Monday November 23rd, 2009

Notre Dame may have its own provision in the BCS selection process and an attractive fallback in the Gator Bowl, but the independent Irish don't have a whole lot of other bowl options when they fall short of those games.

Barring an upset at Stanford on Saturday, Notre Dame will finish 6-6 for the second straight regular season, putting the Irish out of contention for not only the Gator Bowl, but for any other bowl, unless A) a bowl spot opens up because a conference fails to provide enough eligible teams and B) there aren't any other 7-5 teams available.

I'm currently projecting four openings, in the GMAC (ACC), Little Caesars (Big Ten), Humanitarian (Mountain West) and EagleBank (ACC) bowls. I'm also projecting three at-large teams -- Middle Tennessee, Northern Illinois, Bowling Green -- to finish with seven or more wins. That leaves exactly one spot for a 6-6 team, presumably Notre Dame (though UCLA will be an option as well). The most attractive choice for the Irish would likely be a matchup with quarterback Dan LeFevour and Central Michigan in Detroit. Temple may be another possible opponent.

However, should a third Sun Belt team -- either Louisiana-Lafayette or Louisiana-Monroe -- get to seven wins this weekend, the Irish may be shut out altogether.

• Another consequence of Notre Dame's loss to Connecticut is that the loser of the Dec. 5 Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game -- which will determine the Big East's BCS representative -- is now unlikely to fall below the Gator Bowl. One possible exception: If the 9-1 Panthers lose to West Virginia this weekend, the folks in Jacksonville would likely take the Mountaineers instead.

• Finally, it's important to remember that bowls are not obligated to choose their teams in exact order of conference standings. For instance, "ACC No. 3" means "third choice of ACC teams" -- not "the ACC's third-place team." Also, a bowl can only select a 6-6 team from a conference if no 7-5 team from that league is still available, and bowls seeking a replacement for a conference without enough eligible teams cannot choose a 6-6 team if there is a 7-5 team available.

Teams in bold have accepted bowl invitation * -- replacement team for conference without enough eligible teams

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