2018 College Football Roundtable: We’ve Come to a Consensus About Notre Dame

Welcome to October! This week, our panelists answer the biggest question about the biggest game last week and look at Scott Frost, Notre Dame and name some potential playoff teams.


What was James Franklin thinking?

Kristen: I don’t know. Trace McSorley was clearly the go-to guy. So, to call two separate timeouts but then run a play with a handoff to Sanders was just plain baffling. And I get that the Nittany Lions tried to draw Ohio State offside after the first timeout. But the fact remains that after the second timeout, you’d think the coaching staff would’ve had something great drawn up for McSorley. After all, he was responsible for most of Penn State’s offense throughout the game.

Damon: On fourth and five, I have no clue. Similar to a fourth and goal situation, you have to ensure the ball crosses the goal line. The only way to do that is to throw the ball in that spot. You may or may not complete the pass, but you have to give yourself a shot. Running any play short of the line to gain makes no sense. If/when Penn State is on the outside looking in on the College Football Playoff, that decision will keep running through Franklin’s mind.

Mitch: It’s not what Franklin was thinking so much as it was him thinking too much. I think Urban Meyer calling a timeout after his spooked Franklin. I think the original plan was to put it in Trace McSorley’s hands, but Franklin second-guessed himself and tried to get cute instead. I have no real issue with the call because it easily could’ve worked and then we’re all applauding the decision. I bet next time Franklin won’t think so much. He’ll just leave it to his best player to make a play.

Bird: I don’t think James Franklin knew what he was thinking, so how could anybody else possibly discern that head-scratching… no, chin-dropping call? We’ll never know. Franklin will not be able to answer except as he already has. “That’s on me. Nobody else. That’s on me.” Sometimes coaches simply have mental lapses, in the heat of battle, or they just out smart, or in this case, out dumb, themselves. It happened. It’s over. And both Penn State fans, and James Franklin, will probably never get over it. I know. I’ve been there. As a fan. More than once. Sometimes, that’s simply the way it goes.

Seth: What was Franklin thinking? He over thought the call. McSorley was a beast for Penn State all night long and the only call was to put the game in the hands of the star quarterback. Franklin went conventional which is synonymous with predictable. It was a great game and Franklin blew it. As he admitted.

Nebraska is 0-4 for the first time ever. How far away from competitiveness is Nebraska and will Scott Frost be there once they’re competitive?

Kristen: Four years. I think it’s one of those rebuilding processes where the new coach needs to have his choice of players in his fully implemented systems in place. But, I’m not sure whether Nebraska fans will be patient enough with Frost for that to happen. They should be, but I think it really will depend on next year. Starting so miserably this year and having a bad year again next year might just be enough for the Huskers to say goodbye to Frost very quickly.

Damon: Similar to Big Ten cohort Indiana in basketball, Nebraska has taken on the role of the former giant who has to hit rock bottom before rising again. It’s remains to be seen if Scott Frost can draw the kind of talent necessary to elevate the Cornhuskers to elite status again, or if the administration will give him a long enough leash for us to find out. UCF was the perfect setting for Frost to overachieve with second-tier talent, so his abilities and style may not translate. I believe he’ll succeed, but he needs to establish an identity, something NU hasn’t had since the 1990’s.

Mitch: The Big Ten West might be the easiest Power 5 division to play in right now. When you look at it that way, Nebraska should only be a couple years away from contending for a spot in the conference title game. But take a closer look. Wisconsin will always be Wisconsin, one of the most consistent programs in the country. Northwestern plays tough every single week now. Pat Fitzgerald has done a wonderful job there. Purdue is 10 points away from being undefeated, and early returns on Jeff Brohm are encouraging. Taking over last year, he led the Boilermakers to their first winning season since 2011. So long as Kirk Ferentz is at Iowa, the Hawkeyes will always be a poor man’s Wisconsin; steady, reliable, just not quite as talented. And I’d say I’m a fan of P.J. Fleck at Minnesota, but who isn’t? Now you think about Frost resurrecting Nebraska and, well, at least Lovie Smith is floundering at Illinois. Honestly, I don’t know when Frost will be able to dig the Cornhuskers out of this hole. I do think he’s the man to do it though. Give him time. Husker fans should stop taking themselves so seriously and exercise patience.

Bird: I don’t know if Scott frost is going to “claim” this debacle that has become the Nebraska football season, like he did a mythical natty in Orlando, or not. As an Auburn fan, I find this endlessly amusing. But I have to empathize with my Nebraska friends and their entire fan base. This has to be truly painful. Who knows if they can, or if they will, turn this around. I’m not familiar enough with the on goings in Lincoln, so I’ll keep away from uninformed speculation. Nebraska is bad, really bad. But, I graduated from Troy, and they beat the Huskers, so I’ll take that and let the chips fall where they may. Good luck in Lincoln, boys and girls!

Seth: Nebraska is in uncharted territory. It was never this bad under Solich, Pelini, or even Riley. But the fans thought hiring one of their own would vault the program back to greatness. They forget that Solich was one of their own as well. Frost has a few really good players but not enough. They lack depth on the field and the AAC coaching staff isn’t good enough to make them that much better. NU is three years away from being truly competitive. But competitive won’t be accepted in Lincoln and Frost will be chased out of town.

Name two schools from each Power 5 conference that have a legitimate chance to make the Playoff?

Kristen:

  • ACC: Clemson and Syracuse
  • Big 12: Oklahoma and West Virginia
  • Big Ten: Ohio State and Penn State
  • Pac-12: Washington and Stanford
  • SEC: Alabama and Georgia

Damon: The easy one is the SEC. Alabama and Georgia are both top five programs and will be difficult to keep out of the Playoff. In the Big Ten, obviously Ohio State is a virtual shoe-in. Penn State is probably the only other legitimate contender, but the Buckeyes may have just crushed their hopes. As usual, Clemson is once again a clear favorite for one of the final four spots, but the ACC is down overall and there isn’t a clear second candidate. However, NC State would be the team I’d say has the best shot. All the Wolfpack need to do is up-end Clemson on October 20, and they could coast to an undefeated season. Oklahoma and West Virginia are both viable options to represent the Big 12 in the Playoff. Each program has a reasonable schedule layout to finish the regular season undefeated. The Mountaineers wrap-up with Texas and TCU, so there’s an opportunity for a couple of quality wins prior to the Big 12 Title game. No one really stands out from the Pac-12 this season. The Washington Huskies feel like the only team with a realistic chance to crash the Playoff. Stanford is likely next in line, and the Cardinal and Huskies can decide it head-to-head to finish the regular season.

Mitch:

  • ACC: Clemson and NC State (I guess, with mammoth wins over Clemson and in ACC title game)
  • Big 12: Oklahoma and West Virginia (will likely get two cracks at each other, on 11/23 and in Big 12 title game)
  • Big Ten: Ohio State and Penn State (and Michigan) (and Wisconsin)
  • Pac-12: Washington and Colorado (because why the hell not)
  • SEC: Alabama and Georgia (and LSU) (and Auburn)

Bird:

  • ACC: Clemson and Miami
  • Big 12: Oklahoma and West Virginia
  • Big Ten: Ohio State and Wisconsin
  • Pac-12: Washington and Stanford
  • SEC: Alabama and Georgia

Seth:

  • ACC: Clemson and Miami.
  • Big 12: OU and West Virginia
  • Big Ten: OSU and Michigan
  • Pac-12: Washington and Stanford. But I think Notre Dame shuts the Pac-12 out of the playoff if they run the table.
  • SEC: UGA and Bama.

Notre Dame beat Stanford to go 5-0 and faces no currently ranked teams (Virginia Tech is now No. 24) the rest of the season. How can Notre Dame make it to the playoff?

Kristen: Notre Dane has to win out and do so in convincing fashion. The Irish also have to hope at least two P5 conferences have no teams that are undefeated at the end of the season. Then they could claim a spot.

Damon: It would take an awful lot of chaos for the Irish to make the cut for the College Football Playoff this year. Normally Notre Dame plays the type of schedule which warrants consideration, but there’s just not enough strength, even if they go undefeated. In most seasons, having Florida State at the tail-end of the schedule would be a big boost, but the Seminoles just aren’t good this year. Unless the elite teams in each of the Power 5 conferences eat each other alive, Notre Dame won’t have a prayer.

Mitch: It can’t. Virginia Tech will be ranked this week just so that ESPN can better promote ND’s trip there. The Irish will roll because the Hokies aren’t that good. It won’t be nearly enough though. We just started October and we’re already talking about ND not having any quality opponents remaining. The Irish won’t have nearly enough juice left by the time the committee votes. So long as there are only four spots in the Playoff and Notre Dame continues to refuse to fully participate in a conference (and therefore a conference championship game), I do not see how the Irish could ever make it into the top four. Besides all that, I still don’t even think the Irish finish the regular season undefeated. This is a team coached by Brian Kelly, after all.

Bird: “Just win, baby!” But, Brian Kelley and company face some tough obstacles, beginning with Virginia Tech this Saturday, in Blacksburg. Northwestern and Syracuse won’t be pushovers either. And I doubt USC will roll over in the final regular season game in The City of Angels. We shall see.

Seth: Notre Dame will benefit from wins against Michigan and Stanford. Those wins have them sniffing the Top 5. The Irish will benefit from the other schools killing off the competition and some conferences not having two legit chances at the Playoff. This paves the way to the Playoff.

Pick winners: Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech, Northwestern vs. Michigan State, Texas vs. Oklahoma, Clemson vs. Wake Forest, Auburn vs. Mississippi State

Kristen: Notre Dame, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Clemson, Mississippi State

Damon: Notre Dame, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Clemson, and Auburn

Mitch: ND big, State in a squeaker, Oklahoma bigger than people want to think, Clemson very big, Auburn by a lot littler than people want to think

Bird:

  • Upset! Virginia Tech over Notre Dame! Thus ends the conversation on question four.
  • Michigan State over Northwestern
  • Oklahoma over Texas
  • Clemson over Wake Forest
  • Auburn over Miss State

Seth: Notre Dame, MSU, OU, Clemson, Auburn

Name the top four and bottom four teams in college football

Kristen:

  • Top 4: Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia
  • Bottom 4: UTEP, San Jose St., UCLA, Nebraska

Damon:

  • Top 4: Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson
  • Bottom 4: UTEP, San Jose State, Texas State, Rice

Mitch:

  • Top 4: Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson
  • Bottom 4: UTEP, New Mexico State, Rutgers, whoever Alabama is playing

Bird:

  • Top 4: Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma
  • Bottom 4: Nebraska, Charlotte, San Jose State, UTEP

Seth:

  • Top 4: Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Georgia
  • Bottom 4: Kansas, Nebraska, UConn, UCLA