The 2019-20 college football bowl games schedule was released on Sunday night. LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, and Oklahoma unsurprisingly rounded out the four-team College Football Playoff. On the other hand, a few teams were surprisingly left out of the bowls.
To be clear, I personally believe that the committee did a good job picking these games. However, I understand how some teams, such as Alabama, Minnesota, Utah, and even Auburn, could have made a case for being selected for a New Year’s bowl. I cannot say the same for Notre Dame.
If you have read my work on college football before, you can probably easily tell that I really don’t like Notre Dame. That being said, I was obviously happy that they did not qualify for a bowl game and to see their entitled fans whine about the system being rigged against them. In this article, I will attempt to be as unbiased as possible while I explain from a neutral college football fan’s perspective why Notre Dame not making a New Year’s Bowl was the right move by the committee.
First of all, let me give a quick rundown of the New Year’s bowls. LSU will play Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl, and Ohio State will play Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. These two games make up the College Football Playoff. Baylor and Georgia will square off in the Sugar Bowl, and Wisconsin and Oregon will face each other in the Rose Bowl. Finally, Penn State will play Memphis in the Cotton Bowl, and Virginia will play Florida in the Orange Bowl. Notre Dame will go up against 7-5 Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl.
Notre Dame is simply not as good as most of these teams. The Fighting Irish finished 10-2 this season but lost their two toughest games. They were unable to edge Georgia and were embarrassed by Michigan at the Big House. Their best wins of the year came only against low top-25 ranked teams, such as Navy, USC, and Virginia. All of these wins were at home, as well. Other than these five opponents, Notre Dame has a pretty easy schedule.
Most of the teams that are in the New Year’s bowls have similar records and higher strengths of schedules. Baylor and Georgia are 11-2, with one of their losses each coming in their respective conference title games against playoff-bound teams. Oregon is 11-2, and they won the PAC-12 Championship Game against Utah. Penn State has the same 10-2 record as Notre Dame, but they had a higher strength of schedule and picked up big wins against two top-16 teams, Iowa and Michigan. Wisconsin has one more loss at 10-3, but two of them came against second-ranked Ohio State, with one being in the Big Ten Championship Game. Additionally, they have a top-five toughest schedule in the nation, destroying Michigan and Minnesota in the process. It is pretty clear that all of these teams have better resumes than Notre Dame.
Virginia and Memphis are two teams in the bowls that Notre Dame is probably more talented than. Notre Dame actually beat Virginia at home earlier this season. Countless Notre Dame fans on social media have brought this up while complaining about being robbed. This victory does not mean that the Fighting Irish should have gotten the Orange Bowl bid over Virginia, though.
The Orange Bowl has a conference tie-in with the ACC and has had one since 1999. Many Power Five conferences have tie-ins with New Year’s bowls, such as the SEC and the Sugar Bowl and the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl. This means that the ACC champion will automatically qualify for the Orange Bowl. However, when the ACC champion qualifies for the College Football Playoff, the Orange Bowl spot is awarded to the next best ACC team. This season, Clemson defeated Virginia in the ACC title game and also made the playoffs. Because Virginia came in second in the conference, they automatically make the Orange Bowl.
The Memphis situation is a little simpler. Notre Dame probably has a more talented team than the Tigers, and they have a much stronger strength of schedule than them. This means nothing, though. Memphis finished their season 12-1 and won the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. As the highest-ranked non-Power Five school, they are automatically awarded a New Year’s bowl berth.
Notre Dame may have a better team than Virginia and Memphis this year. Nevertheless, their fans’ arguments that they should be in a major bowl game over the other two teams because of their talent level and resume is irrelevant. The rules state that Memphis must make a New Year’s bowl and that Virginia must make the Orange Bowl. It is ridiculous for fans to complain about these rules which have been in existence since 2014 because they did not work in their favor.
If Notre Dame joined a conference, this would not be an issue. They are in the ACC for basketball and the Big Ten for hockey but remain independent for football. If Notre Dame joined and excelled in one of these conferences, they would get their own New Year’s Six Bowl conference tie-in. By being independent and taking the easy way out, Notre Dame hurts their postseason chances by not being able to play in a title game and not benefiting from conference tie-ins.
It essentially comes down to this. Notre Dame needs to join a conference if they want the respect from the committee that Power Five programs generally receive. Until then, their fans need to stop whining and be quiet.