How far can Notre Dame climb in the rankings?
If Notre Dame has any hopes of entering the Top 25 of the BCS standings, the team has no choice but to run the table from this point on.
Sure, that may be putting a little too much pressure on a team that has underperformed thus far. However, already with two losses, the Irish’s BCS hopes are skating on thin ice.
In other words, it’s win now or forever hold your peace.
After a 35-21 loss to Oklahoma on Sept. 28, Notre Dame dropped out of both the AP and Coaches’ Top 25 polls for the first time since 2011. With a resounding 37-34 win over Arizona State the following week, paired with losses by several other ranked teams, the Irish are once again knocking on the door.
But the team must do more than just threaten to once again crack the rankings. Especially since Notre Dame needs a top-14 spot in the BCS standings to qualify for a BCS bowl.
According to BCS Guru’s simulated BCS standings through Week 7, the Irish still have some work to do:
|20. Oklahoma State||4-1||0.1868|
|22. Northern Illinois||6-0||0.1730|
|27. Oregon State||5-1||0.0523|
|29. Michigan State||5-1||0.0459|
|31. Notre Dame||4-2||0.0198|
So how long till we see the Irish back in the BCS Top 25?
Surprisingly, it could be as soon as next week.
In both the Coaches’ Poll and Harris Poll, Notre Dame is listed as one of the other team’s receiving votes. That means a win against USC this Saturday—convincingly or not—will most likely be enough for the Irish to make the leap back into the rankings.
That would provide the team’s BCS ranking a boost as these two polls make up two-thirds of the formula.
Furthermore, several teams ahead of Notre Dame in those simulated BCS standings have a good chance to lose this weekend. That includes No. 20 Oklahoma State (at West Virgnia), No. 21 Florida (at No. 13 Missouri), No. 23 Auburn (at No. 7 Texas A&M) and No. 30 Utah (at Arizona).
Losses by those teams, combined with a victory this weekend, would be instrumental in landing the Irish inside the Top 25 come the release of the first official BCS standings Sunday.
After the Trojans, it’s smooth sailing from there—mostly.
Notre Dame’s next four opponents have a combined record of 12-12. The only one that should pose any amount of trouble will be BYU. Fortunately though, that contest will be played inside the friendly confines of South Bend.
If all goes as planned, that would leave the Irish at 9-2 with only one game remaining. It would be a surprise if the team isn’t in the top 14 by then.
However, it’s that last game—at No. 13 Stanford—that could spell doom for Notre Dame.
Can Notre Dame still make a BCS Bowl game this season?
Over the last four years, the Irish have had trouble dealing with the Cardinal. In fact, even one of the best Notre Dame teams in quite some while needed overtime last year to snap Stanford’s three-game winning streak in the series.
This time around, the team might not be as fortunate.
Through six weeks, the Cardinal rank No. 36 in scoring defense (22.2 PPGA), No. 24 against the run (123.3 YPGA) and No. 48 in pass efficiency defense (121.2 QBR). Furthermore, the team has forced a turnover in 30 straight games—the nation’s longest active streak.
Given the inefficiency of the Irish offense, and quarterback Tommy Rees’ proneness to committing turnovers, it doesn’t look too promising.
Needless to say, it will be a tall order for Notre Dame to sneak into its second consecutive BCS Bowl game.
But hey, that shouldn’t stop the team from trying.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.