When CBSSports.com's resident BCS expert Jerry Palm released his preseason bowl projections for the upcoming season, Palm predicted that Notre Dame will conclude its season on Dec. 27 in the Military Bowl in Washington D.C.
The Irish potential opponent, according to Palm, will not be Florida State or Miami (Fla.). In Palm's projection, Notre Dame will face Miami (Ohio).
The prognostication is not a rebuke of Notre Dame's talent level or ability to produce a successful season in 2012. Rather, it's a reasonable calculation given the current bowl tie-ins involving Notre Dame -- which will likely last until the completion of the 2013 season.
If the Irish fail to qualify for a spot in a BCS bowl, they are not eligible to play in the Champs Sports Bowl after a season-ending 18-14 loss to Florida State last season. In 2009, the school reached a four-year agreement with the Big East and the bowl. The agreement stipulated that the bowl could only select Notre Dame once in lieu of a team from the Big East from 2010-2013. There are no other tie-ins between Notre Dame and the Big East.
Unlike other independent schools such BYU (Poinsettia Bowl), Army (Military Bowl) and Navy (Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl), the Irish don't have a predetermined bowl tie-in outside the BCS. If Notre Dame finishes in the top 8 in the final regular season BCS standings, it automatically earns a spot in one of the five BCS games. The Irish are eligible for a spot in the BCS with a top 14 finish.
Under the current 12-game regular season, a 10-win season is almost a prerequisite for an at-large berth in the BCS. In the last decade, the Irish have won nine games or more only three times and at least 10 just twice. Notre Dame earned back-to-back BCS bids in 2005 and 2006, but hasn't returned since.
It is more likely for the Irish to appear in a late-December bowl. Such a fate has occurred in the previous two seasons. In 2010, Notre Dame defeated Miami (Fla.) in the Hyundai Sun Bowl before last season's defeat to the Seminoles in the Champs Sports Bowl. Notre Dame also played on Christmas Eve in 2008, when it defeated Hawaii in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
Conference realignment and a slew of postseason bans could open up a spot for the Irish in a more respected bowl. The ACC and Big Ten both have eight bowl tie-ins, though several teams are ineligible for the postseason. North Carolina in the ACC and both Penn State and Ohio State in the Big Ten won't be bowling in 2012-2013.
Notre Dame faces a difficult schedule in the upcoming months. Hypothetically, the Irish could upset a pair of top 5 teams in Oklahoma and USC and still miss out on the BCS. Notre Dame may be considered by the Orange and the Fiesta Bowls with a 10-2 record. Even with wins over the Trojans and Sooners, the Irish would still need to go 3-2 against the quintet of Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Stanford to get to double-digits in wins.
Coach Brian Kelly's team may improve dramatically from the past two seasons and still finish with a 9-3 or 8-4 record. A spot in the Military Bowl, then, would not be outside the realm of possibilities.
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