Notre Dame Up to 15 in ’05 BCS, Trojans Fall to 2nd

( — Notre Dame was not the only team to benefit from Texas’ stomping of Texas Tech this weekend. The Longhorns themselves used their big win over Texas Tech to leapfrog USC in the computer polls and take over the #1 spot in the BCS this week after USC’s strength of schedule took a hit from lowly Washington.

Notre Dame meanwhile moved up spot after Texas Tech fell but still sit at 15th despite being ranked 10th in both of the human polls (Coaches and Harris). The computer rankings are still unkind to the Irish with an average rank of 23. Notre Dame’s under achieving early schedule is killing Notre Dame’s strength of schedule since the computers do not take into account the number of road vs. home games a team plays.

Despite being ranked 15th, the Irish are still in great shape for the BCS. Notre Dame’s strength of schedule will not be helped by the remaining 4 opponents but there are enough teams ahead of the Irish that should get at least 1 loss to allow Notre Dame to move up into the top 12.

In looking at the Irish’s remaining opponents, here’s how Notre Dame’s strength of schedule will be affected.

Pitt (4-4) — It’s crazy to think that Pitt still has a chance to qualify for the BCS after early season losses to Notre Dame, Ohio, Rutgers, and Nebraska, but three straight wins has Pitt even at 4-4. Pitt has remaining games at Louisville and West Virginia and home against UConn.

It’s tough to say how Pitt will finish off this season. They have scored 30+ points in their 3 game winning streak, but those wins were against Syracuse, South Florida, and Cincinnati. Louisville and West Virginia on the road are both going to be very tough for Pitt to win. Best case scenario would be for Pitt to finish 2-1, but 1-2 in their remaining games is more likely.

Michigan (5-3) — Michigan is one of the bigger disappointments in terms of helping Notre Dame’s strength of schedule. They have lost by 3 to Wisconsin and then 3 again to Minnesota. The Wolverines did win a close one this weekend over Iowa to set themselves up nicely for a classic “Lloyd Carr saves his job with a strong finish” type of season.

Michigan has remaining games at Northwestern and at home against Indiana and Ohio State. Indiana is a win, but after Northwestern’s drubbing of Michigan State this weekend that game suddenly looks tough on the road. Ohio State is a crap shoot since the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is never a gimme for either team. Finishing this 3 game stretch 2-1 is likely for Michigan to finish 7-4 on the season, but in classic Lloyd Carr fashion, a 3-0 finish would not surprise me either.

Michigan State (4-3) — The Spartans looked like contenders against the Irish, then realized they beat Notre Dame and gave up like they normally do. They got shelled at home by Northwestern this weekend 49-14.

Michigan State remaining schedule looks tough as well with trips to Purdue and Minnesota and then home contests against Indiana and Penn State. The way Michigan State is playing a 1-3 finish is not out of the question to end the season at 5-6. If the Spartans regain their early season form they could finish up 3-1 over the final 4 games for a respectable 8-4 record.

Purdue (2-5) — The Boilermakers went from dark horse contender to Big 10 bottom feeder in a few short weeks. After getting blown out by Notre Dame, Purdue has lost 3 straight to Iowa, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. Things won’t get any easier for Purdue with games at Penn State and Indiana and home games against Michigan State and Illinois.

Indiana and Illinois should be wins, but Michigan State and Penn State will be tough games with their defense. Purdue should finish up 2-2 over these games and end the season 4-7. Normally I would enjoy a 4-7 season from Purdue quite a bit, but the BCS has me hoping they finish strong — yuck.

Washington (1-6) — Washington having a terrible season hasn’t surprised anyone. The Huskies won a single game last year and then hired Willingham after he got canned by Notre Dame. All Willingham jokes aside, this is a bad team. Washington only has 1 game left against a team with a winning record however — Oregon State. Washington’s 3 other opponents — Washington State, Arizona, and Arizona State — all sport losing records.

USC (7-0) — The Trojans are undefeated and could very well end up undefeated but still face tough games at Cal and at home against Fresno State and UCLA — all ranked opponents. The Trojans however should be well motivated after being ranked #2 in this week’s BCS. This could be the motivation that USC needed after some lack luster first halves this year. USC will finish this season at worst 10-1.

Tennessee (3-3) — The Vols lost a close game to Alabama 6-3 on a last second field goal. The Vols have faced a daunting schedule with games against LSU, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Of their remaining 5 games — Notre Dmae is really the only team they should lose to. Home games against South Carolina, Memphis, and Vanderbilt should be easy wins as should a road game at Kentucky. Tennessee should finish the season 7-4.

Navy (4-2) — Navy is having a good season at 4-2 and could end up in a bowl game this year. The Midshipmen are coming off a 41-9 victory over Rice and all of their remaining games other than Notre Dame are winnable. Navy will face Tulane and Template at home and Rutgers and Army on the road. Figure in a loss to Notre Dame and another stumbling block for a 3-2 finish and a 7-5 record.

Syracuse (1-6) — The Orangemen are having a tough first season under Greg Robinson as he tries to install a West Coast offense. Syracuse has lost to UConn, Rutgers, and Pitt in the last 3 weeks. They have home games against Cincinnati and South Florida and road games at Notre Dame and Louisville. A 1-3 finish is looking likely for a 2-9 season.

Stanford (4-2) — Stanford’s season looked like it was heading into the toilet after a loss to UC Davis early in the season. The Cardinal sits at 4-2 now, but face 4 ranked teams in their final 5 games – @ USC, UCLA, Cal, and Notre Dame. Their other game is @ Oregon State. A final record of 5-6 looks likely for Stanford, possibly 6-5 if they can pull an upset.

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