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Notre Dame Football: 5 Teams That Can Help the Irish Sneak into the BCS

Connor KillorenSenior Analyst IOctober 30, 2013

Notre Dame Football: 5 Teams That Can Help the Irish Sneak into the BCS

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    For Notre Dame to transform its BCS dreams into reality, all it must do is win out, though additional help certainly wouldn't do any damage.

    While the Irish must take care of business down the stretch against Navy, Pittsburgh, BYU and No. 5 Stanford to secure a BCS invitation, other FBS teams could aid head coach Brian Kelly and Co. in that endeavor.

    Notre Dame doesn't necessarily need outside help, but having these other teams come through with wins would make remaining in BCS contention for the final four weeks much less strenuous and stressful for the Irish.

    Which teams can help?

     

    *All rankings reflect the current BCS standings.

No. 10 Oklahoma

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    Any BCS-contending team with losses on its schedule hope to be able to frame those setbacks as "quality losses."

    In Notre Dame's case, it has one such loss on its schedule: a 35-21 setback to then-No. 14 Oklahoma at Notre Dame Stadium late last month.

    Luckily for the Irish, Oklahoma has continued its winning ways and vaulted up the BCS rankings, finding itself in the No. 10 slot of the most recent standings released Sunday evening (Oct. 27). While the Sooners aren't championship contenders—head coach Bob Stoops' squad was defeated by Texas on Oct. 12—they are an elite team capable of strengthening Notre Dame's BCS resume.

    Should Oklahoma remain a Top 10 team, or even a Top 15 team, its victory against Notre Dame will be viewed by BCS officials as a "quality loss" for the Irish.

    But remaining among the nation's elite isn't a simple task for Oklahoma; the Sooners' remaining schedule includes road matchups against No. 6 Bayor and No. 18 Oklahoma State, two likely must-win games in terms of remaining in the Big 12 Championship hunt.

No. 22 Michigan State

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    On the flip side of quality losses are quality wins, and the Irish also have one of those on their resume.

    While Notre Dame's 17-13 victory against then-unranked Michigan State was aesthetically unpleasing and rather unimpressive—the two teams combined for just 474 total yards in a defensive grind—the Spartans have won each of their ensuing games and own an 8-1 record, finding themselves ranked 22nd in the most recent BCS rankings.

    Being the only team undefeated in conference play in the Legends Division of the Big Ten, Michigan State controls its own destiny to the Big Ten Conference Championship Game.

    While it's unlikely the Spartans would knock off No. 4 Ohio State in that tilt, Notre Dame having had a Top 25, conference-championship-participating team on its schedule will only aid the Irish's BCS aspirations.

Arizona State

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    Another team in control of its own destiny to a conference championship game is Arizona State, a squad that Notre Dame defeated, 37-34, at AT&T Stadium in Dallas earlier this month. 

    The Sun Devils were considered a dark horse contender in the Pac-12 Conference during the preseason but have proved themselves as legitimate contenders for a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Head coach Todd Graham's bunch currently sits alone atop the conference's South Division, with a road date at UCLA being the only threat to its conference-title aspirations.

    Despite being in such a favorable position, Arizona State finds itself outside the BCS Top 25. However, it is likely to find its way in, particularly after a convincing 53-24 victory against then-No. 20 Washington two weeks ago.

    Like Michigan State, the Sun Devils would be another quality win for Notre Dame should they secure a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

     

The Ranked Non-AQ Teams: No. 17 Northern Illinois and No. 16 Fresno State

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    The presence of two non-automatic qualifying teams in BCS contention could potentially endanger Notre Dame's BCS hopes.

    Both Northern Illinois (8-0) and Fresno State (7-0) are in the midst of undefeated seasons, which would grant each an automatic BCS berth should their perfect records remain intact. Such a situation transpired in 2010, when non-AQ teams Boise State (12-0) and TCU (12-0) earned BCS berths.

    Per BCS rules, only one champion of among all non-AQ conferences can receive an automatic BCS berth, though another such team can qualify as an at-large team.

    Should Northern Illinois and Fresno State find themselves creating version 2.0 of 2010, the possibility exists that one of those two could be selected over an at-large Notre Dame team, though that's a highly unlikely situation.

    Thus, Northern Illinois and Fresno State could help the Irish by losing.

No. 5 Stanford

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    The indistinguishable mark of any BCS team is a "signature" victory.

    While the exact definition of such a victory is ambiguous, it's often associated with knocking off a Top 10 team on any playing field. Notre Dame hasn't had such an opportunity yet this season, but one against No. 5 Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., looms large.

    With a showdown against No. 2 Oregon next Thursday (championship implications, anyone?), the Cardinal have the opportunity to prove themselves as the class of the Pac-12, as well as of the nation.

    If you're a Notre Dame fan, you want Stanford to win that game against Oregon. For if it does, a move into the top three is likely for the Cardinal, which would present the Irish with an opportunity to claim one of those elusive signature victories by beating Stanford.

    Notre Dame could use that win as a launching pad into the BCS-bowl picture.

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