A Major Opportunity Awaits Notre Dame This Weekend
We are still 15 days away from the release of the first College Football Playoff rankings, but we are only six days away from a Saturday that will have significant implications on who remains a contender.
No. 13 Wisconsin (6-1) and No. 3 Ohio State (7-0) square off in a battle of the top team in the West and the top team in the East. It could end up being the first of two matchups between the two teams. Wisconsin needs this upset to remain in the Playoff conversation while Ohio State will look to build its resume in hopes of earning the top spot.
No. 9 Auburn (6-1) looks to keep its Playoff hopes alive when it travels to No. 2 LSU (7-0) in a battle that matches Auburn’s stout defense against LSU’s dynamic offense. Auburn is out with a loss, and an LSU victory is another major statement. A loss to Auburn will make it difficult for LSU to make it, with the Tigers still set to travel to Alabama in November.
Notre Dame is also in action this weekend, and the Fighting Irish have a chance to either enhance its resume, or it will see its Playoff hopes dashed.
That's what's on the line when No. 8 Notre Dame (5-1) travels to Ann Arbor to take on the No. 19 Michigan Wolverines (5-2). Michigan is coming off a tough 28-21 loss at No. 6 Penn State, and it needs a victory to have any hope of winning the Big Ten.
PLAYOFF HOPES DEPEND ON AN IMPRESSIVE VICTORY
Navy and Virginia Tech could end up ranked by the time they play the Irish, but neither would provide the resume boost that a win over Michigan would give.
But Notre Dame’s loss to Georgia means the Irish aren’t in position to just win each week, they have to win and do so impressively.
This is especially true when those wins aren’t against highly ranked teams. Notre Dame will not have the benefit of a matchup against a Top 10-15 opponent, and it won’t have a conference championship game to add one more late-season victory to its resume.
Ohio State and Wisconsin will meet at noon, Auburn and LSU will meet at 3:30 PM. Michigan is a marquee opponent and the game will be played at night on national television. All eyes will be on Notre Dame and Michigan, which gives the Irish the spotlight opportunity it needs to make a dramatic statement.
Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State are all contenders for the Big Ten championship, and all will have games against Michigan. That means if any of them end up winning the league with a loss, Notre Dame will have a similar matchup to compare to those teams.
MORE AT STAKE THAN JUST A PLAYOFF BERTH
Notre Dame and Michigan don’t compete on the recruiting trail as much as they did in the past, but make no mistake, the two programs continue to do battle over top players. Both have won their fair share of battles, but Notre Dame’s victory last season was impactful.
Since the two teams do not play again for the foreseeable future, this game will provide the winner with serious cachet on the recruiting trail.
With 2021 being such a big year in the state of Michigan, that will be quite important.
For Notre Dame, there are a number of talented 2021 players from the state that are top targets for the Irish. Clarkston (Mich.) High School offensive linemen Rocco Spindler and Garrett Dellinger are both priorities for Notre Dame, as is West Bloomfield (Mich.) High School running back Donovan Edwards. Notre Dame recently offered East Lansing (Mich.) High School wide receiver Andrel Anthony, who visited Notre Dame when USC was in town and camped in South Bend this summer.
Spindler is a consensus Top 100 recruit that is listed as an offensive lineman by Rivals and ESPN, and as a defensive tackle by 247Sports. Notre Dame wants him to play offensive line, and while Michigan was long considered his leader, the Irish made a big impression during his visit when they played USC.
Spindler watching Notre Dame put a smack down on Michigan would be yet another boost for the Irish, who have put themselves in great position with the talented blocker. The same is true of Dellinger, his teammate and another top target for the Irish staff.
It's not just standouts from the state of Michigan. Notre Dame and Michigan are both high on the list for Olney (Md.) Good Counsel standout offensive lineman Landon Tengwall. Tengwall will be in attendance at this game.
Notre Dame is also still looking to add to its 2020 secondary class, and there are some Michigan commits that could potentially be swayed by an impressive Irish victory.
An impressive win by Notre Dame would not ensure the Irish land any of the talented players from Michigan or across the nation, but it would certainly leave a lasting impression on the players mentioned above and on future classes.