After losing to Duke to fall to 1-3, Notre Dame isn’t making a New Year’s Six bowl this year — and, the way things are shaping up, there’s a very real possibility for the Irish to have some nervy games to get to bowl eligibility in 2016.
Should Notre Dame beat Syracuse, N.C. State, Navy and Army, and then at least one of Stanford, USC, Miami and Virginia Tech? Of course. But Notre Dame should’ve beaten Duke on Saturday — S&P+ gave the Irish an 84 percent chance of winning and the line was Notre Dame by 21. There are no sure victories left on this schedule, starting with next weekend’s game against Syracuse.
Before looking at how Notre Dame’s opponents fared in Week 4, a power ranking of those 12 teams:
1. Stanford (3-0)
2. Miami (3-0)
3. Virginia Tech (3-1)
4. Michigan State (2-1)
5. Texas (2-1)
6. Navy (3-0)
7. Army 3-1)
8. Duke (2-2)
9. Syracuse (2-2)
10. N.C. State (2-1)
11. USC (1-3)
12. Nevada (2-2)
Worth noting, Notre Dame would probably slot in these at No. 11, just ahead of USC and Nevada, right now.
On to the weekend’s results:
Charlie Strong put his coaches on notice this week as Texas licked its wounds from its 50-43 loss to Cal. Next up is a trip to Oklahoma State before the Red River Shootout against Oklahoma in Dallas.
Nevada: Lost, 24-14, at Purdue
Purdue committed four turnovers and still won by 10 against a Nevada side that, after making back-to-back bowl games, should’ve done better than this. But hey, at least Nevada got a sack, meaning that for part of the afternoon Notre Dame was the only team at the FBS level without one.
Michigan State: Lost, 30-6, vs. Wisconsin
So maybe Michigan State’s offense really isn’t as good as it looked against Notre Dame’s defense? Tyler O’Connor threw three interceptions and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes (18/38 for 224 yards) as Wisconsin charged out of the second half with 17 third quarter points to cruise in East Lansing. Losing this badly at home qualifies as embarrassing for Mark Dantonio’s Spartans, but it doesn’t make Notre Dame — which was picked apart by O’Connor — look any better, either.
Syracuse: Won, 31-24, at UConn
Eric Dungey threw for 407 yards and two touchdowns against Bob Diaco’s Huskies, with 270 of those yards and both scores courtesy of receiver Amba Etta-Tawo. Dino Babers’ up-tempo, passing-oriented offense could very well cause this shaky Irish secondary some problems at MetLife Stadium on Saturday.
N.C. State: Bye
The Wolfpack had the weekend off before opening ACC play with a home date against Wake Forest next weekend.
Stanford: Won, 22-13, at UCLA
Ryan Burns’ touchdown toss to JJ Arcega-Whiteside was the game-winner, and Soloman Thomas returned a fumble 42 yards with no time left to make this margin look a lot greater than it actually was. Christian McCaffrey rushed for 138 yards and Stanford held Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen to an 18/27, 248 yard, one touchdown evening. Next up for the Cardinal is a Friday night trip to Washington that could have College Football Playoff implications.
An extra week to prepare for a road trip to Georgia Tech — which was blown out by Clemson last week — isn’t the worst thing to get ready to face the triple option.
At 3-0, Navy is in a good position record-wise but the transition away from Keenan Reynolds hasn’t been entirely smooth. Navy travels to Air Force next weekend before hosting Houston on Oct. 8.
Army: Lost, 23-20, at Buffalo
Army’s No. 1 placekicker was injured, and backup Blake Wilson missed what would’ve been a game-winning 34-yard field goal at the end of regulation. Instead, Army was dealt its first loss of the season in overtime to a fairly weak Buffalo side. At 3-1, Army is still in its best position in six years, but this is still a stinging loss. After a bye next weekend, Army travels to face Duke.
Virginia Tech: Won, 54-17, vs. East Caorlina
Hokies quarterback Jerrod Evans threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 97 yards and another score in a pasting of ECU, a perennial group-of-five upset specialist (ECU beat N.C. State earlier this year). Outside of that turnover-filled loss to Tennessee, Virginia Tech has looked pretty good so far in Year 1 of the Justin Fuente era. They have a bye next week before a trip to North Carolina that’ll be a good test for their ACC Coastal chances.
USC: Lost, 31-27, at Utah
The Trojans are 1-3, and that there’s a very real path to that season-ending game against Notre Dame having bowl eligibility implications for both teams. USC led by 10 late in the third quarter but allowed a 15-play, 93-yard scoring drive that ended with an 18-yard game-winning touchdown for the Utes with 16 seconds left. How much longer does Clay Helton have in Los Angeles?