Notre Dame (11-1) checked in at the No. 6 spot in the College Football Playoff ranking for the second straight week. The Irish were passed by Oklahoma State (11-1) while Ohio State (10-2) dropped behind Notre Dame.
According to committee chair Gary Barta, Notre Dame's ranking was due to its current resume and not the departure of former head coach Brian Kelly. But that doesn't mean the final ranking won't be impacted by his departure in the rankings that matter, the rankings that come out Sunday afternoon.
"The committee obviously is aware of all the coaching changes while we were going through the rankings, this week it didn't apply because the games had occurred and we evaluated based on those games," Barta explained. "Once the championship games wrap up .... our protocol does include the ability for the committee to consider a player or coach not being available."
That means Notre Dame doesn't just need teams ranked ahead to lose, it also means the committee needs to look past the fact Kelly bailed on his team before it knew about whether or not it had a chance to play for a title.
Barta stated that just because Kelly left doesn't mean the ranking will be negatively impacted.
“There might be one committee member who thinks, 'Hey, this team might be more motivated with their new coach,'" Barta said. "Or, I've seen games where a quarterback who starts or running back that starts, they put in the next person and the team actually plays better.
"So it's a piece of information that the management group has said the committee is able to use, but all 13 members may end up using it slightly differently when they place their vote," Barta continued. "That's the beauty of the way the committee works. We all have this criteria that we need to use, we're responsible for using. How each committee member uses that in their vote might be a little different for all 13.”
The criteria in question refers to the ranking principles included in the committee protocols. The specific principle reads as follows:
"Other relevant factors such as unavailability of key players and coaches that may have affected a team’s performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance."
Normally when thinking about this principle an injured player would be the focus, but we've never seen a situation where a head coach of a team with a legit shot to make the playoff leaves for another job.
If Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick wants to give the red hot 2021 Notre Dame squad a chance to play for a national title he needs to name a coach before this weekend's games conclude. Promoting Marcus Freeman would certainly have an impact on the future, but based on Barta's comments it could also greatly impact the present.
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