A new playoff ranking will release tonight. With that, forward-looking Notre Dame fans will naturally try to figure out if the New Year’s Six is still in the cards or if the popularly projected Camping World Bowl is the likely location. But before we focus on who needs to win and lose for Notre Dame to sneak into the Cotton Bowl, they must, and I can’t stress this enough, win the rest of their damn games for any of this to mean anything.
Notre Dame’s contract with the ACC, plus trying to figure out conference tie-ins with the New Year’s Six can make everything clear as mud. With that in mind, we have a handy guide that we’re going to keep here at HLS that details every possible bowl bid for Notre Dame.
I regret to inform y’all that it will be easier for the Irish to make the college football playoff this year than to sneak into the Bahamas Bowl.
In all seriousness, with the Fiesta and Peach, two bowls with no conference tie-ins, hosting semifinals in the playoff, New Year’s Six locations are relegated to the Orange Bowl and the Cotton Bowl.
The Orange Bowl, as detailed in our handy guide, has the ACC locked in no matter what, meaning ND has to be ranked above the highest ranked B1G and SEC teams not in the playoffs, the Rose Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl. Yes, the Orange Bowl is the only bowl that we can’t swipe from the ACC. It’s the price of independence. Needless to say, quite a bit of chaos needs to go down for this to occur. It’s not impossible, but not likely.
That leaves the Cotton Bowl as the only other chance and with only one at-large slot available as the other will be taken by the highest ranked Group of Five (remember, the Peach and Fiesta are playoff games, so nowhere else for them to go). For the Irish to land there, it will be a matter of climbing the rankings.
How high? Well, top-12 is a good watermark. The purpose of the New Year’s Six is to feature the twelve best teams, hence why you hear that number thrown around. However, with the very real possibility that the Orange Bowl will have an ACC team outside that ranking (unless Clemson falls on their face), the Irish probably need to crack the top ten again to feel safe.
That scenario is more likely than an Orange Bowl bid, but still far from a guarantee. Then again, that statement is spoke in a world that assumes college football doesn’t have a crazy November and everything happens as planned. We all know better.
But still, the surest way of entertaining these thoughts is to, again, beat Navy, Boston College, and Stanford. Otherwise, this is all silly and our bowl bid guide will then have to be used in much sadder ways because we are afraid the Camping World Bowl is now out of reach.
Let’s not do that. Let’s just win and let everyone else participate in chaos.