3 Reasons Notre Dame Will Make The 2016 College Football Playoff

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish looked like they were headed for the inaugural College Football Playoff halfway through the 2014 season, but the Irish sputtered to losses in five of their last six regular season games. They did manage to end the campaign on a high note, beating LSU in the Music City Bowl, and they're in position to ride that momentum to a major come-up in 2015. Here's 3 reasons why Notre Dame will make the College Football Playoff this season.

1) Malik Zaire's upside

Everett Golson will be using his final year of eligibility at Florida State, handing over the starting QB reins to junior dual-threat firecracker Malik Zaire. He does have high-pressure experience after splitting snaps with Golson in the Music City Bowl, and it's his ability to burn past defensive linemen and linebackers alike both as a runner and a passer on the go that has everyone buzzing. If he can utilize that athleticism and stay measured and in charge when he's asked to act as a traditional drop-back passer, Zaire could be a dark horse Heisman candidate.

2) Improved receiving core 

Corey Robinson, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle have yet to put together consistent seasons for the Irish, but their collective talent level is good enough to push them into the rarefied air of the elite units in college football. If one, two, or all three hit the afterburners early and often in 2015, Malik Zaire's job gets that much easier as it'll stretch the field which will in turn allow Zaire to stretch his legs in space on designed run plays. Get Zaire going like that, and this Notre Dame offense will be LETHAL.

3) Defensive improvement

Notre Dame ranked 75th against the pass and 72nd against the run this season, both in the bottom half of the FBS ranks - a long ways away from where this defense was when the Irish earned a berth in the BCS National Championship Game in 2012. This unit returns 10 starters, however, and has both the scheme continuity and chip on their shoulders necessary to put 2014 in the rearview mirror. If the defense can even improve in incremental fashion, the offense is good enough to carry this team to the CFP.

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Related Topics: College Football Playoff, Notre Dame Football, 2016 College Football Playoff, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Malik Zaire