Upsets galore on Saturday have re-opened the door to Glendale for the Irish. In fact, Florida’s close win against South Carolina may have been the only game that kept the Irish from controlling their own destiny. Notre Dame playing for the national title looked like a long shot a week ago—now it looks incredibly possible. Here is a look at where the Irish stand with respect to the national title picture and what they need to get there.
The race for #2
Obviously the Irish will have their work cut out for them in two weeks when they face USC. The Trojans completely dismantled Oregon on Saturday. They themselves have reentered the title picture and will be ready for Notre Dame. At the same time, this will be the marquee win the Irish need on their resume. A USC victory over California next weekend will help that even more.
The biggest thing the Irish need (other that two more wins) is a Florida loss. Currently, Florida is 4th in the BCS standings. Some might point to their game against Florida State as a possible pitfall, but with the way the Seminoles are playing right now that seems unlikely. Still, it is a major rivalry game. Florida will likely only be challenged in the SEC title game when they face Arkansas. The good news is that this will be a big challenge. Since being dismantled by USC in their opener, the Razorbacks have looked like the most complete team in the SEC. If you were not a believer already, you should be now that they destroyed Tennessee on Saturday.
This leads to another question: Will a one-loss Arkansas jump Notre Dame? The answer: maybe. The good news here is that Arkansas will face LSU with a SEC title game spot already in hand. LSU will be fighting to remain in contention for an at-large birth in the BCS, especially considering that they are currently the highest ranked among the two-loss teams. If Arkansas can run the table, the final score of the Notre Dame-USC game will become important. Arkansas proponents will argue that they have a better resume. Notre Dame proponents will argue that they should get the nod based on common opponent. Notre Dame has the edge right now based on the current BCS standings that have Arkansas ranked 7th.
The final question: What about the loser of the Michigan-Ohio State game? Again, this issue will come down to the final score and the way the game is played. The only scenario that I see making this possible would be an incredibly close Michigan loss at Ohio State. If Michigan wins or is defeated by more than a few points, I would have to say this is not very likely. The absolute best-case scenario for Notre Dame would be for Michigan to win. The argument would then be that Ohio State was defeated at home. I would be surprised if the Buckeyes lost by 26, and if they do lose a close game they will be quick to cite that as a reason to stay ranked ahead of Notre Dame. Those arguments would be in vane for two reasons: First, while computers do not take into consideration when a team loses the voters do. Second, it would be tough to deny the Irish if they finished the season by beating USC.
If the Irish cannot pull off the win against USC none of this matters. At the very least, however, they may have a chance to redeem themselves for the disaster that took place back in September. Notre Dame still needs help, but not nearly as much as they needed at the beginning of the week.