An 8-3 season and a berth in the Pinstripe Bowl isn't exactly what the Notre Dame Fighting Irish had in mind just one year removed from playing for a national title.
However, the basement for the Irish's bowl hopes has basically been reached. A loss to Stanford this week shouldn't hurt Notre Dame's bowl projection, but a win could vault them up.
Both Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards of ESPN, plus Jerry Palm of CBS Sports, have the Irish pegged to go to the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York City. Although the game sounds glorious, the Pinstripe Bowl is one of the lower-tier bowl games in the country, and the Irish would love to do better than that.
A loss to Stanford likely wouldn't hurt Notre Dame's projection of the Pinstripe Bowl. That bowl has the seventh selection from the Big 12 and the fourth selection from the American Athletic Conference. The Big 12 likely won't get seven teams into bowl games, so the Irish are pretty much set there should they lose to the Cardinal.
Should the Irish end up in New York, they'll likely play either Houston or Rutgers, as they will likely be the third and fourth teams taken from the American. UCF is poised to get the conference's automatic BCS berth, and Louisville is sure to be scooped up shortly afterwards.
Schlabach has Notre Dame playing the Cougars, while Edwards has the Irish squaring off against the Scarlet Knights, who would be playing an almost de facto home game.
However, a storybook upset of Stanford could vault the Fighting Irish up the projection ladder. In Week 10, just prior to Notre Dame's upset loss to Pittsburgh, the Fighting Irish were projected to go to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, a slight upgrade from the Pinstripe Bowl, by ESPN's Mark Schlabach.
Should the Irish play in that bowl game, they'll face off against a Big Ten opponent and replace the C-USA bid. But even this scenario is unlikely, as both the Big Ten and C-USA have enough teams to fulfill their bowl requirements.
A win over Stanford could send Notre Dame to Dallas. However, a loss, which is expected, should keep the Fighting Irish on track for the Pinstripe Bowl in the city that never sleeps.
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