I have several thoughts on this podcast. The first is how I think about the top 3 tiers of college football teams. The second is pertaining specifically to ND. Because of this I will break them into two comments.
When I think about the top three tiers in college football, I have a completely different take on it I think than @Bryan Driskell, I base my evaluation on the eye test with a strong dose of recency bias. Let me give you an example.
When I think of tier 1 teams, I am thinking who is going to win or at least play for the national championship. So last year going into the season I would have thought that it was either going to be Clemson or Alabama that's my tier 1 teams based on their current teams, trends, etc. If you thought LSU would have had a chance to play for the championship you might have considered them a tier-1 team, however, based on recent success, I think most people would have had a hard time putting LSU on the level of Clemson and Alabama. So for me, tier 1 teams are those two teams. Several years I would have put Ohio State as a borderline top tier team, because I would have thought they had a chance to win it all.
When I think of tier two teams I'm not thinking about who's going to play in the championship or who's going to win the championship, I'm thinking about who is going to the playoffs. These teams could win it all if things broke perfectly, but its not expected for them to win it all, but they definitely deserve a playoff bid. When I think of recent tier 2 team I am thinking of Oklahoma, Georgia, Notre Dame a couple of years, LSU last year and maybe a couple other teams in different years. Those are your tier two teams at least the way I'm looking at it. So if you are going to look at a ranking, tier one is probably your top two teams, and tier 2 is probably teams ranked anywhere from 3 to 6, but more so who are the next 2-4 most likely to make the playoffs after the tier 1 teams.. Not because the team is ranked in the top 6, but because these are the most likely playoff teams, the ones everyone is arguing about, so in 2018 people were talking about Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame all of those would have kind of been top two tier teams. Now last year Notre Dame was not a tier 2 team because nobody was consider them for the playoff after the Michigan blowout, but beginning of the season you probably have them as a borderline tier 2 team. Had they beat Michigan you would have been correct as they would have been in the discussion for the playoffs. Again the way I'm looking at a tier 2 team is who has a legit chance for the playoffs.
Tier 3 teams are generally the teams that round out the rest of the top 10ish college football programs. Since everybody is going to have a difference of opinion, this could expand up to 12 maybe 13 teams but realistically we're talking about the top 10-12 teams in college football. And if you're not ranked in the top 10ish, you don't have a real chance for national championship and you don't belong to the top 3 tiers in my opinion. Tier 3 teams are teams that are on the outside looking in at the playoffs, teams like Michigan, Washington, West Virginia, etc. These teams don't really have a chance to win it all, aren't quite playoff teams, but very, very solid teams. Penn State, maybe Wisconsin several years. You know Wisconsin isn't beating OSU, but they are the best or near the best of the rest, of the teams left out of the college football playoffs.