You never want to commit Sports Land heresy and say a loss is as good as a win. So that's why I'm going to go ahead and say it.
You know that 31-27 loss Florida State and the zebras handed Notre Dame last week?
That really might turn out to be as good as a win.
That's because even in losing, the Irish proved they belong. And not just "We beat a bunch of Purdues and Rices" belong, but belong-belong.
It is, after all, undeniable that what I saw and what the country saw the night of the Florida State game was a team that can compete with the elites. Notre Dame played the defending national champions off their feet, even dominated them for long stretches. In so doing, it demonstrated that this is not 2012, when the Irish looked unbeatable until they ran up against actual athletes.
The Irish have athletes themselves now, especially at the skill positions. And what that tells me is they have a better-than-even shot at running the table the rest of the way, and if they run the table the rest of the way, they'll be in the four-team playoff. And will deserve to be there.
I've been looking at the polls, see, and the potential for Notre Dame to crack the top four simply by default is significant. Already, Ole Miss' loss to LSU bumped the Irish from 7th to 6th in the AP poll in a week they didn't even play. And of the five teams ahead of them, three of them -- Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State -- play one another. So at least two and possibly all three stand to drop a few rungs before it's all said and done.
Which means an 11-1 Notre Dame team slides right in there.
Of course, the Irish do have to finish 11-1. But only one ranked team (Arizona State at 15) remains on their schedule. Two more unranked opponents (Louisville and USC) will be dangerous but beatable. So this not only could happen, it's leaning perilously toward should happen.
And all because of one lost-but-not-really-lost night in Tallahassee.