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Ward: The outrage for and support of Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff

| Monday, December 21, 2020

Clemson’s revenge win over Notre Dame on Saturday complicated the College Football Playoff scene to say the very least. Doubters of the Irish (10-1, 9-1 ACC) were not silenced, and they now have more ammunition than ever before.

Many people felt heading into this game Notre Dame was a lock for the College Football Playoff — barring a blowout. While the Irish didn’t throw up a goose egg, 34-10 isn’t that much better and many pundits and Twitter trolls alike agreed. 

Immediately following the defeat, it was announced that the semifinal game set to be played in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl would be moved to Dallas in the Cowboy’s AT&T Stadium. This came after Irish head coach Brian Kelly threatened — rather facetiously — to boycott the Playoff if the state of California did not allow families of team members to travel to the West Coast and attend the game. “Jerry’s World” is a cheeky choice for the semi-final game to be played as the Irish loss to the Tigers there in the 2018 Cotton Bowl Classic is still in very recent memory. The timing of the announcement was just as interesting as it came just a few hours after Notre Dame had been blown out by Clemson. 

Ken Ruinard | USA TODAY Sports
Tigers senior running back Travis Etienne is chased by Irish junior rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah during Notre Dame’s 34-10 loss to Clemson on Dec. 19 in the ACC Championship at Bank of America Stadium. Etienne went for 124 yards on the ground in the win after recording just 28 rushing yards against the Irish on Nov. 7.

Social media lit up with plenty of arguments made to push the Irish out of the playoff. The one team that raised the most question marks comes out of Columbus. Ryan Day’s Ohio State had been playing politics to get into the CFP all season long. Sitting with an undefeated 6-0 record certainly helped their case, but it is a 6-0 record, not an 11-0 record.

The general consensus from the biggest media members following the game was clear: Notre Dame likely makes the Playoff as the fourth seed and Ohio State jumps to the third seed. Arguments could be made for Texas A&M and Cincinnati to take the Irish’s spot, but teams like these tend to get blown out of the water against the likes of Alabama, Clemson and OSU, and the committee doesn’t necessarily have a vested interest in these teams like some pundits do. But, then again, the Irish haven’t put up any impressive CFP showings in the Playoff’s short history.

ESPN’s David Pollack tweeted his predictions confidently immediately following the game, paying little mind to the SEC Championship that was to kickoff just minutes later. 

On the other side of the coin, Notre Dame storyteller Jim Small explained why some ESPN analysts might be pushing for Texas A&M to take the Irish spot. 

Chris Fowler, who covered play-by-play at the ACC Championship game, said he would have been shocked if the committee let in any other team than the ones Pollack predicted a few hours earlier.

Once the rankings were released and the Irish secured their spot at the four-seed, the uproar and noise from teams who missed the cut, their fans and pundits only got louder. And the haters of Notre Dame were louder and more outraged than ever before.

The sports world’s favorite disher of cold and controversial takes butted in.

An important thing to remember through all this is that there is one common enemy between every team across the nation — COVID-19. Some teams handled it better than others, but to start to make excuses about the “fairness” of how the virus affects each team is an argument without legs. Sure, missing star players and having to cancel games is something no team wishes upon another. It is also a part of sports that has existed prior to the coronavirus.

Some people are still caught up in the politicization of the disease. To lend a competitive advantage to another team due to the virus is to head down a slippery slope, and it is a theory that would ruin sports as we know them. Ohio State only played six games. They are less banged up than their contenders, but they are still one of the top teams in the country. What’s to stop teams  and conference from reducing their annual number of games in the future in order to preserve their chances of making and being in top shape for the CFP?

At the same time, Clemson blew Notre Dame out of the water yesterday. The Irish did beat them when they were ranked No. 1 in the country, but some would like to discount that win considering Trevor Lawrence and three defensive starters were out. Notre Dame was also missing their starting center, junior Jarrett Patterson, in the rematch against Clemson. Patterson is out for the year with a broken foot suffered in the eighth game of the season — a threshold Ohio State has yet to pass.

You can’t ignore the factors that play into the game, but you also can’t ignore the results. 

I’ve always been critical of the College Football Playoff committee, but I think they are beginning to right some of their wrongs. And I’m not just saying that because they let Notre Dame in; they have shown that they are truly looking at these teams for what they are worth and who they are instead of comparing and contrasting.

These decisions aren’t easy ones to make, and they are showing that. Even though there may be some flaws and outliers, they are, for the most part, making sound decisions, and I can live with a few hiccups along the way.

There is absolutely no way to appease everyone, and the committee is working with the hand they were dealt. I respect that.

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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