The race for this season’s College Football Playoffs promises to be a close one, with multiple schools vying for the top four spots in the CFP rankings.
The first rankings of the season were recently released and it’s hard to argue with the two teams at the top: No. 1 Georgia at 8-0 and No. 2 Alabama at 8-0. Notre Dame checks in at No. 3 despite a loss on the record, though it did come at the hands of Georgia, and 7-1 Clemson — despite a loss to Syracuse — is the No. 4 team in the nation.
That’s the top four as it stands and if the season were to end today that would be the CFP field. And while all four teams have a tremendous case to make and a great shot to stay in the top four when all is said and done, ESPN college football analyst David Pollack thinks Notre Dame may not be on the same level.
Here’s what he said recently, speaking with Todd McShay:
“Clemson can absolutely suffocate you defensively. Georgia can suffocate you defensively. Alabama can suffocate you defensively. All three of those teams that we just talked about can do that. And I will say that there are question marks about their offense. Kelly Bryant. Can he beat you consistently? Jalen Hurts. Can he beat you consistently? Jake Fromm. Can he beat you consistently?
Notre Dame still has that — they can run the ball — can the quarterback beat you? But they’re not as suffocating defensively.”
McShay went on to argue that Notre Dame has been playing better on defense, but Pollack believes that the Fighting Irish just aren’t on the same level defensively as UGA, Alabama, or Clemson.
“They’re better but they’re not even close — personnel-wise, size-wise, athleticism-wise — as those other teams.”
For what it’s worth, Alabama and Georgia are the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the nation in terms of total defense. Clemson checks in at No. 7 while Notre Dame’s defense is all the way down at No. 34.
For context, keep in mind that Alabama’s defense gives up only 236 yards per game. Notre Dame gives up more than 100 yards more per game on defense at 349.1.