College Football Playoff Week 1 lessons: Ohio State won, but Notre Dame's season isn't lost

AP Photo/David Dermer

COLUMBUS, OHIO -- Don't eliminate Notre Dame from the College Football Playoff conversation just yet.

In spite of the 21-10 loss on Saturday night to Ohio State, Notre Dame entered Ohio Stadium, a prime-time matchup between two top-five programs in an unforgiving venue -- and held its own with a first-year starting quarterback and without its leading wide receiver before a crowd of 106,594.

In order for the selection committee to seriously consider Notre Dame, it has to win out and it has to look the part of a top-four team in the process. Yes, that's an extremely tall task, but we've seen a one-loss Notre Dame team in the playoff before (in 2020 when it played as a member of the ACC during COVID-19 and lost to Clemson in the ACC title game).

With games against Clemson and USC, it's possible Notre Dame can finish the season with wins against two Power 5 conference champions if they win their respective leagues. ESPN's Football Power Index currently projects the Irish to win each remaining game on their schedule except the Nov. 5 home game against Clemson.

If Notre Dame runs the table, the committee isn't going to penalize the Irish for a close road loss against what could wind up being the Big Ten champion in the season opener, but it depends on what happens in the other conferences. If the SEC has two teams again in Georgia and Alabama, and the Big Ten champion is in, Notre Dame's one-loss résumé would have to trump two of the three other Power 5 conference champions (Big 12, Pac-12 or ACC).

Notre Dame can be disadvantaged without a conference championship to play in because it's one of several tiebreakers the committee uses when teams are comparable. (Not playing in a conference championship game can sometimes help the Irish, too, because if they are already in the top four, they don't have to worry about losing and likely falling out.) Notre Dame would also lose another tiebreaker -- the head-to-head result against Ohio State, unless by some chance the Buckeyes stumble more than once and don't win the Big Ten.

Notre Dame won't run the table, though, if it doesn't continue to improve.

"There's no such thing as a moral victory," first-year coach Marcus Freeman said. "We didn't win. We didn't finish the game, we didn't execute. I think we found out we've got a good football team. We've got to learn how to finish."

So who else made a statement or fell out of the playoff conversation?