Turn Hopes to Bowl Victory

Before Saturday, the Notre Dame football team was hoping to win the rest of its games and get a little help when it came to the National Championship picture. Now they need a lot of help, and they didn't even lose.

So much help in fact, whatever title hopes one was clinging too, it's time to change the focus towards winning a bowl game.

No. 3 USC's 33-31 loss to unranked Oregon State ruined a nice afternoon where the ninth-ranked Irish (7-1) efficiently beat an under-manned Navy (5-3) team, 38-14.

Notre Dame's offense looked good for a whole four quarters, the defense played very well in the second half, and most importantly, the team earned another win. That being said, USC's disappointing defeat all but totally eliminates the Irish's National Title hopes.

Sure, if seven teams lose over the next six weeks, the Irish could sneak into the title game. Lets be honest though. That's pretty much wishful thinking.

Maybe USC's (6-1) loss will help Notre Dame when it comes to recruiting as the Irish try to stake a claim in California. Maybe ND will make a slight move upwards in the polls this week. But what the Irish really needed was to make a statement against an undefeated Trojans' team in the season finale, Nov. 25. Now when the two teams meet, they will be compared similarly as two over-ranked programs. Whether that's true or not, it won't matter.

How ironic is it that Notre Dame's title hopes were dashed on a day they won and USC lost?

With that being said, there is still ample opportunity for this season to be a success.

If the Irish can snap their eight-game bowl losing streak, that would be huge for the program. Especially since a bowl victory would come in a Bowl Championship Series game. Regardless of the negative press Notre Dame has been getting, it will still be impossible to keep a BCS-eligible Irish team from playing in a marquee game. Unless the Irish slip up against one of North Carolina, Air Force or Army, which is less likely than ND playing for the title, Notre Dame will have enough wins to be in the BCS picture.

Notre Dame hasn't won a bowl game since a 24-21 Cotton Bowl victory over Texas A&M back in 1994. If the Irish could win a bowl game this year, what recruiting momentum the program would have leading up to February's signing day. No Irish coach has been able to work with that angle since Lou Holtz.

So that's where the season is at right now. Go out strong by winning the next four games, win a bowl game, and impress recruits.

Those National Title hopes, they can be rehashed in two seasons. For now, they have been put to rest.

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