FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame tossed away its chance of reaching a BCS bowl game with a 28-21 loss at Pittsburgh (5-4) on Saturday night.
Notre Dame (7-3) fell out of the BCS standings on Sunday night, and it is all but impossible for the Irish to climb to the top 14 of the standings to become eligible for a BCS bowl berth with only games against BYU (6-3) at home on Nov. 23 and on the road against No. 5 Stanford (8-1) on Nov. 30 remaining after a bye this week.
I’m not really concerned about that, coach Brian Kelly told reporters Saturday about losing a shot at a BCS bowl game. I think what I’m most concerned about is the inability to put together a consistent effort tonight in November.
The Irish’s failure to execute Saturday night and the lack of a bowl tie-in this season leaves the team’s bowl options murky with the program’s bowl tie-ins with the Atlantic Coast Conference not kicking in until next year.
Notre Dame will have to wait to see which conferences cannot fill their bowl slots to find a postseason game. There are a few options that look likely for the Irish.
Notre Dame could take the place of Army (3-7) in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 26 and face a Mountain West opponent.
The Irish could also take the place of an American Athletic Conference team in a bowl game. The American has six bowls, with one team going to a BCS game.
If the American leaves an open spot, Notre Dame could get an invited to the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 28 in New York. but Rutgers (5-3) needs one more victory to be bowl-eligible and could fill the conference’s spot in the bowl.
Notre Dame could still end up in New York if the Big 12 leaves its spot open, and the Irish could take a Big 12 team’s place in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27 in Houston and face a Big Ten team.
The Irish also have a chance to fill a vacancy left by the ACC, but the conference has a good shot at filling its seven non-BCS bowl spots with Pitt, Syracuse, Boston College and Maryland all only needing one more win to be eligible.
If the ACC falls short of bowl teams, Notre Dame could slip into the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 in Washington, D.C., to play a Conference USA opponent or the Independence Bowl on Dec. 31 in Shreveport, La., taking the place of either an ACC or Southeastern Conference team.
Notre Dame could also fill a vacancy left by the Big Ten with Indiana (4-5) and Northwestern (4-5) struggling to become bowl eligible. The Hoosiers close the season with games at Wisconsin and Ohio State before finishing at a home game against Purdue, and the Wildcats will need two wins in their last three games against Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois.
If the Big Ten leaves vacancies, Notre Dame could fill spots in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Dec. 26 in Detroit against a Mid-American Conference foe or in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Jan. 1 in Dallas against a C-USA opponent.
No matter where the Irish end up, they know they need to play better in the final two games of the season and in whatever bowl the team goes to this year.
We have to regroup and come back together as team, quarterback Tommy Rees told reporters.
We’ll have a good two weeks of preparation for our last two games of the season.