Breaking Down Notre Dame's Spot in the BCS Rankings

Connor KillorenSenior Analyst IOctober 14, 2012

Breaking Down Notre Dame's Spot in the BCS Rankings

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    When the initial BCS standings were revealed on Sunday evening, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame found themselves ranked fifth behind Kansas State, Florida, Oregon and Alabama. 

    How did Notre Dame reach this point? 

    And what does the ranking mean for the Irish? 

    Let's break down Notre Dame's initial BCS ranking. 

The Road to No. 5

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    Notre Dame's journey to this point has been has been a treacherous one, though the Irish have avoided the pitfalls on their way to a sterling 6-0 record. 

    The results through six games are as follows: 

    • vs. Navy - W, 50-10
    • vs. Purdue - W, 20-17
    • at Michigan State - W, 20-3
    • vs. Michigan - W, 13-6
    • vs. Miami - W, 41-3
    • vs. Stanford - W, 20-13

    It hasn't always been pretty, but Notre Dame has done just enough to arrive at the halfway point of the season unscathed. The Irish defense has been the catalyst of the blistering start, as the unit hasn't allowed a touchdown in the past 16 quarters of play. 

    That astonishing effort places the Irish second in the nation in scoring defense, yielding an average of 8.67 points-per-game. Alabama is ranked first. 

Rankings in Relavant Polls

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    The BCS standings are formulated by averaging the sum of the rankings in the Harris Interactive Poll, USA Today Coaches' Poll, AP Poll and computer rankings. 

    The Irish rankings within those polls are as follows: 

     

    Harris Interactive Poll: Fifth

    USA Today Coaches' Poll: Fifth 

    AP Poll: Fifth 

    Computer Rankings: 2nd  

     

    Clearly, the voters have unanimously pegged Notre Dame as the nation's fifth-best team, but the computers disagree. Those computers love Notre Dame, likely due to the Irish having claimed victories over three Top 25 teams.

    For that computer love to continue, the Irish need USC, Oklahoma and Michigan to continue to win to bolster their strength of schedule.  

Forthcoming Challenges

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    Notre Dame's dream of finishing the season with a zero in the loss column took on a more realistic feeling following the Irish's 20-13 victory over then 17th-ranked Stanford on Saturday afternoon. 

    However, the schedule isn't completely rosy from here on out, as ninth-ranked Oklahoma and 10th-ranked Oklahoma remain as potential potholes for the Irish. 

    Though the Sooners and Trojans are the clear favorites to knock off the Irish, one team not to take lightly is BYU, which rolls into South Bend next weekend for the first time since 2005. 

    The Cougars boast one of the nation's best defenses, which ranks fifth in total defense. Yet the most dangerous element of the matchup will be the Cougars rush defense against Notre Dame's ground attack. Bronco Mendenhall's squad allows an average of 67.86 rushing yards per game. 

    The contest of these two independent schools has all the makings of a trap game. 

2nd-Half Schedule and Predictions

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    Notre Dame's second-half schedule won't be a walk in the park, though three of the final six games appear to be tune-ups for the home stretch to a BCS game. 

    The Irish's final six games, as well as my prediction for each, are as follows: 

     

    Oct. 20 vs. BYU - W

    Oct. 27 at No. 9 Oklahoma - L

    Nov. 3 vs. Pittsburgh - W

    Nov. 10 at Boston College - W

    Nov. 17 vs. Wake Forest - W

    Nov. 24 at No. 10 USC - W

     

    Should my predictions ring true, the Irish would finish the regular season with an 11-1 record, which would guarantee Notre Dame a spot in a BCS bowl game. And if things transpire in a wacky fashion, a one-loss Irish squad may even find itself in the BCS National Championship Game.