From Vols to LSU, why SEC football fans should detest Notre Dame in 2024 season | Toppmeyer

NCAA Football

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Make those chants of “S-E-C! S-E-C!” loud, and make them clear on the final Saturday in August. Give your snide remarks about the Texas A&M Aggies Yell leaders a one-weekend moratorium.

Fans from Knoxville to Oxford to Tuscaloosa to Baton Rouge ought to embrace their inner Aggie for a few hours, anyway.

Why?

Because Notre Dame opens its season at Texas A&M on Aug. 31.

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And why, you might wonder, should the Big Orange and Roll Tiders unite in a disdain for the Irish that day? Because the outcome of that game in College Station could carry outsized weight in determining whether the SEC receives five versus four bids to the 12-team College Football Playoff.

The Irish are the biggest threat to the SEC earning an extra at-large bid. Notre Dame’s schedule is forgiving. In the season’s first two months, the Irish will feast upon Northern Illinois, Purdue, Miami (Ohio), Stanford, Georgia Tech and Navy.

Alabama should be so lucky. On the day Alabama faces Tennessee and a hostile crowd of 100,000 at Neyland Stadium, the Irish will swat Yellow Jackets. No wonder Notre Dame protects its independence.

Notre Dame’s road opener against the Aggies ranks as its stiffest test within its first eight games. The Irish rolling into November undefeated is the last thing an SEC team sitting on the playoff bubble needs.

That’s where the Aggies come in. If Notre Dame absorbs a Week 1 loss, then another Irish loss in November against either Florida State or Southern Cal could knock the Irish from the playoff field.

I’m sure some Irish fans would trumpet that a 10-2 record plus Knute Rockne and the Four Horsemen ought to equal a playoff bid, instead of the final spot going to the SEC’s fifth-best team, but that argument rings hollow if the Irish get whacked by the Aggies.

The Irish are ineligible for the five automatic playoff bids. Those are earmarked for conference champions. That leaves them fighting for an at-large bid that teams like Tennessee, LSU, Alabama and others also could be seeking.

Here’s how one possibility for how the playoff bids will be assigned:

∎ The ACC and Big 12 each claim an auto bid, but no at-large spots. Could Clemson and Florida State team up to give the ACC two qualifiers? Possibly, but I doubt it. The Seminoles can attest to how little the playoff selection committee values the ACC, compared to the SEC.

∎ The Group of Five will snag one auto bid. That’s three spots gone.

∎ The SEC and Big Ten will feast. I figure four spots for the Big Ten. Ohio State, Oregon, Michigan and Penn State are best bets.

That’s seven spots gone. Five to go.

∎ From here, the likeliest scenario is either Notre Dame grabs an at-large spot and leaves about nine SEC teams fighting for the remaining four bids, or the Irish suffer at least a couple of losses, and they’re left to wonder, oh, what could have been if not for a Week 1 loss to the Aggies?

The Aggies themselves could emerge as a playoff contender if they beat Notre Dame. Even if they don’t, though, the spoils could extend to LSU or Missouri or Tennessee or any number of SEC teams.

Here are four more nonconference games that would improve the SEC’s chances of earning not four, but five, playoff bids:

Texas at Michigan

Texas and Michigan are top-tier teams within the “Super Two” conferences. A loss in this game doesn’t derail either team’s playoff possibility. However, the result will influence opinions of conference superiority and could lodge in the brain of the playoff selection committee.

LSU vs. Southern Cal (in Las Vegas)

These teams could be among those battling for one of the last at-large bids. So, this result might affect more than perception of the SEC and Big Ten. It could directly factor into which team earns the final playoff spot.

Alabama at Wisconsin

Ohio State and Michigan are the Big Ten’s pride, but Wisconsin, throughout the past two decades, established itself as one of the best B1G programs on its next tier. A dominating Alabama win would send the message that Wisconsin would be a glorified Kentucky in the SEC. A Badgers victory would make a statement for the entire Big Ten.

UCLA at LSU

LSU’s schedule is full of landmines, including two games against Big Ten newcomers. The West Coast could knock the Tigers out of playoff contention. Alternatively, LSU beating USC and UCLA would cast the expanded Big Ten as an inflated second fiddle.

Blake Toppmeyer is the USA TODAY Network’s SEC Columnist. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.

A digital subscription will allow you access to all of his coverage. Also, check out his podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered, or access exclusive columns via the SEC Unfiltered newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Fans from Tennessee to Alabama should detest Notre Dame in 2024 season

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