Outlining Notre Dame’s unlikely CFP path

·4 min read

Chances are probably pretty strong that if you’re a Notre Dame fan that you haven’t paid a lot of attention to the happenings of Wisconsin since the Irish took down the Badgers in late-September. Notre Dame fans need to be singing “Jump Around” for the next month, however, and FiveThirtyEight’s College Football Playoff (CFP) projection shares why.

How can Notre Dame go from 10th in the initial CFP rankings to the actual CFP?

Notre Dame's current chances:

Previous to the rankings being released Tuesday, FiveThirtyEight gave Notre Dame a 14% chance to make the CFP (above), but they now give Notre Dame just a 12% chance to make the CFP. Those odds actually seem high considering the Irish have just one win over a currently ranked team in the CFP rankings (No. 21 Wisconsin) but the odds do blossom to 31% if the Irish can win out.

Here is what Notre Dame fans need to be rooting for in order to get to the CFP, along with the Irish obviously winning the rest of their games.

Cincinnati to lose?

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It wouldn’t be fair but at least based off the FiveThirtyEight model, Cincinnati not going undefeated helps Notre Dame more than if the Bearcats do go 13-0. Notre Dame holds a 31% chance if they win their final four games, like we stated above. If Cincinnati wins out, their chances soar from 31% currently to 63% according to the model. If Notre Dame and Cincinnati both go unbeaten the rest of the way, the Irish chances at a CFP bid drop from 31% to just 15%.

Go Dawgs!

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Alabama winning out would certainly mean the second-ranked Crimson Tide would be going to the CFP which would significantly sting both Notre Dame and Cincinnati’s chances. The Tide winning out and winning the SEC would drop Notre Dame’s 31% chance to just 24% while Georgia winning out and winning the SEC would move a 12-0 Irish team up a hair to a 34% shot. When you’re skating on this thin of ice you’ll take every percentage point you can get.

Oklahoma to Lose


Sure Oklahoma came back ranked just eighth in the CFP rankings but with games against No. 11 Baylor and No. 12 Oklahoma State still to come, the Sooners have a chance to rise. They would then need to win the Big 12 championship game as well, but if they do my best guess is that they’d still be in the top four.

Notre Dame needs Oklahoma to lose at some point whether it be next against Baylor, down the road against Oklahoma State, or in the Big 12 championship game. Oklahoma winning out would dip Notre Dame’s chances at a berth to just 22%.

Someone to Beat Oregon

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Oregon is in the top-four much to the surprise of some as they haven’t always looked the part in 2021 and have a bad loss at Stanford to their name. With that said, they’re still 7-1 and present a road block in Notre Dame’s already difficult path. Oregon winning out drops Notre Dame to just a 17% chance of making the CFP so the Ducks are going to need to have their wings clipped for the Irish to have a shot.

Wake Forest to Lose

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Wake Forest is 8-0 and sits in front of Notre Dame in the CFP standings. Nobody outside Winston-Salem thinks they’ll actually go 13-0 but if they’re able to, Notre Dame’s chances slide from 31% to 11%.

On Wisconsin!

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What single outcome gives Notre Dame the greatest increase in a chance at the CFP according to FiveThirtyEight?

Wisconsin winning out.

The once 1-3 Badgers have won four-straight, checked in No. 21 in the CFP rankings Tuesday, and if they win their four remaining contests, will represent the Big Ten West in the Big Ten championship game.

The Badgers then beating whoever comes out between Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State would mean a jump from 31% to 49% for the Irish to make the CFP.

FiveThirtyEight only gives Wisconsin a 7% shot to win out, but hey, a chance is a chance!

The chart FiveThirtyEight put together is fun to play around with and can be done so here.