Notre Dame Football: 4 Wins Needed To Decide BCS Fate
We are only in our fifth week of action in the college football season, and already, it has been an emotional ride for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
They dropped a rainy, disjointed game to South Florida in Week 1, but it wasn't all bad. Tommy Rees entered the game for Dayne Crist and led the offense admirably.
Any momentum gained from that was lost in Week 2, though, when the Irish dropped a heart-breaking game to Michigan.
Since then, they have played well. They blew Michigan State off the field in Week 3, and they got a hard-fought win over Pittsburgh in Week 4.
Because of the high-profile nature of their program, Notre Dame is still very much in the race for a spot in a BCS bowl game.
But to get there, they must win the following four games. A loss in any one of these games, or any games really, will doom their hopes for a BCS bowl bid.
October 8 vs. Air Force
You don't have to convince Notre Dame that games against services academies can be difficult. In recent years, they have struggled to get wins over Navy.
Air Force brings a lot of the same things Navy does.
They run the triple-option offense, they don't beat themselves and they play hard from the opening kick to the final whistle. If you aren't on the top of your game, they will beat you.
As a team, they are averaging 7.3 yards per carry with 11 total rushing touchdowns.
They haven't passed the ball often, but when they have, quarterback Tim Jefferson has been pretty solid. He has completed nearly 65 percent of his passes, and he has thrown four touchdown passes.
October 22 vs. USC
The Irish's annual rivalry game with USC is without some of the luster it has had in the past, but a lot of attention will be paid to this game. That's simply a product of these two programs being huge brand names in college football.
The buzz around this game, deserved or not, will only stand to help Notre Dame. USC isn't the same program they were during Pete Carroll's tenure, but that doesn't stop teams from getting a big bump in their ranking from beating the Trojans.
That's not to say that USC will be easy to beat. Matt Barkley is a future first-round pick at quarterback, and there are still tons of 5-star recruits on their roster.
Notre Dame will have to come out and play well from the first whistle. USC is talented enough that if you let them stay in the game, they will improve as the game rolls on.
October 29 vs. Navy
Not only has Notre Dame had trouble with Navy in the past, but the Midshipmen have come to symbolize the decline of the Notre Dame program over the last several seasons.
Losses to the likes of USC and Michigan are understandable from time to time, but the feeling was that Notre Dame should never lose to Navy.
Air Force is the defending Commander-in-Chief trophy winner, but Navy is just about as tough. Just ask South Carolina, a team that barely survived their game against Navy on September 17th.
As always, the Midshipmen are going to try to run the ball. As a team, they average 6.6 yards per carry, and they have 10 total rushing touchdowns. They have only thrown the ball 23 times all season.
If nothing else, winning this game will exorcise those demons previous losses to Navy brought on.
November 26 at Stanford
This is by far the biggest game left on Notre Dame's schedule. Even if Stanford drops a game along the way, they will likely be a top-15 team heading into this game.
If Notre Dame is able to run the table until this game, this one might serve as a virtual play-in game to get into a BCS bowl.
The Notre Dame defense is very good, but they won't have played anyone with as good an offense as Stanford. Andrew Luck is the premier quarterback in the nation, and he will be looking for one more signature performance to pad his Heisman resume.
All of Notre Dame's realistic goals for the 2011 season are still in play.
A win over Stanford in the finale to get them into a BCS bowl game would be a great ending to what could only be considered a successful season.