Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Your playoff scenario for today, real version

Wednesday morning and I can still hear the howling, even through double-pane windows from 100 miles away.

No one in the general vicinity of Knute Rockne and the rest of the statuary can possibly be happy about the first college playoff poll, which was rolled out to great fanfare last night.

Notre Dame came in 10th.

Which means the Fighting Irish's chances of getting into the four-team playoff just went from sorta-good to damn-near-invisible.

This is because the playoff poll is not your traditional poll, in the sense that it doesn't react to the immediate. It's big picture rather than what happened yesterday -- and that's why, for instance, Ole Miss made the top four even after losing at LSU on Saturday night.

The body of work clearly is everything here, which is why Notre Dame, No. 6 in the Associated Press poll, was four rungs below that. Yes, the performance against Florida State was impressive, a mere flutter of official laundry away from a signature W. But dreary wins over the dreary likes of Purdue and North Carolina took some of the blush off that rose, and so ... 10th.

Behind, yes, Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Ole Miss, the current Big Four. But also behind, say, TCU (No. 7), which likely won't sit well with the faithful.

Are the Horned Frogs better? Is Kansas State (No. 9) or Michigan State (No. 8)?

 Beats me. All I know is, the committee is going by resumes here, and Notre Dame's clearly didn't measure up for them. If the Irish have a signature win -- Florida State was more a signature loss, if there can be such a thing -- it's probably Stanford. And in that one, at home, the Irish needed a miracle in the final minute to avoid a loss.

And yet ... is that less impressive than TCU's four-point win over Oklahoma, or Kansas State's one-point win over the Sooners? Is it less impressive than Michigan State's five-point win over Nebraska in a depleted Big Ten? And if you're going big picture, outside of Rice, are you gonna find a Stephen F. Austin or UTEP on Notre Dame's schedule? Or a Jacksonville State, Eastern Michigan or Wyoming?

The former are two of Kansas State's wins. The latter are three of Michigan State's.

And yet, Notre Dame will have to climb over both to get to the playoff. Life just ain't fair -- although, at the risk of provoking more howls from South Bend, it's generally a lot more fair to the Irish than it is to most people.

So maybe this is just karma.

And maybe, just maybe, the Irish can pull it off anyway. Michigan State is a good bet right now to get home as a one-loss team, but Kansas State and TCU still have to play each other. So do Ole Miss and Mississippi State. So do Auburn and Alabama, and Auburn and Ole Miss, and 'Bama and Mississippi State.  

If the Irish run the table -- a big if -- they'll surely move up. Just how high, though, remains to be seen, especially with Michigan State and Oregon (No. 5) unlikely to lose again.

Expect Domer Nation to become Buckeye Nation when Ohio State plays Michigan State on Nov. 8.  And expect it to become Cardinal Nation when Stanford goes up to Eugene to play the Ducks on Saturday.

Otherwise ... expect more howling.

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