The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are still in the running for a BCS title.
It won’t be as easy following their 41-30 loss to Michigan last Saturday. However, losing to a respectable team on the road is never anything to be ashamed of. Especially when that loss comes in Week 2.
There’s still a whole lot more of the season to go.
As we all know, the first few weeks of college football is just the calm before the storm. It’s only a matter of weeks before ranked teams start dropping like flies, one after the other.
Here are the three things that need to happen in order for Notre Dame to make a return trip to the BCS title game.
1. Win and Win Comfortably
First and foremost, the team must take care of its own business.
If the Irish can do that, they’ll be sitting at 11-1. Not only that, the team’s resume will boast victories against the likes of Michigan State, No. 14 Oklahoma, Arizona State, USC and No. 5 Stanford—teams with a combined 7-1 record currently.
It would get even juicier if that game at Stanford on the final week of the season was against an undefeated or one-loss Cardinal team.
On the flip side, Notre Dame must pummel the lesser-talented teams on the schedule. Nobody will push for the inclusion of a one-loss Irish team that struggled to put away a Pittsburgh team that has lost 15 games since 2011.
Sure, Notre Dame got away with needing three overtimes against the Panthers last year, but things are different when you’re undefeated.
2. Other Contenders Must Falter
The Irish can win as many games as they want, but if some of the other contenders don’t lose, it might be all for naught.
This week alone, there are two matchups between ranked opponents. But between Week 5 and 8, there are 14.
If Notre Dame can emerge unscathed by the end of Week 8, there’s a good chance the team could be on the verge of cracking the Top 10.
As it stands, Notre Dame is ranked No. 21 in both the AP and Coaches Poll. There are a total of 17 undefeated teams ahead of the Irish.
Furthermore, if the BCS standings came out this week, the team would find itself at No. 19.
While two of the six computers have Notre Dame inside the Top 15, three don’t have the team ranked at all.
A lot still needs to happen for the Irish.
3. Become the Biggest Fan of Michigan
Notre Dame fans might not like it. However, they may not have a choice.
As long as the Wolverines keep on winning, the Irish’s strength of schedule only increases. In fact, the same goes for all of Notre Dame’s opponents.
Sure, the significance of that aspect has long been lessened in terms of the BCS computers equation. However, the role of strength of schedule shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to the human aspect.
Bleacher Report’s national college football lead writer Michael Felder tackled the topic last year. According to Felder:
This year we might find out if beating Oklahoma, Stanford and USC carries more weight than beating USC twice and Stanford. In other words, would an undefeated Notre Dame carry more clout than an undefeated Oregon team? The same goes for the SEC and Big 12, teams whose undefeated champions have, time and again, proven themselves to be heavily favored when all things are considered equal.
That will become an important factor when the Irish are trying to convince voters that they deserve a shot over a one-loss Pac-12, Big 12 or SEC team.
Summing It All Up
There’s no doubt the loss to Michigan stings. And it definitely should.
However, it’s not the end of the road for Notre Dame.
Including this Saturday, there are still 13 weeks of the college football season left. A lot can happen by then.
If the Irish can keep up their end of the bargain, there’s a good chance last year’s BCS runner-up will have a chance for retribution.
For now, Notre Dame’s mantra is pretty simple: Just win, baby, win.