After beating No. 12 Syracuse, No. 3 Notre Dame needs just one win for the playoff

Notre Dame did a lot of celebrating against Syracuse. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Notre Dame did a lot of celebrating against Syracuse. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Syracuse was no match for Notre Dame.

The No. 3 Fighting Irish easily cruised to a 36-3 win over the No. 12 Orange and a win over USC in the final week of the season will assure Notre Dame a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff.

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With the Trojans and Florida State struggling in 2018, Syracuse was Notre Dame’s toughest test over the last three weeks of the season. It wasn’t much of one, though Syracuse fans are going to be wondering how different the game would be with quarterback Eric Dungey.

Dungey went down in the first quarter with an apparent lower back or right hip injury. He was in serious pain and didn’t return to the game after going to the locker room. He was replaced by backup Tommy DeVito, who threw two interceptions and completed less than 50 percent of his passes.

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book returned to the starting lineup after missing the Irish’s win over Florida State a week ago. Book was 23-of-38 passing for 292 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also got to miss the second half of the fourth quarter because Notre Dame was leading by so many points. Things were going so well for Notre Dame that Book’s replacement, Brandon Wimbush, engineered a touchdown drive after coming into the game.

While the Irish’s offense was good, the defense was spectacular. It hounded DeVito and also bottled up the Orange’s rushing attack. Syracuse entered the game averaging 5.8 yards per play. The Orange averaged less than four yards a play on Saturday. The Orange’s only score came via that field goal with 11 seconds left to avoid a shutout.

With a USC win, Notre Dame shouldn’t be any lower than No. 3

The Irish are looking good for being no worse than the No. 3 seed in the College Football Playoff with a victory over USC. No. 4 Michigan fell to Notre Dame in Week 1 and the Irish should stay ahead of the Wolverines with an undefeated season. And if Alabama or Clemson slip up between now and the conference title games, Notre Dame could move into either the No. 1 or No. 2 position.

Syracuse loses an opportunity for a New Year’s Six Bowl

A win for the Orange would have potentially knocked Notre Dame out of the playoff and put Syracuse into the Fiesta Bowl. It’s a mess right now outside the top 10 teams in the College Football Playoff standings and the final spot among Power Five teams for a New Year’s Six berth is wide open.

It still is, now that Syracuse can finish no better than 9-3.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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