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Does Notre Dame still have a chance to make the 2021 College Football Playoff?

Notre Dame currently sits on the outside looking in for a chance to make the 2021 College Football Playoff. Could the Fighting Irish still have a chance?

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Update 3:45 p.m. Thanks to this insane goal line stand by the Baylor Bears, Notre Dame is one step closer to the College Football Playoff. By any standard, they leapfrog the Oklahoma State Cowboys who lost 21-16 to Baylor in the Big 12 Championship.

But the other edge is Baylor didn’t exactly look like a lights-out Top 4 team either. 242 total yards and two turnovers tends to do that, despite spates of defensive brilliance today.

If you’re a Notre Dame fan, you’re feeling a lot better about your chances after this one. And you have to wonder what Brian Kelly is thinking in Baton Rouge right now.

Head coaches rarely leave blue blood program to blue blood program, but former Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly bolted for the LSU Tigers earlier this week. He left a potential College Football Playoff as the Irish are potentially still alive for a spot in the top four in conference championship weekend.

The Playoff Committee said Notre Dame could potentially be dinged for Kelly, which makes no sense. I would imagine the remaining players and staff can handle a game or two without him considering we’re 12 games into the season at this point.

Notre Dame will not take the field this weekend but after all that has happened recently, it feels like the Irish have turned from one of the most hated brands in college football into America’s sweetheart.

Notre Dame’s pathway to the 2021 CFP

Notre Dame cannot do anything to improve their Playoff chances, which could help or hurt the Irish depending on how things play out on Saturday. It will probably end up hurting because there are very few scenarios in which Notre Dame can make the top four despite having an 11-1 regular season record.

For Notre Dame to make the Playoff, the easiest way to do it is for the Oklahoma State Cowboys to lose to the Baylor Bears and Cincinnati Bearcats to lose to the Houston Cougars. In that scenario, I think there’s a good chance the Fighting Irish would jump both despite them losing to Cincinnati earlier this season in a move that would cause a massive uproar in the college football community.

Outside of that, I don’t think Notre Dame is a Playoff team. The Michigan Wolverines and Alabama Crimson Tide are both 11-1 as well. Would the committee punish those two teams by losing in a conference championship game? The only way that is possible is if either of those programs lose by a significant margin on Saturday.