Currently ranked third in the latest BCS poll with a record of 8-0, Notre Dame is on the verge of its first unbeaten season since 1988, when QB Tony Rice led the Irish to a national championship. Should Brian Kelly’s squad finish the season unbeaten at 12-0, the Irish will surely be in the BCS title discussion. Also in that discussion will be Kansas State, Oregon, and top-ranked Alabama.
Assuming that, like the Irish, the other three teams in the mix win out to finish the season, Notre Dame will be left wishing that it was 2014. That, of course, is when the new four-team playoff format will begin. Sure, Notre Dame’s schedule is probably good enough to warrant playing the title game, but of the next four opponents only USC has a winning record. Oregon will play three ranked opponents in their last four games and then likely another in the Pac-12 championship. Again assuming the Ducks win out, playing through that schedule will likely move Oregon Ducks ahead of ND in the BCS rankings.
Kansas State, currently ranked second, faces two ranked opponents, Oklahoma State and Texas, in its last four weeks, and also faces dangerous TCU (5-3). At the present, the Wildcats and the Irish are tied in the computer rankings with a composite percentage of .970. With KSU at 12-0 and facing a tougher schedule in the last four weeks, Notre Dame’s score will only decrease leaving the Irish with no chance of overtaking Kansas State.
Almost every likely championship scenario does not include the Irish. If Alabama and Kansas State win their remaining games, there’s no doubt they will play in the BCS title game. It is also likely that Alabama and Oregon could meet should both teams win out and KSU falter. Another scenario has a one-loss SEC team, possibly Georgia or LSU, in the title game as well.
For the Irish to be playing on Jan. 7th all of the cards will have to fall into place. And, yes, there are some key games remaining on the schedule, especially the big LSU-’Bama showdown, which will have a huge impact on the BCS championship. First, Notre Dame must win handily over the teams they should-Pitt, Boston College, and Wake Forest. Then, they will need to put up some serious numbers against USC in the LA Coliseum. A victory is great, but a little cushion on the final score wouldn’t hurt.
With the 12-0 record in the bag, the Irish will then have to hope the teams at the top stumble along the last four weeks. A one-loss Alabama may still make it to Jan. 7th, if that loss is to LSU and not in the SEC championship. A one-loss Oregon might still have a shot if its loss is to USC in the regular season and comes back and destroys its opponent in the Pac-12 title game. A Kansas State loss will likely take them out of the picture since there is no Big 12 title game to count on for redemption. Plus, the Wildcats face Texas and Oklahoma State, each ranked in the lower end of the Top 25. Losing to either won’t be the same as losing to say, a No. 5 LSU. Regardless, Notre Dame’s path the BCS glory is murky at best.