We are less than a month into the college football season, but it is never too soon to begin talking about bowl possibilities. This is why each team plays hard during the regular season for, a chance to attend the best bowl possible.
Notre Dame has kicked off the season with their best start in years, as the Irish are 3-0 for the first time since the 2002 season. The program has had to deal with a lot to get here, but it appears that Notre Dame is back and quite possibly ready to take over college football once again.
There is still a tough schedule ahead, with a total of nine games (including four ranked opponents) remaining, but I think we have a good idea of what this team is capable of, especially after an impressive win last week in East Lansing.
In the month of September, here are the best and worst-case bowl scenarios for the 2012 Notre Dame football team.
The Irish only need three more wins to be considered bowl eligible and with teams such as Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and Boston College on the schedule, they will likely get that.
But there is always a chance that it will not happen.
We have seen the Red Sox come back from down 0-3 in a series to the New York Yankees. We have seen the New York Mets blow a seven game division lead in just over two weeks. Shoot, we even saw the New England Patriots lose the Super Bowl despite going 16-0 in the regular season.
Oh, you want a college football example?
Well, we did see Illinois win the first six games last year and the end up losing the final six, just barely qualifying for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Injuries happen, upsets happen, a bowl appearance is never a lock. And while we all have a better chance of winning the lottery instead of this happening, the slim chance is still there.
Taking a trip to New York and getting to play in Yankee Stadium should never be considered a bad thing, but when you have goals of reaching a more prestigious bowl game, it is. Head coach Brian Kelly and company can tour Times Square during the offseason.
The only way this bowl will include Notre Dame is if the Irish end up hitting a few bumps in the road. The program does not have to go undefeated to avoid playing football on a baseball diamond, but it will likely have to win at least seven games. The Big 12 would also have to take a nose dive, as a seventh team from the conference would have to not qualify.
Chances any of this happening are slim, but the door is still open.
Notre Dame has been criticized for not making a BCS bowl since 2006. A prestigious bowl game is considered the goal by most of the top programs in the country.
As of right now, the Irish are eligible for a chance to reach one of the five bowl games with the program ranked 11th in the AP Poll. But in order to be guaranteed a spot in one of the BCS bowls, Notre Dame has to finish as a top eight team in the BCS rankings.
However, as long as the team remains in the top 14, the school could make one of the big games as an at-large bid. (Which bowl would seriously turn down Notre Dame if given the chance?)
This is what head coach Brian Kelly was brought here to do, and he seems to be on the right track in his third season.
If Notre Dame struggles with many of the games the rest of the way, the Irish may have to settle for a trip to North Carolina to play in the Belk Bowl. This is a bowl game that can feature either the No. 3 team from the Big East or Notre Dame if eligible.
This would be considered a huge disappointment for Irish fans across the country, especially with the way the season has started. But if a BCS bowl doesn't fall through for Notre Dame, this is probably the third best scenario for the team.
The good news is that five of the last six Belk Bowls have been decided by a touchdown or less, so at least we will likely get a solid matchup in late December.
The best case scenario is a chance to win this year’s national championship. Right now, Notre Dame is a top 15 team in the country, and with teams such as Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma and USC still on the schedule, the possibility to play in the big dance is achievable.
However, the only shot the Irish have at reaching the BCS National Championship is by either running the table or finishing the season with just one loss. Teams such as Alabama, LSU, Florida State, USC and Oregon, among others, are going to remain in the title conversation throughout the season.
Notre Dame must continue to play solid football and make more of a statement than it already has. The good thing is that this is a team that controls its own destiny; it is just going to be very difficult to make the National Championship Game this season with the schedule that remains.