(UHND.com) – With the release of the first BCS standings yesterday, the Irish find themselves ranked 8th and right in the thick of things of a BCS bid for the second consecutive year, but do they have a chance at the National Championship game? The short answer is yes. The path to that answer, however, isn’t as easy.
First off, for the Irish to automatically qualify for any BCS bid, they must finish in the top 8 in the final BCS standings so if the bowl pairings were announced today, the Irish would be guaranteed a spot in the BCS. Last year the Irish needed to be in the top 6, but with the addition of a fifth BCS game this year, the Irish now automatically qualify if they are 8th or better.
After reaching the BCS last year, however, the goal for this year’s team was to play in the title game, and right now most fans want to know if the Irish legitimately have a chance to play in that game. Based on the first set of rankings, Notre Dame has a chance, but will need quite a bit more help than previously thought when the Irish projected at 6th in the BCS.
First off, the given in any argument about Notre Dame and the national championship revolves around the Irish winning their final six games including a season ending win over USC. If Notre Dame drops another game between now and the end of the season, any sliver of hope for a berth in the title game is out the window. A BCS bid, however, is still very possibly for a 2 loss Notre Dame team, as it was a year ago.
Now let’s take a look at the seven teams in front of the Irish and their chances of losing to allow the Irish to move up the polls.
1. Ohio State. The Buckeyes have had a couple games that were close for about three quarters before blowing them open (Cincinnati, Penn State, Iowa), and it looks like the Buckeyes won’t be tested again until their showdown with Michigan. With home games against Indiana and Minnesota followed by road games at Illinois and Northwestern, it would take a truly monumental upset for the Buckeyes to lose before that Michigan game. Should Ohio State and Michigan both reach their showdown undefeated, Irish fans will need to root for Michigan because a one loss Michigan team shouldn’t be ranked below a one loss Notre Dame team.
2. USC. This one is easy, Notre Dame beats USC and they knock out of the national title race. The problem here for the Irish is they almost need USC to reach this game undefeated, but after three straight close calls against unranked teams, that is not a given for the Trojans. Washington State, Washington, and Arizona State all nearly pulled upsets over USC despite the Trojans being double digit favorites in each. USC still has home games against Cal and Oregon. Getting passed both of those games without posting a notch in the loss column will be tough for the Trojans.
3. Michigan. Michigan holds a huge advantage over Notre Dame in the national title race because of their head to head win over the Irish in South Bend. This makes Notre Dame moving in front of the Wolverines in the polls extremely difficult. There’s two scenarios here that Irish fans must hope for. First, Michigan looses to Iowa this weekend and then looses again to Ohio State. Notre Dame needs Michigan to have two losses in order to jump them. The other scenario would be Michigan winning out and securing the number one spot. Remember, Notre Dame only needs to reach the second position so if Michigan is the lone unbeaten, their 1 loss resume looks a bit more impressive since it would be at the hands of the only undefeated team in the country.
4. Auburn. This one surprises me. Auburn is suddenly the 4th best team in the country? This is a team that nearly lost to unranked South Carolina then lost at home to an unranked Arkansas that was blown out of the water by USC opening weekend, and then beat Florida with the help of one of the most questionable calls of the college football season and now all of a sudden they are the 4th best team in the country and ranked ahead of two unbeaten teams? Auburn still has Georgia at home and must travel to Alabama as well as a potential SEC Championship so they could lose again. X-factor here would be if a one loss Notre Dame team could jump a one loss Auburn team with a win over USC.
5. West Virginia. The Mountaineers have a high powered offense, but their defense is very suspect and Syracuse did their best to bottle up West Virginia for the first half this past weekend. West Virginia obviously has their big game with Louisville on the road, but they also have the Backyard Brawl in Pittsburgh and host Rutgers. And then there is my upset special of the year – November 11. Cincinnati travels to Morgantown the week after the Louisville game and has played Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and Louisville very tough and I think the Bearcats pull this year’s upset of the year. Put it on the Board. Houshmazode. Championship (I hope some people get that reference).
6. Florida. The Gators have played the toughest schedule in the country in my opinion. I don’t care what computers says is the toughest schedule, the Gators have played @ Tennessee and Auburn and then had home games against Alabama and LSU all in a seven game stretch. I think they definitely deserve to be ranked ahead of the Irish at this point, but with the rest of their schedule including home games against Georgia, South Carolina and road games at Florida State and Vanderbilt (yes they still have a team after Jay Cutler) and I see them losing a game again before the end of the season. Even if they navigate that without another loss, they’ll potentially have the SEC Championship.
7. Louisville. Louisville has West Virginia in two weeks. The winner of that game has an excellent chance of making it to the title game, but even if Louisville wins that game, they will still have to get by Rutgers and Pitt on the road which is not an easy task.
So there you have it. A title berth is still very possible for the Irish, but as you can see it will take some help. The toughest part of the equation for the Irish is finishing the season with six straight wins. They will be tested and not only by USC, but if the Irish can win out all we can do is hope which is a lot more than we’ve been able to do down the stretch of a season over the last decade.