was so much uproar because of Herbstreit’s comment is a little concerning. Perhaps he revealed their grand scheme to opt out of a football game and possibly save their mediocre football coach his job. 

Suggesting that Michigan would do this was Herbstreit’s only mistake, he really was trying to drive home the fact that if they wanted to, if Michigan’s hatred for Ohio State is so pure, they could, in theory, throw a wrench into their season by saying they can’t play the game even if they are able to.

Michigan has already cancelled its game with Maryland this weekend. Ohio State has already had two of their games this year cancelled. If their game against Michigan gets cancelled, they will be ineligible to play in the Big Ten Championship — assuming the conference doesn’t adapt its rules and allow the Buckeyes to compete. The blame should fall squarely on Commissioner Kevin Warren’s shoulders here, but it opens up a whole new world of possibility for Notre Dame. 

Once the Tigers get Lawrence back, they are a totally different team than the one Notre Dame took two overtimes to beat. Though Ian Book is playing out of his mind right now, he’s not the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Notre Dame probably gets beat in their first ever conference championship. But I really can’t see a way that they don’t get into the Playoffs no matter how big the deficit on the scoreboard.

Unless Ohio State is able to get a huge win over the Wolverines under their belt, the committee won’t let a 4-0 team into the Playoffs, and maybe not even a 6 or 7-0 one. There just isn’t enough tape out on them. Cincinnati is the only other unbeaten team in legit consideration.

Before a depleted Clemson roster rolled into South Bend, they were the undisputed top-ranked team in the country. A loss to them doesn’t mean as much as it does a loss to a middle of the road team, and the committee knows this. 

And although all of their decisions may be strictly football-based, in the back of their heads, they know the widespread attention Notre Dame brings in. I’m sure that reeling in more numbers for their sport wouldn’t do anything to hurt their paycheck. 

So if — IF — Clemson starts to pummel Notre Dame when Lawrence is back and they are able to utilize all the star talent on their roster, don’t panic just yet, because there is a very strong possibility that we could have a trilogy on our hands. And seriously, as a football fan anywhere, how could you not root for that after seeing what happened in their first meeting this year?

So let’s kick back this weekend and enjoy some Irish football before the noise gets louder and the stakes get higher, because how often do we really do that around here?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Jimmy Ward

Jimmy is a senior at Holy Cross College, where he studies English and sports management. He is originally from Westfield, Indiana. Currently, Jimmy serves as an associate sports editor at The Observer. You can find him at @jimmyyward on Twitter.

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