Notre Dame will need ‘Luck of the Irish’ to make College Football Playoff

Saturday’s loss to Florida State puts Notre Dame on a tough road to make the College Football Playoff
NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Florida State

Oct 18, 2014; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Corey Robinson (88) catches a pass for a touchdown as Florida State Seminoles cornerback P.J. Williams (26) defends in the first quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium.  (Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)

(C+P) — It was a similar drama, nearly 21 years later. Two storied programs—both with undefeated records. There were stars. There were villains. In the end, it was another classic finish with the home team coming out victorious.

However, unlike 1993, controversy played a prominent, if not primary role in the outcome between Notre Dame and Florida State.

An offensive pass interference call on a fourth-down touchdown pass to Corey Robinson by Everett Golson with less than 20 seconds remaining negated a likely game-winning play. Officials claimed that Notre Dame receiver C.J. Prosise screened an FSU defender out of the way instead of making an effort to run a route.

With the ball moved back 15 yards, Golson’s second attempt for a score was unsuccessful.

In a classic heavyweight bout, the Seminoles came out on top, 31-27. However, Irish head coach Brian Kelly was not pulling any punches afterward.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Florida State
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly shouts to head linesman Troy Gray following an offensive pass interference call nullifying touchdown in the final seconds against the Florida State. ( John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

“We execute that play every day and we do it legally,” he said. “We don’t coach illegal plays…Florida State blew the coverage and they got rewarded for it.”

His quarterback, on the other hand, was not as quick to place the blame on the referees.

“That’s something you can’t argue with,” Golson said. “You just got to play through it. Like I said that last play on fourth-and-18, I probably could have made a player there. I think that’s what I’m more disappointed in.”

Whether the call was correct or not, Notre Dame is now put in a somewhat helpless, albeit doable, situation if it has intentions on making the four-team playoff.

While the Seminoles are on the inside track to seeing their name on the bracket, the Irish need to win out—and need help.

Fortunately for Kelly, the talent is there. Golson is performing nicely in his redshirt junior season after being academically ineligible in 2013. He has completed 64 percent of his passes totaling 1,683 yards and 16 touchdowns (already more than in 2012) to just four interceptions.

The defense ranks 17th in points allowed, having shut out Michigan in September and limited Stanford to barely more than 200 yards of total offense. However that victory against Stanford, then ranked No. 14, looks less impressive after the Cardinal lost their third game of the season to Arizona State this weekend.

Notre Dame will need a little more than the luck of the Irish to be among the four teams competing for the national title—no matter how good they looked against the ‘Noles. Running the table would be a feat in itself—considering Kelly’s group also has to deal with the Sun Devils, as well as rival USC, before the season concludes.

In addition, Notre Dame is in the unenviable position of rooting for others to lose instead of being able to, for lack of a better term, “control their destiny.”

The Irish are among a bevy of one-loss schools (include several for the SEC) that can make their case. Moreover, all of them have the luxury of playing for a conference championship—something the Irish cannot claim.

Quite simply, the margin for error has disappeared.

Notre Dame’s loss Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium continues to sting because of the fashion in which it ended. However, the Irish’s ability to take the defending national champion (with the defending Heisman Trophy winner) down to the wire should show the public,and voting committee members that they are worthy of inclusion in a playoff.

However, only four are welcome, and any exclusion—in favor of power conference schools—will make the pain of what could have been Oct. 18 re-emerge.



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