The SEC has dominated the Top-25 AP Poll during the first nine weeks of the regular season, which while a bragging point for the league, means many of these teams have to play each other and will tear itself apart. After several dangerously close games and one major upset in the SEC this past Saturday, Notre Dame has moved back up to No. 6 in the AP Poll.
The rest of Notre Dame’s schedule looks relatively unchallenging as the USC Trojans have now accumulated three losses. No. 15 Arizona State seems to be the only team left that could potentially cause trouble for the Fighting Irish. Five SEC teams are currently ranked in the Top-10 and three out of the top four are from the SEC West. However, No. 1 Mississippi State, No. 3 Alabama, and No. 4 Auburn still have tough SEC games remaining on their schedules which means the AP Poll will have even more changes throughout the rest of the season, something that could bode well for the Fighting Irish moving forward.
No. 16 LSU narrowly upset No. 7 Ole Miss in the final seconds of their matchup in Death Valley this past Saturday. While Notre Dame is still largely in charge of their own destiny, many factors determining their playoff potential are in the hands of several SEC teams.
As the national media turns their attention to the SEC West, the No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs are flying under the radar. Their Nov. 15 home game against the No. 4 Auburn Tigers is the most challenging game remaining on their regular schedule. Auburn escaped with a hard-earned victory this past Saturday against the unranked South Carolina Gamecocks, causing concern regarding their potential as an SEC and playoff competitor.
No. 3 Alabama hosts No. 1 Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa on November 15, which is a huge opportunity for the Crimson Tide to take down the top team in college football. Continued upsets amongst the SEC’s elite would be largely beneficial for the Fighting Irish.
Another significant factor to consider in Notre Dame’s road to the National Championship is their independent status, meaning they have no conference division title to fight for, and consequently no potential to pick up an additional loss at the end of the regular season. Despite a heartbreaking and questionable loss to No. 2 Florida State, the Fighting Irish still have realistic opportunity to make an appearance in the first year of the college football playoff system. If Brian Kelly can focus on winning the rest of the season, the high level of competition amongst the SEC in the remaining regular season games will very likely work in his team’s favor.
*Section Photo credit to Gregory Shamus, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Chris O’Meara, Associated Press