With 7:28 left in the fourth quarter, Navy’s offense took possession one last time and broke Notre Dame.
Ahead by a single point, the Midshipmen ran, threw, moved the chains and milked every last second off the clock to pull out a 28-27 win. Navy, now 6-2, dropped the Irish to 3-6.
With three games left, Notre Dame must sweep Army, Virginia Tech and Southern California to reach bowl eligibility, and would then need to win its bowl game to avoid the program’s first losing season since the Charlie Weis-coached Irish went 3-9 in 2007.
Remember when Notre Dame was a trendy pick to reach the College Football Playoff? It’s almost impossible to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, simply because there are too many options — with abysmal play defensively and inconsistent play offensively as the simplest conclusions.
Brian Kelly is in no danger of losing his job; the university has already said he’ll be back in 2017. But the wolves are circling, and the chorus of discontent should reach a fever pitch after Saturday. It’ll grow even louder should the Irish lose twice the rest of the way to finish 4-8.
Here are the rest of this Saturday’s winners and losers:
Navy. Nothing the Midshipmen achieve under Ken Niumatalolo is surprising. Beat Notre Dame? He’s done so three times. Reach bowl games? Every year since he took over in 2002 but one. The work he’s done at Navy is never more evident than against Notre Dame, when the Midshipmen overcome a vast gap in overall talent level by outworking, outcoaching and outplaying the Irish.
Texas. Every win is worth its weight in gold for Charlie Strong, who might need to lead Texas through a perfect November to return in 2017. Well, about that: After beating Texas Tech 45-37, the Longhorns may just have what it takes to beat West Virginia (at home), Kansas and TCU to go 8-4 in Strong’s third season.
Louisville. At No. 7 in the debut College Football Playoff rankings, Louisville knew it needed to not just win out to potentially secure a spot in the four-team field but win with style. Mission accomplished against Boston College. Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals led 38-0 at halftime and cruised to a 52-7 win, making the sort of statement that may carry weight with the Playoff selection committee at this week’s meeting.
Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons (6-3, 3-2 ACC) rallied to beat Virginia 27-20 and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2011.
Alabama: What some called a potential upset did not happen. Though the LSU defense was strong throughout, the Crimson Tide's 10-0 win didn't really seem that close. Alabama's winning streak is now at 21 and there is some discussion as to whether this defense is Nick Saban's best ever at Alabama.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes have a loss (to Penn State) and some inconsistent performances on offense. But the Ohio State team that rolled past No. 10 Nebraska 62-3 might have what it takes to beat Michigan and earn the Big Ten's spot in the Playoff.
Texas A&M. Give the Aggies a little bit of credit for delaying the program’s annual meltdown until November. The No. 4 team in the first College Football Playoff rankings will plummet from the title mix after an ugly loss to Mississippi State, which entered Saturday’s game at 3-5 and in real danger of missing bowl play. The Bulldogs revealed A&M as pretenders.
Baylor. Speaking of pretenders: Baylor made hay during its 6-0 start by feasting on five mediocre-to-terrible teams, with Oklahoma State the lone exception. The Bears were humiliated at home by TCU and will likely fall out of the Amway Coaches Poll. In the longer term, this sort of levels portends a poor finish to the regular season.
Michigan State. One year after winning the Big Ten and reaching a national semifinal, Michigan State is sitting at 2-7, having lost six games in a row in conference play. The latest, a 31-27 decision to Illinois, is the worst loss yet. In losing, Michigan State became just the second Big Ten team to go from conference champions one year to a losing record the next, joining 2001-02 Illinois. It’s been a stunning fall for the Spartans.
Florida. The Gators lost at Arkansas 31-10 — the Razorbacks' first SEC win vs. Florida in nine tries — but still control the SEC East (which says something about the SEC East). Not that it will matter much if the Gators can't find some more offense.
Kentucky: The Wildcats were outscored 11-3 in the fourth quarter to cough up a lead against Georgia in a 27-24 loss. In the process, Kentucky lost its chance to rise to the top of the admittedly awful SEC East (albeit by a half game).
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