Notre Dame's Playoff Hopes Should Still Be Very High After Loss to Florida State

Keith Arnold@@KeithArnoldNotre Dame Lead WriterOctober 19, 2014

USA Today

The wound is still open, a heart still flat-lined after a controversial yellow flag ripped a victory from Notre Dame in the most dramatic of fashions. But while it's far too soon to take any solace, the Irish's performance in Tallahassee, Florida, did nothing to derail their chances of making it to college football's ultimate stage. 

No, you don't want to hear it yet. You'd rather talk about the obvious. Or point out the half-dozen missed holding calls on Sheldon Day and Notre Dame's defensive line.

Or the broken coverage by the Seminoles on the game's deciding play. Or that even Reggie Bush—the guy who broke Notre Dame's heart the last time the Irish had their shot at dethroning the champs in 2005—was questioning whether a flag should've been thrown for offensive pass interference. 

But that's not going to help. 

So when the pain wears off and the dust settles, the truth will at least be moderately comforting. Notre Dame's playoff hopes are alive and well. So, if there's anything positive to take away from a soul-crushing defeat, it's that the Irish's goals are still intact after a showdown with the defending champs. 

With the Irish off next weekend, Brian Kelly and his team will have an extra few days to try to shake the defeat. And while they'll look back on other missed opportunities, they'll get past the controversial fourth-down interference penalty that all but shut down the Internet on Saturday night, too. 

Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press

Because with five regular-season games remaining, Kelly won't struggle to refocus his team. Because unlike in years past where the Irish likely needed an undefeated regular season to be considered for the BCS title game, they're still in the thick of a playoff race that could shine kindly on Notre Dame, especially after going toe-to-toe with Florida State. 

Baylor's Saturday loss to unranked West Virginia drops another undefeated team from the top of the rankings. And it won't likely take until the Egg Bowl to see one of the two unbeaten Mississippi teams fall. The Bulldogs still have to face Alabama. Ole Miss needs to get through Auburn. Add a second loss and they're not getting in before the Irish. 

Without a ranked opponent left on Florida State's schedule, it'd be shocking if the Seminoles didn't run the table, especially if Jameis Winston can keep Florida State's disciplinary committee at bay. That could end up being the best thing to happen to Notre Dame in the eyes of the selection committee, setting up a potential rematch that just about every college football fan would sign up for, even if it meant another week of nonstop SportsCenter overkill. 

Notre Dame will be tested down the stretch. A date in Tempe against an Arizona State team that should be ranked will be a challenge. So will the season finale at Southern Cal.

And while you can't call games against Navy, Northwestern and Louisville gimmes, if the Irish run the table and finish 11-1, try to tell me that a team that came within one questionable flag against the defending champs isn't in the Final Four. 

That doesn't help Brian Kelly or the Irish now. And it won't remove this loss from that unmentionable page of the Notre Dame history book, the one that can't erase moments like the Bush Push or the phantom flag dropped during Rocket's Orange Bowl punt return. 

But even if it hurts, Notre Dame's playoff hopes are alive and well. 

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