Pete DiPrimio, sports columnist and college beat writer for The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind., takes his best shots on the world of Notre Dame football.

Monday, November 27

For Notre Dame, Sugar Is Great, But Just Win

The latest BCS rankings are in, and here's what we know -- Notre Dame is in the running for a BCS bowl, but not guaranteed a spot. Given its clout and fan base and TV appeal, however, there's almost no way a BCS bowl will not chose the Irish.

First, Notre Dame dropped from fifth to 10th in the BCS rankings with the loss to USC. Only the top eight receive automatic bids, so the Irish must get in with an at-large bid. The top 12 are eligible for that, so they seem safe.

The Rose Bowl has the first shot at picking an at-large team, followed by the Sugar, Orange and Fiesta Bowls. With USC having passed Michigan for the No. 2 slot, it appears the Trojans will face Ohio State in the national title game, with the Wolverines dropping to the Rose Bowl.

Yes, the Rose Bowl would love to have Notre Dame, which hasn't been in Pasadena since the Knute Rockne era (1925). But do Rose Bowl officials really want an Irish rematch with Michigan, which has already whipped them, and likely would again? It would not be the most compelling of matchups.

All indications are that the Sugar Bowl is the best bet to take Notre Dame. That would mean facing Florida, Arkansas or LSU. If Florida beats Arkansas in the SEC title game, and assuming it doesn't move ahead of USC in the BCS rankings, it would go to Sugar Bowl. That would create an interesting matchup between Irish coach Charlie Weis and Florida coach Urban Meyer. Meyer, as you surely remember, was the first coach Notre Dame officials wanted after firing Tyrone Willingham. Meyer passed to take the Florida job.

That would be a compelling matchup.

And if the Rose and Sugar pass on Notre Dame, about as likely as the Pittsburgh Steelers making the NFL playoffs, surely the Orange or Fiesta Bowls won't. And if they all do, then the Irish will get either the Gator or Cotton Bowls.

Don't worry. No BCS bowl in its right mind would pass on a 10-2 Notre Dame team.

The regular season ends this Saturday with the conference title games and the USC-UCLA rivalry showdown, so a lot of possibilities remain (say if UCLA upsets USC). BCS bids go out on Sunday.

So be a little more patient before making your bowl trip plans. And while you're waiting consider this -- Notre Dame has to win whatever bowl it gets. After eight straight bowl losses, it's time to show the Irish are, indeed, ready to make the jump to true consistent national contender status and that can't happen until they start winning bowls.


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