Champs Sports Bowl: Notre Dame Returns to National Relevancy with Win over FSU

Corbin WeaverContributor IIIDecember 27, 2011

STANFORD, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly run on to the field for their game against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Stanford, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

This year Notre Dame plays in the Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State. While Notre Dame hoped for a better record than 8-4 and a better bowl appearance, things are looking up for the Fighting Irish.

In recent memory, the Irish have been, well let's face it, disappointing.

The last time the Irish played in a big-time bowl game was 2007 when they were dismantled by LSU, in the Sugar Bowl, 41-14. In fact, the last time Notre Dame has won a significant bowl game was in the 1994 Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M.

Such a successful and prominent football program, such as Notre Dame, should have performed better over the past two decades. 

Fortunately, things are looking up for the Irish. 

I know, pundits such as Lou Holtz say this year in and year out. However, for the first time, I would have to agree. Even this year, many were thinking a BCS berth, and what do the Irish do? They lay an egg and lose the first two games to ruin any chances. 

However, Notre Dame responded to adversity by winning four games in a row and winning their last four of five games. With an opportunity to play in a bowl game, Notre Dame can return to national relevancy with a big win over Florida State on Thursday.

Notre Dame can do it, too. Manti Te'o leads the Irish on defense and he has announced recently that he will be returning for his senior season. Notre Dame will be playing fired up on the defensive side of the ball. 

Coach Brian Kelly will be in his third year as a head coach, Manti Te'o will be returning and the Irish have a tough, but reasonable, schedule next year. It is the perfect storm for Notre Dame to make a run at a BCS game next season. 

To start off the season Notre Dame faces Navy in Dublin, Ireland. This should be an easy win. Next is Purdue, who will be manageable but better next year. The Irish will start off with two wins.

Next is Michigan State and Michigan. MSU is a road test and Michigan is a home game. The Irish will split this series 1-1. Now they have three wins and one loss. 

Miami, Stanford and BYU do not pose much of a threat as they will all be having down years. Next is Oklahoma, Pitt, Boston College and Wake Forest. After this stretch of games the Irish will be no worse than 9-2. 

The final game of the season is against USC in Los Angeles. This is sure to be a night game as USC will have returned to prominence with the return of Matt Barkley. Notre Dame controls their own destiny with this game. A win will likely propel the Irish to a BCS bowl, a loss would mean Notre Dame would be playing in another minor bowl game. 

While Notre Dame has been very disappointing recently, a win over Florida State would kick-start a 2012 campaign that would have Notre Dame returning to national relevancy and perhaps a BCS bowl.