Notre Dame football: Which bowls are in play for Irish?


South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND - The Twitter troll just couldn’t grasp the concept that Charlie Weis was relevant to Notre Dame football again — even for a small window in time.

First, the lost/thick-headed soul demanded to know why there were no Bob Davie mentions from the Notre Dame beat writer trying to frame the latest Irish bowl reality. Then, when rebuffed, he turned all Dr. Phil and issued the unsolicited advice to “let it go.”

Not only is there nothing to let go, but there’s something new to grab onto — perhaps the best-possible scenario, in Notre Dame’s eyes anyway, among its non-BCS options this postseason.

As Weis was given a Gatorade-and-ice bath Saturday afternoon and the south goalposts at Memorial Stadium were being dismantled, the former ND head coach’s Kansas Jayhawks were ending a 27-game Big 12 losing streak and, in the process, opening up an at-large spot in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl Dec. 28 at Yankee Stadium.

Kansas’ 31-19 upset of West Virginia in Lawrence, Kan., reversing a 59-10 verdict from last season, ensured the Big 12 would have only six bowl-eligible teams this postseason. The Pinstripe Bowl contractually pairs the Big 12’s seventh-place team against the fourth selection from the American Athletic Conference (formerly Big East).

Stanford’s 20-17 loss to USC later on Saturday night, may also have indirectly added another contingency — the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1 in Dallas (of all places), but there are sill some “ifs” that need to be converted to absolutes in order to add that to ND’s concrete possibilities.

For now there are two — the Pinstripe and the San Diego Country Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Dec. 26 in San Diego. Others could soon join that list, though it is highly unlikely the ND brass would even consider any that fall before Christmas, given that final exams for players conclude on Dec. 20 this semester.

Keep in mind that even if a bowl can’t fill both sides of its pairing contractually, there are often secondary arrangements with other conferences that would have to be negotiated. The Poinsettia, for instance, has a handshake with the Mid-American Conference in the event Army wouldn’t get to six wins this year, which it won’t.

Here then are the realistic options that are in play for Notre Dame (7-3) and the perceived pros and cons each from Notre Dame’s — not my — standpoint.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Bronx, N.Y.

Yankee Stadium (50,086)

Big 12 No. 7 vs. AAC No. 4

Dec. 28; 12:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Payout per team: $1.8 million

What must happen: Nothing from the Notre Dame side. The big question is who the Irish would meet from the AAC. Rutgers makes some sense geographically, but the program is still battling an image problem and the Scarlet Knights (5-4) may be lucky to finish 6-6. If ND is in the bowl, ticket sales shouldn’t be a problem, and Kelly’s old school, Cincinnati (8-2) might make more sense. Houston (7-3), with ND 2012 recruiting class defector Deontay Greenberry, might be fun too (for everyone but Kelly). A remote scenario — but the most attractive — would be for some backroom dealings to take place that would put the Irish and future ACC brethren Louisville (9-1) together through a swap with the Belk or Russell Athletic Bowls.

Why this works: The payout, the date, the big city market, ND’s affinity for New York, the pool of opponents, the unopposed time slot all get their boxes checked.

Why this doesn’t work: Icky weather.

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl

Detroit, Mich.

Ford Field (65,000)

Big Ten No. 8 vs. MAC

Dec. 26; 6 p.m. (ESPN)

Payout per team: $750,000

What must happen: The Big Ten is unlikely to produce an eighth bowl-eligible team. Stanford’s loss to USC likely puts a second Big Ten team into the BCS mix, so the league would actually have to conjure up a ninth-bowl-eligible squad to fill its Little Caesars’ commitment. Currently, there are seven teams for those nine slots. Northwestern (4-6) would have to sweep Michigan State (9-1) and Illinois (3-7) to join the group. Indiana (4-6) would have to take down undefeated Ohio State (10-0) and rival Purdue (1-9). The other side of the equation has some bearing too — a lot actually. Notre Dame prides itself on playing the best competition available. And if (AP poll) 20th-ranked Northern Illinois (10-0) is undefeated and ranked, say, in the top 15, it would be hard to pass on that matchup. The Huskies, though, still must beat Toledo (7-3), Western Michigan (1-10) and the MAC East champ — Buffalo (7-3) or Bowling Green (7-3) — and not find a back door to the BCS itself — to keep this scenario in play.

Why this works: The distance is convenient and the potential matchup could be tantalizing. It’s one of only two bowls on the 26th.

Why this doesn’t work: If Northern Illinois loses, the bowl might not even take the Huskies and let them go instead to the GoDaddy Bowl. Bowling Green or Toledo figure to sell more tickets, and ND wouldn’t be interested in playing either of those three-loss teams. The weather is lousy, but at least the game itself is indoors. The date, so close to ND’s exams, means the players couldn’t go home for Christmas and instead would get their holiday break after the bowl game. The payout doesn’t allow for much beyond, well, some Little Caesars pizzas beyond expenses.

AdvoCare V100 Bowl

Shreveport, La.

Independence Stadium (48,975)

SEC No. 10 vs. ACC No. 7

Dec. 31; 12:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Payout per team: $1.15 million

What must happen: With the SEC very likely to get two teams into the BCS mix, this spot actually would come down to the conference’s 11th-place team. Currently, there are nine bowl-eligible SEC teams. Florida (4-6), Tennessee (4-6) and Mississippi State (4-6) could conceivably give the league 12 bowl-eligible teams, but every one of them would have to pull off an upset to get to 6-6. Florida finishes with No. 2 Florida State (10-0) after an FCS matchup with Georgia Southern (6-4) on Saturday. The Vols have surging Vanderbilt (6-4) and improving Kentucky (2-8), while Mississippi State finishes with Arkansas (3-7) and Ole Miss (7-3).

Why this works: The chance to play an ACC team is attractive — especially to its future conference, the ACC. Would a Boston College (6-4) matchup make sense here? No problems with the date or network. Payout works. Players could go home for Christmas. ND’s matchup with LSU in 1997 (when it was called the Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl) produced the largest crowd in the stadium’s history (50,459).

Why this doesn’t work: The people of Shreveport couldn’t be nicer. Having said that, even with an influx of casino money, this is not a bowl game with a desirable location. There has been enough turnover in the ND athletic department to produce some open minds, but those who were in Shreveport for the 1997 experience are not eager for a return trip. There’s also a TV overlap with the Hyundai Sun Bowl, and it’s a very small media market.

Heart of Dallas Bowl

Dallas, Texas

The Historic Cotton Bowl (92,200)

CUSA vs. Big Ten No. 7

Jan. 1; Noon (ESPNU)

Payout per team: $1.1 million

What must happen: If the Big Ten doesn’t get a second BCS team OR Northwestern or Indiana gets to six wins, this game is out of play.

Why this works: Notre Dame loves Dallas, and Dallas loves Notre Dame. The Jan. 1 date is desirable for a lot of reasons. The payout works. There’s a lot of history in the old Cotton Bowl.

Why this doesn’t work: The limited exposure on ESPNU, relatively speaking, is a problem. The Irish share the kickoff time with the Gator Bowl and overlap with the mega-popular Outback and Capital One bowls — big red flags. If the Irish met a CUSA team, it’s a lose-lose, especially if you’re playing a jacked-up North Texas or Rice in their home state. ND could not beat these teams by enough points to impress anyone with a vote or a computer. And if the Irish lost? Big-time perceptual albatross to carry into the offseason.

San Diego Co. Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

San Diego, Calif.

Qualcomm Stadium (66,000)

MWC No. 2 vs. Army

Dec. 26; 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Payout per team: $500,000

What must happen: Because Army’s bowl-ineligible, the bowl would need to renege on its secondary handshake with the MAC.

Why this works: It’s San Diego, duh.

Why this doesn’t work: Almost everything but geography works against this one. The payout is so low, it would be hard, if not impossible, to break even — and yes, that matters to ND. The 9:30 ET time slot is undesirable, as is the closeness to exams and the possibility hometown San Diego State (6-4) could ace out, say, Boise State (7-3).

BBVA Compass Bowl

Birmingham, Ala.

Legion Field (80,601)

SEC 8/9 vs. AAC No. 5 or CUSA

Jan. 4; 1 p.m. (ESPN)

Payout per team: $1 million

What must happen: The SEC must place two teams into the BCS, as expected, and Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi State must all whiff on bowl eligibility.

Why this works: There’s a lot to like about the date, except it is NFL wild card weekend and there will be some games sometime on that Saturday. Payout works. It gets the Irish some exposure in the heart of SEC country.

Why this doesn’t work: Lining up a desirable opponent might be tricky. The NFL playoffs could be an issue where TV exposure is concerned.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Memphis, Tenn.

Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (60,121)

SEC 8/9 vs. CUSA 1 or AAC

Dec. 31; 4 p.m. (ESPN)

Payout per team: $1.4 million

What must happen: See BBVA Compass Bowl scenario.

Why this works: Payout, location, network, date all avoid the red flags.

Why this doesn’t work: Another instance where ND could run into a lose-lose situation with regard to an opponent. This game, like the Advocare Bowl, overlaps the broadcast window of the Hyundai Sun Bowl.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis gets dowsed during the final seconds of an NCAA college football game against West Virginia at Kansas Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. Could Weis' victory actually have an impact on Notre Dame's post-season bowl situation? AP Photo/ORLIN WAGNER