A final ranking in the top-eight guarantees the Irish a selection to one of the money games. A final ranking in the top-12 and Notre Dame can still be selected.
With the star power the Irish have this season (mainstream head coach, Heisman candidate quarterback), lets be honest, there is no difference between them finishing inside the top-eight or top-12. They are going to one of the premium bowl games.
There doesn't appear to be any possibility the Irish drop out of the top-12 with one more week to be played before next Sunday's BCS selections are made. No. 11 Auburn is right on the Irish's tale but both teams have completed the regular season. Even if No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 13 Rutgers win its respective games this coming Saturday, they might be too many points behind the Irish.
10. Notre Dame .6262
11. Auburn .6183
12. Oklahoma .5509
13. Rutgers .5500
Obviously if two teams jump Notre Dame, they are still in.
If Rutgers beats West Virginia on Saturday, the Irish would have to worry about No. 6 Louisville being selected as an at-large over them. But lets be honest again.
So where will the Irish be playing? The two possible scenarios are the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl.
While everyone thinks the Irish are a lock to play in the Sugar Bowl, don't be surprised if the Rose Bowl snags Notre Dame with one of their first two picks. If USC beats UCLA, Saturday as expected, the Rose Bowl gets the first two picks of at-large teams, after losing its two tie-ins to the National Title game (Ohio State and USC).
The Rose Bowl cannot choose teams that have won its conference and have a tie-in to another BCS game. No conference is allowed more than two teams in BCS games, also helping the Irish's cause. No. 7 Wisconsin of the Big Ten conference is stuck behind Ohio State and Michigan. No. 4 Florida plays No. 9 Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference title game. The loser is probably out of the picture, with No. 5 LSU fitting in somewhere, leaving out No. 11 Auburn.
Unless the Trojans get upset by UCLA, Michigan is headed to the Rose Bowl. With the other selection, the Rose Bowl will choose between an always attractive Irish team or a better team and match-up in LSU. If it wasn't a business decision, the Rose Bowl would have to take LSU, but even though ND took a 26-point thrashing at the hands of the Wolverines back in September, Notre Dame fans will still flock to Pasadena, and the ratings will still be high.
If the Rose Bowl cares about its image, it will take LSU.
I would doubt that the Irish would turn down any BCS offer, so they would play Michigan again if selected.
The Sugar Bowl has the next selection. The committee hasn't made it secret that they like an eligible Notre Dame. If the Rose Bowl leaves the Irish on the board, they are snapping ND up. They wouldn't take nearly the public heat of taking a Notre Dame team many think are now overrated as the Rose Bowl would've. The Irish would play the winner of the SEC title game, where Florida is favored.
That means Notre Dame won't be around when it's time for the Fiesta and Orange Bowls to make a choice. The Gator Bowl has a Notre Dame tie-in if they aren't selected to a BCS game. They may as well invite plan-B, even though its Notre Dame hopes brightened for a few hours after the Trojans put a whooping on the Irish, Thanksgiving weekend.
Regardless of what one thinks about the state of the Notre Dame (10-2) program, how they don't have enough speed and talent, how they are overrated, another 10-win season and a shot to end a eight-game bowl losing streak in a BCS game definitely sounds like a successful season.
But the year needs validation. Head coach Charlie Weis needs validation. A win in a BCS bowl game against Michigan or Florida would be validation.
If the Irish's biggest win of the season was against No. 22 Georgia Tech, it will look like the program benefited from a soft schedule for a second-straight season and got into a BCS game only to prove the experts wrong that they didn't belong.
In a rematch against Michigan, Weis could point to the fact that five turnovers led to two defensive touchdowns and set the offense up for 10 more points, in a 47-21 loss to the Wolverines. Though the Irish don't match-up well with Michigan, take care of the ball and they could be in the game in the fourth quarter.
The Irish should hope they are going to New Orleans to play Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Notre Dame matches up better with the Gators, who rely on a strong defense (10th nationally in total defense) to aid an inconsistent offense. Florida ranks 21st (398.25 yards per game) nationally in total offense, but that is slightly skewed by a few wins over weak opponents like Western Carolina (62-0).
Weis needs to rally the troops, get them to suck it up after the disappointing loss against USC and get them prepared for whatever is to come.
Whether they deserve it or not, the Irish will likely have a chance to end the season on a bright note with the program's first ever BCS win.