Who Will the Irish Play, and Where?

When the Bowl Championship Series makes its selections tonight, Notre Dame will still be headed to play in the Sugar Bowl. However, there is a chance the the 10th-ranked Irish might not be playing the Southeastern Conference champion.

USC's loss to UCLA, and Florida's win over Arkansas have shaken up the BCS picture for hopefully and thankfully the final time.

Things could still play out as originally expected this evening. With No. 2 USC's 13-9 loss to the rival Bruins, the Trojans are headed to the Rose Bowl as the Pac-10 champion. No. 3 Michigan could move right into the title game for a rematch against No. 1 Ohio State. No. 3 Florida, a 38-28 winner over the Razorbacks in the SEC title game, would take its automatic berth to the Sugar Bowl and play the at-large Irish.

Then again, there is a chance No. 4 Florida leaps Michigan right into the title game, changing Notre Dame's opponent in the Sugar Bowl.

Here is how the wacky BCS works.

Bowl games losing teams to the National Title game get first selection of an at-large team to fill the vacated spot. The bowl game that loses the higher rated team gets first choice. The Rose Bowl loses No. 1 Ohio State, so they get the first at-large selection. The committee has made it no secret that they'd like to stay loyal to its conference ties, the Big Ten and Pac 10. USC is in automatically. If Florida is in the title game, the Rose Bowl will most likely select Michigan in staying loyal to the Big Ten. If Michigan doesn't get jumped by the Gators, and plays for the National Title, the Rose Bowl will likely take LSU. They would take a lot of heat for taking Notre Dame with the first at-large selection.

If Florida and Ohio State meet in the title game, the Sugar Bowl gets the second selection, since they lose the Gators. They've made it public that they love the Irish, and that bringing Notre Dame to New Orleans would be huge for the city economically. Notre Dame fans travel better than any other fan base in the country. Hotels, restaurants and many other establishments would reap the benefits. The Irish are in.

So who will the Irish play?

Things sound tricky, but here is how it works.

The bowl game played nearest to the National Championship game (Jan. 8) gets first selection of the remaining at-large teams. The Sugar Bowl is played Jan. 3, while the Orange Bowl is Jan. 2, and the Fiesta and Rose Bowls are played on Jan. 1. So the Sugar Bowl picks again. They cannot pick a team that has a conference tie to the other BCS games.

The Sugar Bowl will probably stay loyal to its SEC ties and choose No. 5 LSU. So be prepared to hear a Notre Dame versus LSU game, if Florida leaps Michigan and plays Ohio State for the title.

The Orange Bowl will have the ACC champion, Wake Forest, pitted against whoever they choose after the Sugar. They have to choose between Big East champion Louisville or automatic qualifier Boise State.

The Fiesta Bowl will have the Big 12 champion, Oklahoma, taking on the team the Orange Bowl doesn't take.

Those are the two scenarios that are going to play out this evening. Unless of course, another crazy BCS situation plays out.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories