While currently No. 1, Notre Dame has become more or less a (valuable) pawn going forward in the new playoff era.
We're beginning to see why the Big Ten rocked the college athletics world by expanding to Maryland and Rutgers this week. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany intimated that expansion would have been unnecessary if a proposed Pac-12/Big Ten challenge in all sports had gone through.
The Big Ten might have also desired a stand-alone spot in the Orange Bowl opposite the ACC champion. But when the Orange Bowl announced its future matchups last week, it became clear in retrospect that the Big Ten was going to act quickly. Just two days after the Orange Bowl announcement, ESPN.com reported the league was in talks with Maryland and Rutgers.