Notebook: What are Notre Dame's bowl prospects after losing to USC?

Mike Berardino
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Whatever remote chance Notre Dame had of slipping into a New Year’s Six bowl ended with Saturday night’s 38-27 loss to USC at the Coliseum.

Now 8-4, the Irish were unable to add to the chaos with their second win over an Associated Press top-5 opponent. Even No. 8 Clemson, the signature win of the fledgling Marcus Freeman Era, stumbled at home against unranked rival South Carolina on a wild Saturday that included losses for four of the top nine teams in the College Football Playoff rankings.

Notre Dame, ranked 15th last week by the CFP committee, figures to drop at least a few spots when the updated committee rankings are released Tuesday evening.

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With Clemson (10-2) set to face fading North Carolina (9-3) in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game, Notre Dame’s best-case scenario remains two Florida bowls with conference tie-ins: the Dec. 30 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville and the Dec. 29 Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando.

The Dec. 28 Holiday Bowl in San Diego is another possibility for upper-tier ACC teams and/or Notre Dame.  

Florida State, 9-3 after its win over Florida, is another ACC partner in competition with Notre Dame when it comes to bowl assignments. The 16th-ranked Seminoles were one spot behind the Irish in last week’s committee rankings.

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Bowl selections aren’t rigidly tied to the rankings order of conference teams, so it’s possible Notre Dame’s broad appeal could boost its chances for a better bowl.

“I think we have a lot to play for still,” Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne said after Saturday’s loss. “We’re going to be in a bowl game. We want to send the seniors out the right way. I’m going to prepare as hard as I can for that and finish the season off on a positive note. That’s going to be my focus for the next month.”

Freeman’s coaching debut came in last year’s Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State. Brian Kelly, Freeman’s predecessor, went 5-5 in bowls with the Irish, including a pair of losses in College Football Playoff semifinal appearances.

Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer, right, makes a touchdown catch as Southern California defensive back Max Williams defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Say goodbye to Michael Mayer, Isaiah Foskey?

Former Irish stars Kyle Hamilton and Kyren Williams opted out of last year’s Fiesta Bowl in order to prepare for the NFL Draft.

If Michael Mayer and Isaiah Foskey follow that recent trend, the record-setting duo would have played its final game in a Notre Dame uniform in Saturday’s loss.

Mayer, a draft-eligible junior, had eight catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns (24 and 22 yards) against the Trojans. He pushed his career totals to 180 receptions for 2,099 yards and 18 touchdowns, all of which represent the most by any Notre Dame tight end.

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Mayer had at least one catch in all 36 games he played in his Notre Dame career.

Foskey, who broke Justin Tuck’s career program sack record on Senior Day against Boston College, added 1.5 sacks against the Trojans. A fourth-year junior, Foskey also had 2.5 tackles for loss, five tackles and forced a fumble 20 yards downfield after chasing down star receiver Jordan Addison.

Foskey has 26.5 career sacks, including 11 this year. His single-season total ranks third in program history.

Houston Griffith ties games-played mark

Fifth-year safety Houston Griffith put his name in the Notre Dame record books on Saturday against USC.

With his 61st career game appearance, the Chicago native tied former Irish defensive tackle Kurt Hinish for the most in program history. A reserve safety and core special teams player, Griffith would break the record with at least one snap in the bowl game.

What the numbers tell us:Team and individual stats from Notre Dame vs. USC

“Houston, he just knows ball,” Notre Dame cornerback TaRiq Bracy said recently. “Just to see that accomplishment, that milestone for him to reach, it’s special and I’m super happy for him. That’s one of my closest friends. We came in together. He’s one of those guys that you would love to have on your team. He’s a leader and someone you can depend on every single day.”

Bracy, who has played in 54 career games, sat out against USC due to a hamstring injury. The same issue caused him to miss the previous Irish loss against Stanford in October.

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.