These are all examples of things Notre Dame fans could be saying to each other during the month of December. Because those are two of the likely landing spots for the Irish this postseason now that whatever hopes Notre Dame might have had for the BCS went away after a disappointing performance at Pitt on Saturday night.
First, a thumbnail sketch as to why the Irish are in this scenario. In this their last year of being a true independent, there was no bowl alignment with another league (in the past there had been ties with the Big East) to help get a bid in case the Irish didn’t make the BCS. That kicks in next year when Notre Dame joins the ACC for all other sports, and is mandated to play five games against ACC competition in football.
There was one provisional agreement still in place for Notre Dame, to be able to play in the Russell Athletic Bowl, which is the first of two bowl games played in Orlando each year. However, the Irish can only use that once every four years, and played in that game two seasons ago, losing to Florida State.
Now, it’s cross your fingers and hope that other leagues do not fill their guaranteed allotment of bowl bids. The Irish do have one backup deal in place already, and that’s with the Pinstripe Bowl. A bowl game with the tradition and history dating all the way back to 2010.
While I offer a jab at the recent nature of this bowl game, the fact that Notre Dame could be playing a bowl game in Yankee Stadium would actually be a pretty soft landing spot after the BCS. Given Notre Dame’s east coast ties, its a perfect fit for the Irish. The weather wouldn’t exactly be warm and inviting, but spending time in New York City is never a bad thing.
However, for that to take place, the Big 12 would have to have only six teams be eligible for postseason play. Five (Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech) have already qualified. Two (Kansas and Iowa State) have already been eliminated.
That leaves three teams in Kansas State, West Virginia, and TCU that will all play a factor in whether that spot will open in NYC for ND.
K-State is 5-4, and only needs to win one of three remaining games to go bowling. They play TCU this week, so a win this week from the Wildcats is actually a good thing for the Irish, knocking the Horned Frogs out of bowl contention. Kansas State plays Kansas in its final game of the season in case they do not win this week, which likely puts Bill Snyder’s team in the postseason.
As mentioned, TCU could go by the wayside as soon as Saturday. They only have two games remaining, and don’t play after Saturday until a November 30th date with Baylor. TCU would have to win both games, and that doesn’t appear likely.
In theory, one team in and one team out. That leaves Notre Dame watching the fate of one more team…West Virginia. And the Mountaineers play the worst two teams in the league, Kansas and Iowa State, in their two remaining games. If West Virginia wins out, then likely they make the visit to New York City.
So, where would that leave the Irish? Seeing if they could sneak their way into the Advocare V100 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, if the SEC doesn’t send 10 teams to bowl games this year, or maybe even 11 since the league usually gets two squads in the BCS. Notre Dame last played in that bowl game in 1997, losing a virtual home game to LSU 27-9. The bowl does have “replacement” agreements with the Sun Belt and MAC, but likely would generate the cash to break those deals to land the Irish.
The same could happen with the Little Caesar’s Bowl in Detroit. The Big Ten could be two bowl teams short this year, if Illinois, Indiana, and Northwestern all finish with five or fewer wins. If that scenario happens, Notre Dame could actually play on New Year’s Day, playing in the old Cotton Bowl. That was the site of last year’s Purdue massacre at the hands of Oklahoma State in what’s known as the Heart of Dallas bowl. If the Irish land there, they would play the fourth-place team from Conference USA.
Finally, Notre Dame could end up in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg. This is the bowl game Ball State played in last year, losing to Central Florida. That game is scheduled to have the sixth-place team from the American Athletic Conference (the remnants of the old Big East) against the fifth-place team from Conference USA. C-USA should have no trouble filling its bowl slots, but the American will likely have just five schools qualify for bowl games.
You get the point. Notre Dame will play in a bowl game this year. It’s just not where anyone is used to seeing them play. However, if you think that playing in a game that’s played where the Yankees or Rays (St. Pete) normally call home, you don’t get the modern landscape of college football. It’s not about the cash of playing in a bowl game, but it’s about the 15 additional practice that you get to play in that bowl game. That is an absolute must for any program. It’s why Notre Dame can’t turn down a bowl bid, even if it’s to the relative ‘kids table’ of the holiday party.
The last two results of the season are almost inconsequential at this point for Notre Dame. If you’re an Irish fan, you’re better off scoreboard watching to see what’s happening in other leagues. That will tell you more about where your favorite team is heading this holiday season.