Just one week of the college football regular season remains. What did we learn from Saturday’s action other than Alabama is still really, really good?
This late in the season, it is noticeable what teams are in it to win it. Saturday’s slate of games presented a variety of minor scares to one upset that flipped the script.
One minor scare was felt when Ohio State was one play away from falling to Maryland, which would have crushed the Buckeyes’ chance at the Big Ten title game.
There was also a clear distinction between the opponents of some of the highly-ranked teams in the country. For instance, while No. 3 Notre Dame faced off against No. 13 Syracuse, top-ranked Alabama played The Citadel.
All in all, there still lies a common denominator –– the top 4 is still intact and if all of those teams win out, the playoff should be set in stone.
With that being said, here are five takeaways from Saturday.
5. Notre Dame has the easiest road to the playoff
Notre Dame checked off another box on its way to the College Football Playoff for the first time. The Irish put together a dominating display against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium donning appropriately themed uniforms.
The victory effectively paved a new path for the Irish to qualify for the playoff. In its final regular season game next week, Notre Dame has a favorable matchup –– facing an embattled USC team that is in the midst of a two-game losing skid.
Additionally, the Irish are at an advantage. Since they are technically still considered to be an independent team, they do not have to play an extra week for a conference championship game. That will give Notre Dame the chance for some rest and recovery, along with an extra week of preparation for its potential playoff game.
The rest of the teams currently ranked in the top 4 all must suit up for an extra week in yet another game that counts. A loss either this week or in the championship week would certainly spell disaster and an imminent displacement from the playoff field.
Quarterback Ian Book suffered an injury and was held out of last week’s contest, but he was back to full strength, which is a really good sign for Notre Dame moving forward.
Book completed 23 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns while the Irish defense stymied Syracuse and held the Orange to just a field goal –– scored in garbage time in the fourth quarter that had no effect on the outcome of the game.
In its totality, the Irish matched up with arguably their toughest test since its season opener against Michigan, who by the way, is also in the top-four.
Notre Dame has purchased a one-way ticket on an express train, so it seems, as it has been surging since the end of October. In the four games the Irish have played in that stretch of time, the offense has posted at least 30 points.
That offense production paired with a veteran-laden defensive corps has been the two main keys for the Irish’s success this season, and if both continue to live up to the same level it has been for most of the year, the Irish can contend for a national title.