After losing their third game of the season Saturday at Pitt, one thing is clear for Notre Dame: They won't go to a BCS bowl. The options, then, become thin -- Notre Dame will have to take what it can get off the scrap heap from conferences that weren't able to fulfill their bowl requirements.
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Here's where a few major websites have Notre Dame going, still with four weeks left for the regular season/conference championships to shake out:
CBS Sports/Jerry Palm: Independence Bowl vs. Duke
Phil Steele: Independence Bowl vs. Boston College
ESPN/Brad Edwards: Independence Bowl vs. Boston College
ESPN/March Schlabach: Poinsettia Bowl vs. Utah State
SI/Stewart Mandel: Little Caesars Bowl vs. Northern Illinois
SB Nation/Jason Kirk: Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Iowa
Who's up to ring in the new year in Shreveport, La.?
The good news for Notre Dame is, right now, plenty of conferences don't appear likely to fill out their bowl slots. Seven-loss Army, which has a tie-in to the Poinsettia Bowl, is already out of the mix, so even if every conference tie-in were filled the Irish could be a fit there.
Notre Dame would take the SEC's 10th bowl tie-in with the Independence Bowl, a scenario that looks likely with Arkansas, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Florida all in line to miss out on being bowl-eligible. The team to keep an eye on is Tennessee, which needs wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky to become bowl-eligible. Tennessee plays Vanderbilt on Nov. 23 and ends its season with Kentucky, the latter of which a game the Vols should certainly win.
For Notre Dame to be up for the Dec. 26 Little Caesars Bowl at Ford Field, they'd need the Big Ten to not produce an eighth bowl-eligible team. That means Indiana will have to beat Purdue and upset either Wisconsin or Ohio State, or Northwestern will have to beat two of Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois to close out its season. If Northwestern beats Michigan in Evanston on Saturday, that'd likely open their door to eligibility with what should be a cakewalk against Illinois ending their regular season.
The Little Caesars Bowl, too, has a Sun-Belt tie-in if a Big Ten team isn't eligible.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl takes the Big Ten's seventh bowl-eligible team, a mark the conference has already hit. For Notre Dame to play in that game, they'd have to replace a Conference USA team -- a conference that already has five bowl-eligible teams, one of which being North Texas. Dallas and Detroit seem like a longshots at this point.
The good news is this is the last year Notre Dame will have these headaches -- beginning next season, the Irish will be absorbed into the ACC's bowl tie-ins.
For now, though, perhaps the best thing Notre Dame can do is start positioning itself for the Poinsettia Bowl, given the uncertainty of bowl spots over the next few weeks. An added bonus: San Diego's the warmest of any of these projected cities.