As alluring as the holiday season in New York City can be, it’s not exactly what Notre Dame had in mind for a postseason destination.
The Fighting Irish (3-2), out of the rankings after last week’s loss to Oklahoma, face No. 22 Arizona State on Saturday at the lavish stadium in Arlington, Texas, that the Dallas Cowboys call home.
It is part of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series, what Irish officials like to call “off-site games” that help the program maintain its national appeal.
Another loss would put a return to the Bowl Championship Series in serious doubt for the Fighting Irish and could leave them with only third-tier bowl options when the postseason invites go out in December.
After this game, Notre Dame’s schedule relents a bit. The Irish get their first week off before a home game against Southern California on Oct. 19. Hard to predict what type of team USC will bring to South Bend, Ind.
Then the Irish play at Air Force, Navy, at Pittsburgh and BYU before closing the season at No. 5 Stanford.
To get an automatic bid to the BCS, Notre Dame must finish in the top eight of the standings. If the Irish run the table and finish 10-2, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Nine wins and a top-14 finish would make Notre Dame eligible for an at-large BCS bid. And with Notre Dame being Notre Dame, BCS bowl organizers would certainly be tempted to take the Irish.
But if the BCS isn’t a possibility for the Irish — and assuming they get to six wins and bowl eligibility — Notre Dame will be picking through the bowl leftovers and hoping for the best.
The Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 28 could grab Notre Dame to replace a Big 12 team. The Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 26 has a deal to take Army this season if the Cadets (2-3) can get bowl-eligible. If not, the bowl organizers in San Diego can go shopping for a free agent, and Notre Dame would no doubt be the most compelling one on the market.
In most years, one or more power conferences have more bowl-ties than eligible teams. It is unlikely Notre Dame would get shut out of the postseason. It’s not quite BCS-or-bust, but it could be a long fall for the Irish.
• MAIN EVENTS
No. 4 Ohio State (minus 7) at No. 16 Northwestern — Buckeyes have won last four meetings by average score of 51-9 ... OHIO STATE 38-17.
No. 15 Washington (plus 7½) at No. 5 Stanford — Huskies out to prove there is a Big Three in Pac-12 North ... STANFORD 31-20.
• MARQUEE MATCHUPS
No. 12 UCLA (minus 5½) at Utah, today — Utes could emerge as contenders in Pac-12 South ... UCLA 35-31.
No. 25 Maryland (plus 15½) at No. 8 Florida State — Unbeaten Terps try to make a statement ... FLORIDA STATE 42-21.
No. 22 Arizona State (minus 5½) vs. Notre Dame at Arlington, Texas — Sun Devils got Lane Kiffin fired last week; can give Brian Kelly heartburn this week ... NOTRE DAME 28-27.
Georgia Tech (plus 5) at No. 14 Miami — Hurricanes have won four straight against Yellow Jackets ... MIAMI 31-24.
TCU (plus 10½) at No. 11 Oklahoma — Sooners QB Blake Bell, aka the Belldozer, has shown he can throw it, too ... OKLAHOMA 34-21.
Kansas State (plus 14) at No. 21 Oklahoma State — Cowboys coming off rare poor offensive performance ... OKLAHOMA STATE 45-17.
• UPSET SPECIAL
No. 24 Mississippi (minus 2½) at Auburn — Members of SEC’s new up-tempo caucus ... AUBURN 35-28.
• BEST BET
No. 10 LSU (minus 9½) at Mississippi State — Tigers have won 13 straight in series ... LSU 35-14.
• PLUCKY UNDERDOGS
No. 3 Clemson (minus 13½) at Syracuse ... CLEMSON 37-14.
No. 6 Georgia (minus 10½) at Tennessee ... GEORGIA 42-20.
West Virginia (plus 27½) at No. 17 Baylor ... BAYLOR 62-31.
Arkansas (plus 11) at No. 18 Florida ... FLORIDA 28-14.
Minnesota (plus 19½) at No. 19 Michigan ... MICHIGAN 34-17.
No. 20 Texas Tech (minus 17½) at Kansas ... TEXAS TECH 24-20.
File the Clemson, Georgia and Texas Tech games under: road trips can be tricky. Mountaineers will be best team Baylor has faced so far. Razorbacks have enough weapons to push Gators. Has Michigan solved its turnover problem?
Georgia State (no line) at No. 1 Alabama ... ALABAMA 48-3.
No. 2 Oregon (minus 38½) at Colorado ... OREGON 58-17.
No. 7 Louisville (minus 34) at Temple ... LOUISVILLE 55-13.
Kentucky (plus 21) at No. 13 South Carolina ... SOUTH CAROLINA 41-14.
No. 23 Fresno State (minus 26) at Idaho ... FRESNO STATE 51-24.
Last week: Record straight: 12-3; vs. points 7-6-2.
Season: 82-13; 38-39-3.
Best bet: 2-2-1.
Upset special: 2-2.