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Dabo Swinney, Brian Kelly (HOMER)

Brian Kelly and Dabo Swinney both have their teams right in the thick of the College Football Playoff hunt.

As the college football season hits the meat of its schedule, now is as good a time as any to take the pulse of each major conference race and see where Notre Dame stands in the College Football Playoff race.

The Irish's loss to Clemson is being looked at as a ‘good loss’, and one they could certainly overcome if certain things go their way. The common school of thought is that as long as Clemson is undefeated, Notre Dame looks even better. But at a certain point, I believe ND needs Clemson to lose.

With only four spots to spread between five power conferences and Notre Dame, somebody has to be left out. Here’s how I see it breaking down:

Big 12 -- The Big 12 was left out last year and Baylor and TCU have been at the top of the rankings all year. I would be shocked if the committee left the Big 12 out a second year in a row, even taking into account Baylor’s loss of their star quarterback and TCU’s underwhelming performances so. IN

SEC -- The SEC champion is a given as ESPN would throw a fit if their beloved conference was left out. IN

Big Ten-- The Big Ten has the reigning champion in Ohio State, which has seemingly already secured a spot. However, a scenario where they don’t get has Michigan State beating Ohio State then losing the conference championship. I think a one-loss Michigan State team doesn’t get in based on their poor performance against Michigan. I think even if Ohio State beats Michigan State, then Michigan beats Ohio State and Ohio State wins the Big 10 Championship, Ohio State will still get in. And of course, if Ohio State or Michigan State win out, either is in. IN

Pac 12 -- Here is where it gets more complicated. USC has thrown a wrench in everything by having a poor record but the talent to beat anyone on any given night, which was proven by their strong showing against Notre Dame and their destruction of third-ranked Utah. Stanford is equally as perplexing, losing to Northwestern only to go on and dominate everyone else since. If Stanford runs the table, beating Notre Dame and winning the Pac-12 Championship, if Ohio State and Clemson are still undefeated, then the Pac-12 is out. However, if either has one loss, Stanford gets in. Of course, I’m going to assume the Irish beat Stanford, eliminating the Pac-12. OUT

ACC -- That brings us back to Notre Dame needing Clemson to lose. Based on my assumption that the Big 12 (payback for last year's snub), SEC (ESPN bias) and Big Ten (defending champions) get in, only one spot remains. Notre Dame will have played six ACC games this year, so they are most easily compared to the ACC champion. If Clemson wins out, I would have a difficult time arguing the Irish should get in given the Tigers' head-to-head win. However, if Clemson loses to Florida State, I think the late-season loss coupled with a very close home victory against the Irish in a hurricane gives the edge to Notre Dame. I will concede this flies in the face of the Notre Dame argument that the 1993 national title was not properly awarded when Notre Dame beat Florida State during the season and both teams finished with the same record but the championship was awarded to FSU. I guess what goes around comes around. I think Clemson would beat Duke in the ACC Championship, so FSU is our best shot. I have always been an Everett Golson fan, but never more so than when FSU plays Clemson. A Clemson loss will open the door for a one-loss Notre Dame, and I think FSU has it in them. OUT

CFP Prediction

1. Ohio State (13-0)

2. Baylor (12-0)

3. Alabama (12-1)

4. Notre Dame (11-1)


Tom Desplinter is a UND graduate, Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve JAG Corp and associate of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. He is a life-long Fighting Irish fan and has suffered with the Chicago Cubs since birth.