There were no bowl game representatives in Palo Alto Saturday for the Notre Dame-Stanford football game, per Mike Berardino of The Indianapolis Star. This all-but confirms that the Fighting Irish are headed to the Camping World Bowl on Dec. 28 in Orlando, Florida.
Notre Dame won its regular season finale, 45-24, to finish the regular season with a 10-2 record. The Irish entered the game ranked 16th in the College Football Playoff standings, a position that they’ll likely stay at or around when the final rankings come out next Sunday. It will also be when Notre Dame finds out who they’ll be playing in Orlando on the final Saturday of 2019.
After a brutal 45-14 loss to Michigan to end October, the Irish went 5-0 in November, outscoring its opponents by a combined score of 196-78.
“It's obviously a great way to finish November with our fifth win in the month,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly told reporters following the game Saturday night. “It's hard to do that. And just, there's so many things that we did today that I'm really excited about.”
With no conference title game to play for this week, the Irish get the week off — at least in terms of game prep.
“The coaches will be recruiting for the week,” Kelly said. “We'll get back in on Friday. And I'll do some meetings on Friday with players and staff. Saturday we will then prepare for what our [bowl] schedule then starts to look like. [Director of Football Performance Matt] Balis will lift the team and have them in the weight room.”
As for the bowl selection process, it’s less than ideal for an independent school like Notre Dame, as there is only a certain amount of bowl games the Fighting Irish can qualify for. The majority of bowl games have conference tie-ins, therefore limiting the number of open spots for Notre Dame.
That’s why it’s unlikely for the Irish to make it to a New Year’s Six game this season. The two Playoff Semifinal games this year are the Peach and Fiesta Bowl. The Rose Bowl is Big Ten vs. Pac-12, the Sugar Bowl is SEC vs. Big 12 and the Orange Bowl is guaranteed to have one ACC team against the top-remaining SEC or Big Ten team, which will likely be ahead of Notre Dame.
This leaves the Cotton Bowl, which will go to the next highest-ranked team and the top “Group of Five” team. Most projections have this game being Florida vs. Memphis, with the later representing the American Athletic Conference from that “Group of Five.”
The bowl games the Irish have tie-ins to are the Orange Bowl or any game the ACC has a tie-in to, which can be any one of 11 bowl games.
If selected to the Camping World Bowl, Notre Dame would face a Big 12 team. With the way the bowl selection process works, the Sugar and Alamo Bowl get the first two selections of Big 12 teams for their bowl games. The Camping World Bowl is third. Given there’s a four-way tie for third in the Big 12 standings, the Irish’s opponent come Dec. 28 is not fully set in stone. Here’s the candidates to face Notre Dame in Orlando.
OKLA. STATE (8-4, 5-4 Big 12)
The Cowboys have been ranked on-and-off throughout 2019, reaching as high as No. 21 in the CFP polls. They’re led by the nation’s top running back, sophomore Chuba Hubbard, who’s rushed for 1,936 yards and 21 touchdowns so far this season. Oklahoma State holds the tiebreakers with the other 5-4 Big 12 teams, making them officially third place in the conference. If the bowl selection process follows the standings, then it’ll be the Cowboys facing the Irish.
KANSAS STATE (8-4, 5-4 Big 12)
The only team to beat Oklahoma this year so far, the Wildcats have enjoyed surprising success under first year head coach Chris Klieman. They’ve also been ranked at various times throughout the year, reaching as high as No. 16 in early November. They defeated No. 23 Iowa State in their final game, giving the Wildcats a good chance to be ranked heading into their bowl game.
IOWA STATE (7-5, 5-4 Big 12)
Iowa State’s record is a little deceiving, as the Cyclones’ five losses are by a combined 21 points. Unfortunately for them, they lost to Oklahoma State and Kansas State, two teams with better cases to make the Camping World Bowl than them.
TEXAS (7-5, 5-4 Big 12)
This matchup, just on name value alone, would be the most anticipated. The Irish and Longhorns are two of college football’s most traditional programs and would attract the most eyeballs to the Camping World Bowl. Unfortunately for the CWB reps, Texas has struggle mightily down the stretch, losing three of its last five games. If the Longhorns were 8-4 or 9-3, this would easily be the matchup in Orlando. The Longhorns will most likely have to settle for a different bowl game, though.