Notre Dame and Miami might not have to wait until 2012's clash at Soldier Field in Chicago to renew their emotional rivalry; it could happen next month. Get out the dry-erase board.
The Fighting Irish (6-5) head to rival Southern California (7-4) on Saturday to wrap up the regular season. A victory against the Trojans would likely get Notre Dame an invitation from the Champs Sports Bowl (Dec. 28 in Orlando), which has ACC and Big East tie-ins. The Hurricanes (7-4) would also have to beat South Florida on the road Saturday for that to be a possibility.
If Notre Dame drops its ninth consecutive game versus USC and Miami loses to the Bulls, they could still meet in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 31. The Sun Bowl has contracts with the ACC and the PAC-10, which is struggling to produce enough bowl-eligible teams. However, if California can top Washington this weekend for its sixth victory, the Golden Bears would trump an at-large Irish squad.
The New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 18) might have to shuffle things around considering both its conference tie-ins (Mountain West and WAC) will lose their top teams to the BCS, which could make room for Notre Dame. But Irish coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday that the school's exam schedule (Dec. 13-17) eliminates some opportunities. Interestingly enough, BYU, which inked a six-game deal with Notre Dame in October, is projected to play in Albuquerque.
"I have been included in that decision-making process," Kelly said. "It's not mine. It's [athletic director] Jack Swarbrick's to make. There are some caveats. Obviously, it's got to fit with our exams -- that's very, very important in the overall perspective here, relative to one bowl over the other. Then, as you know, the litany of tie-ins, who has got to do what.
"I'm usually brought into the loop on, 'Hey, coach, here are some things we're looking at. How does that fit in your recruiting schedule, exam schedule, things of that nature?' But the boardroom discussions are certainly on our athletic director."