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Is Notre Dame a playoff contender?

Everett Golson's improvements under center have catalyzed the entire Irish offense. Tom DiPace/AP Images

While we're just two weeks into the 2014 college football season, there has been no shortage of intrigue, particularly following a Week 2 that completely altered the playoff landscape. No. 3 Oregon made an early-season statement with a convincing win over No. 7 Michigan State. Unranked Virginia Tech upset No. 8 Ohio State in Columbus. And No. 13 USC fought to the finish to beat No. 11 Stanford at home.

And in one of the bigger rivalry games of the season, No. 16 Notre Dame blanked Michigan 31-0. The Irish looked impressive on both sides of the ball, and expectations are building in South Bend. But does coach Brian Kelly's squad have the makings of a playoff contender?

In our regular-season debut of "No Huddle," Insider's panel of experts debates that topic, as well as other key questions. Which coach is on the warmest early-season hot seat? Which player has emerged as a top breakout candidate? Which Week 3 favorite should be on upset alert?


1. Will Notre Dame be a playoff contender?

Travis Haney: No, because it isn't winning at FSU and USC. It's an eight- to 10-win team, one that is vastly improved on offense because of quarterback Everett Golson, but let's not get carried away with the Michigan win. The Wolverines looked just like the version that flat-lined late last season, OC change or not. I like Notre Dame. It has an outside shot at a New Year's Six bowl game, depending on how things go. But it's not a playoff team.

Kevin Weidl: Yes. This a much better outfit than I anticipated after watching the Irish on tape. Golson is executing the offense at a high level, and the defense -- which features the most athleticism and speed it has had on that side of the ball in a long time -- should keep Notre Dame in every game. The Irish have a daunting schedule, but if they can navigate it with one or two losses, they will be in the conversation for one of the playoff spots.