CFP chair: Coaching change not significant for Notre Dame’s playoff odds
Notre Dame had multiple incentives to quickly find a replacement for Brian Kelly.
The early signing period opens on Dec. 15, for instance. Dragging a coaching search out past that date could have crippled an incredibly impressive Notre Dame recruiting class. The Irish rank No. 4 nationally in the class of 2022 team rankings according to Rivals.
The Fighting Irish also still have at least one more game left. It could come in the College Football Playoff. Not having a definitive leader of the program in the weeks leading up to bowl season could have crippled team morale, too.
Director of athletics Jack Swarbrick and the rest of Notre Dame's powers that be making the decision to promote defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to head coach quelled both of those worries.
Freeman can continue spreading his recruiting message in the days leading up to the early signing period. He can tell prospective players that Notre Dame is still Notre Dame, and that won't change in the wake of Kelly leaving. He can tell them if anything, the Fighting Irish culture will only be enhanced. That's the buzzword he's used the last two days.
He can also prepare current players for whatever lies ahead in the postseason. CFP chair Gary Barta said Tuesday in the penultimate rankings release that the committee could take into consideration what Notre Dame might be like on the field without the head coach who roamed the sideline for all 12 of the Irish's games this year.
At that time, it felt like a knock on Notre Dame's chances of sneaking into the field as a semifinalist. Remember, Kelly hadn't even had his introductory press conference at LSU by then. The sky was still falling for Fighting Irish faithful. Since then, things have stabilized with Freeman's elevation and the retainment of several key figures on the Notre Dame coaching staff including offensive coordinator Tommy Rees.
So what does that mean for the perception of Notre Dame in the committee's eye? Barta provided some insight Saturday morning on ESPN's College GameDay.
"We talked about the Notre Dame change," Barta said. "The continuity, the quickness. I can tell you that it is still part of our protocol, but based on the conversation last night I'd be really surprised if it factors in at all in the conversation evaluating Notre Dame."
It might not matter anyway. Notre Dame still needs some help to even be considered. The Irish are rooting for two teams currently ranked ahead of them in the CFP rankings to lose their respective conference championship games. Notre Dame would love to see two of the following go down on Saturday: Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Cincinnati.
The first three teams in that sequence would have two losses if they were defeated Saturday. Cincinnati would only have one, but the Bearcats' status as a Group of Five team would most likely doom them on selection Sunday.
ESPN analyst Chris “The Bear” Fallica said on Saturday's show that Notre Dame would have "the absolute worst resume of any College Football Playoff team ever" if things went its way and the Irish got in.
Notre Dame has long been one of the most polarizing programs in the sport. But this year feels a little different. Poor resume or not, this Fighting Irish team has a bit of a different feel to it with Freeman at the helm. It'll be interesting to see if the committee feels the same way on Sunday.
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