Irish Eyes Will Shift to Texas with Win in Hawaii

Matt PoloniCorrespondent IDecember 21, 2008

It has been well covered in recent years that Notre Dame hasn't won a bowl game in the past 15 years.

Their last bowl win was the Jan. 1, 1994 Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M. That was back when the Bowl Coalition was deciding the National Champion, and I was in kindergarten, wooing the ladies during recess.

It's been awhile.

With the 2006 loss to LSU, the Irish now hold the record for consecutive bowl losses in NCAA history at nine. But there's another team that's right on their heels.

The Houston Cougars won the 1980 Garden State Bowl over Navy by a score of 35-0. Since then, the Cougars have played in eight bowl games and lost each one.

This year, they won seven games and accepted a bid to play in the Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 31, noon ET on ESPN) against another service academy, Air Force.

Not only does Air Force have a better record this season at 8-4, but this game is actually a rematch of the Sept. 13 meeting which the Falcons won 31-28.

There is a possibility that Notre Dame will no longer be the sole holders of the less-than-honorable distinction of most consecutive bowl losses. All that needs to happen is a repeat performance by Air Force.

In the previous matchup between the Cougars and Falcons, Air Force actually held a good lead midway through the third quarter. They rushed for 380 yards on their way to a 31-7 score.

But eventually, the Cougars were able to stop the run and, having not allowed a single passing yard all game, they shut down the Falcons for the remainder of the game.

After a few 70+ yard drives, Houston was able to rally back to within ten points.

Their next drive ended with an interception in the red zone, but was followed by a 65-yard touchdown drive. They never got the ball back.

Depending on how you look at it, that game could benefit either team. Air Force was able to run all over Houston and jump out to a 24-point lead, but Houston was able to stop them down the stretch and make a comeback.

Of course, one thing needs to happen before the Armed Forces Bowl means anything to Irish fans: Notre Dame needs to win in Hawaii.

While an Irish win is by no means guaranteed, the odds are much better with both Brian Smith and Michael Floyd healthy and playing. Recent reports have said that both should be ready for the game.

In addition to Smith and Floyd, Armando Allen will be back from a leg injury, Terrail Lambert will be back from an ankle injury, and Robert Hughes, who was ejected from the USC game, will be serving his suspension in Notre Dame's first game next season, allowing him to play in the Hawaii Bowl.

That allows the Irish to use one of the vocal leaders of the defense, the best freshman receiver in school history, all three of their main running backs, and the most seasoned cornerback on the team in the game.

Losing nine consecutive bowl games is not going to be forgotten anytime soon. I know that. But it would help if there was another team that had accomplished the feat.

What would be better is if a team were to surpass the feat and get to ten, but I am not one to root against a team not named the Yankees. So for now, Air Force is my second rooting interest.