Notre Dame heads into its bye week at 6-1, with that only loss a two-point defeat in brutal weather conditions on the road against a top-five or top-six Clemson side. After beating USC, 41-31, Saturday night, Notre Dame remains in the College Football Playoff discussion, with the selection committee's first ranking being released Nov. 3.
The only ranking that matters, of course, is the one released Dec. 6. The committee may initially ding the Irish for not having a win over a top-25 side, but strong showings from a pair of teams on the November schedule could work in Notre Dame's favor.
We'll look at the trends below, but first, Notre Dame's opponent power rankings:
1. Clemson (6-0)
2. Stanford (5-1)
3. Pitt (5-1)
4. Temple (6-0)
5. Navy (4-1)
6. USC (3-3)
7. Texas (2-4)
8. Boston College (3-4)
9. Wake Forest (3-4)
10. Georgia Tech (2-5)
11. Virginia (2-4)
12. UMass (1-5)
[NBC SHOP: Get your Notre Dame gear here]
Clemson: Won, 34-17, vs. Boston College
DeShaun Watson threw for 420 yards against one of the nation's better defenses — BC hadn't allowed more than 14 points in a game until Saturday. Interestingly enough, Clemson has only played one road game this year — a three-point win at Louisville 16 days before beating Notre Dame — but has tricky road games against two solid quarterbacks in Jacoby Brissett (N.C. State) and Brad Kaaya (Miami) in the next two weeks. A home game against Florida State looms after those two road trips, so we'll know by Nov. 7 if Clemson is a legitimate contender for the College Football Playoff.
Pitt: Won, 31-28, at Georgia Tech
Kicker Chris Blewitt drilled a 56-yard field goal with just over a minute remaining to push Pitt to 5-1 and an undefeated ACC record in Atlanta. Tyler Boyd caught eight passes for 68 yards with a pair of touchdowns while Qadree Ollison carried 22 times for 83 yards with a score to pace Pitt’s offense to the top of the ACC Coastal. Pat Narduzzi’s first year is off to an excellent start — Pitt’s only loss was on a walk-off field goal at a very good Iowa team — and a win at Duke a week after playing Notre Dame could vault the Panthers into the ACC Championship.
Temple: Won, 30-16, vs. UCF
Matt Rhule's Owls entered both the AP top 25 and coaches poll this week, though a Thursday night road trip to East Carolina could be a tricky game before welcoming Notre Dame to Philadelphia on Halloween. Temple has a solid defense and a legitimate chance of pushing for a New Year's Six bid if it beats Notre Dame and Memphis in the regular season, then wins the American Athletic Conference championship.
Stanford: Won, 56-31, vs. UCLA
Christian McCaffrey thrashed UCLA for 243 rushing yards and had a 96-yard kick return as David Shaw’s Cardinal continued their post-Northwestern surge. Stanford’s point totals since losing 16-6 in that season-opening loss in Evanston: 31, 41, 42, 55, 56. The combination of a star running back in McCaffrey and a dominant offensive line is powering the offensive explosion, while quarterback Kevin Hogan has been efficiently solid. Stanford is playing like one of the best teams in the country, and with Washington, Washington State, Colorado and Oregon coming up, the Cardinal could lock up the Pac-12 North Nov. 21 against Cal and face Notre Dame in Palo Alto with a College Football Playoff bid potentially on the line Nov. 28.
After beating Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl Oct. 10, and after seeing the Sooners smoke Kansas State, 55-0, on Saturday, maybe Texas pulls over .500 by the time it enters a season-ending three-game stretch at West Virginia, vs. Texas Tech and at Baylor. The Longhorns get K-State at home, Iowa State on the road and Kansas at home over the next three weeks, all games this team should win if it can continue to ride its post-Oklahoma momentum through the bye week.
Virginia: Won, 44-38, in 3OT vs. Syracuse
Virginia isn't going to go to a bowl game this year, no matter how dramatic this win in Charlottesville was. But its Mike London's first win over an FBS team this year, so the Cavaliers' plummet was slowed at least for a week.
Boston College: Lost, 34-17, at Clemson
Even in allowing its most points of the season, Boston College held Clemson to 3.1 yards per carry. This remains a good defense, one that could give Notre Dame some problems at Fenway Park. The problem is the offense: Quarterback Jeff Smith was just as ineffective as Troy Flutie, completing 7 of 22 passes for 87 yards in the loss at Death Valley.
The Mids still could make some noise in the AAC, but will need to win road games at Memphis and Houston to push for a conference championship.
Wake Forest: Lost, 50-14, at North Carolina
In Year 2 of a massive rebuild, Dave Clawson did well to get his team to three wins, but there's a good chance the Demon Deacons lose the remainder of their games (NC State, Louisville, Notre Dame, Clemson, Duke) and finish with nine losses.
Georgia Tech: Lost, 31-28, to Pitt
The Yellow Jackets’ slide continued with a narrow loss to Pitt, and with Florida State looming next week, it’ll probably be a six-game losing streak when Paul Johnson takes his team to Virginia on Halloween. Chances are, Georgia Tech won’t win all four of its final games against Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia, leading to a below .500 season a year after torching Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.
UMass: Lost, 15-10, to Kent State
UMass never was going to be a strength-of-schedule booster and looks doomed to leave the MAC after this season with only a handful of conference wins.
USC: Lost, 41-31, at Notre Dame
Trojans coach Clay Helton insisted after Saturday's game his team can still win the Pac-12 South, which would require a win over Utah next week and then the Utes to lose another game along way. And it'd also require USC to win out, which seems unlikely despite all the talent possessed on both sides of the ball in Los Angeles. USC will either need to beat three of four of Arizona, UCLA, Colorado and Oregon (with the latter two games on the road) or win two of those games and upset either Utah or Cal to be bowl eligible. That should still happen, but the selection committee may not view Notre Dame's 10-point win over its historic rival as a schedule-making victory.