No. 3 Notre Dame faced a big test on Saturday afternoon as they played the No. 12 Syracuse Orange in Yankee Stadium and passed it with flying colors.
The Fighting Irish flat out dominated Syracuse by a score of 36-3. Notre Dame’s defense held the Orange offense to just 234 yards on the day. Ian Book, Dexter Williams, and the rest of the Notre Dame offense looked great as they put up 463 yards of their own. Shortly after Notre Dame whalloped Syracuse, the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines struggled to put away a mediocre Indiana team. Those that were discussing putting Michigan ahead of Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff rankings over the last couple of weeks — despite the Irish having a head-to-head win — are pretty quiet now.
On a recent episode of the 247Sports College Football Podcast, Chip Patterson and Barton Simmons bandied that idea about. After this weekend, Simmons was ready to admit in Sunday’s episode that the talk of slotting the Wolverines above the Fighting Irish was a little premature. Notre Dame looked like the better team on Saturday.
“They were basically implying that — and everyone was guilty of this — Michigan had just come off of blowing out somebody, Penn State I guess,” Simmons said. “Then there was this assumption that Michigan was the third best team in the country, and we tossed it around some too. Could the committee possibly look at Michigan as being better than Notre Dame even though they’ve got a win over them? That was a scenario that everyone was talking about. Even Mike Tirico on the Notre Dame broadcast the following weekend addressed it. Here we are two weeks later, and Michigan had an uneventful win over Rutgers, almost loses to Indiana. Maybe there was never a question that they were going to win that, but certainly messes around. Losing at halftime to an Indiana team that’s not going to go to a bowl.”
In fact, Notre Dame’s overall resume looks slightly better than that of Michigan. The Irish have beaten some solid teams on the road and blown out the teams that they should have blown out. That made the arguments about Michigan being definitely better than Notre Dame even more outrageous.
“Now we have Notre Dame who has beaten the Big Ten West champion, blew out Florida State, held Syracuse to three points, and may finish by blowing out USC. Can we circle back to that talk and be like, ‘That was ridiculous,’” Simmons said. “Weren’t we just getting ahead of ourselves a little bit there? To me, the Syracuse win was very much a statement. I know Eric Dungey got hurt, but they dominated. I didn’t watch that game beginning to end, but Syracuse had 125 yards of offense deep into the fourth quarter. That was a dominant win. They’re doing dominant stuff in a way that you should do it against not terrible competition.”
Notre Dame has looked impressive for a good portion of the season, but Michigan still has a shot to prove itself to the committee. The Wolverines go on the road to No. 10 Ohio State on Saturday, and a win there puts them in the Big Ten title game. Winning those two games by comfortable margins could make things interesting in the final College Football Playoff rankings.