Notre Dame's Difficult Path to the BCS

sven ghaliCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2009


Notre Dame’s chance of reaching a BCS Bowl this year is an interesting topic just past the season’s halfway mark. The Irish are 5-2 and 23rd in the October 25th BCS Standings.

The majority agrees that ND must finish its regular slate at 10-2 to have any chance of qualifying for an at-large BCS berth with a ranking in the top 12.

A top 12 finish to the regular season is no guarantee for the Irish this year, with two undefeated non-BCS teams currently in the top 10. With six BCS conference champions, two undefeated non-BCS conference qualifiers, and the SEC runner-up virtually locked in for selection, only one spot remains for Notre Dame to squeeze in.

At this point, the likely competition for the final at-large berth comes from the Big Ten, Pac Ten, and Big Twelve South runners-up.

Assuming Notre Dame wins the rest of its games and aside from the aforementioned BCS conference runners-up all suffering horrendous losses in the remaining weeks, here are four scenarios that could greatly benefit Irish chances of reaching pay dirt.

1) Navy is ranked by the BCS on Sunday, November 1.

Notre Dame has not beaten a ranked opponent since September 9, 2006. That means only one Irish starter from the ’06 team remains with any meaningful experience of beating a ranked opponent.

Notre Dame simply needs that to happen again to be taken seriously by any BCS contributor with a pulse. The Irish face No. 15 Pittsburgh the following week, and it would better for them to have this monkey off their back before entering their toughest remaining challenge of the season.

The Navy Midshipmen currently find themselves receiving votes in all of the major polls with a 6-2 record. It is a stretch for them to reach the 25 spot of the BCS standings, but it is not impossible. This weekend could be highly volatile for the bottom portion of the rankings with teams like Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Central Michigan, and Cal all facing competitive matchups. 

Navy squares off against a 5-2 Temple squad that leads the MAC division.  A quality win for the Midshipmen along with the right combination of top 25 losses just might give Navy its first ever BCS ranking.

Additionally, Notre Dame has played a top 20 strength of schedule to this point although most people who do not avidly follow the team still have preseason impressions of a weak slate in their minds.  A sudden ranking for ND’s annual poster-child of pushovers would open a lot of eyes, and create buzz for haters and fans alike.

2) Pittsburgh wins the Big East.

If Pittsburgh runs the table on the Big East to gain an automatic BCS berth, the Irish will be able to claim a road victory against a BCS team with an equal record. The Big East is still the weakest BCS conference, but ND will at least have some ground to stand on to defend their three previous disasters in BCS Bowls.

3) Nevada defeats Boise State.

Who leads the WAC standings right now? Nevada. The only opponent the Irish have crushed this season sits atop the WAC at 3-0 in conference. Of course BSU is undefeated overall, but do not pencil in this win for the Broncos just yet. The Wolf Pack played within one score of the Broncos last year. The last time UNR played on the Smurf Turf was a four overtime thriller and the ever dangerous Colin Kaepernick’s first collegiate start.

A monumental upset would not simply boost ND’s computer ranking, but more importantly it would double their opportunity by opening up a second at-large slot.

4) USC wins out.

The Trojans represent Notre Dame’s high water mark. There is no way Notre Dame will surpass USC in the rankings even if they lose two more games.  If USC ends up ranked 12th or lower, the Irish are headed to the Gator Bowl.

If USC is the Pac Ten runner up looking for the final berth, the Irish are headed to the Gator Bowl.  End of discussion.  On the other hand, an eighth straight Pac Ten title and regular season mark of 11-1 could put USC squarely in the title game discussion.  That also allows the Irish to claim they are ready to compete with the very elite teams, which Irish fans might have to hope is enough.