When I saw Bon Jovi in South Bend last November, watching Notre Dame squeak out a victory against a mediocre Boston College squad, little did either of us know how apropos his famous lyrics would be for the Irish merely a year later. Because at 6-0, the Irish are half way home to a championship season — but still needing a prayer (or two) to get into the BCS Championship game.
On the bright side, by entering the BCS rankings in 5th place, the Irish are almost assured a BCS Bowl bid even if they lose their remaining two games against ranked opponents (at Oklahoma and USC). When you consider Notre Dame’s national fan base and, the networks’ thirst for the high ratings that the Irish always bring, Notre Dame is bound to get a BCS game even if they only finish 14th—the lowest spot where they can still qualify for one.
On the negative side, Notre Dame’s 5th-place ranking also means that even with an undefeated season, the Irish may still need considerable help just getting to the BCS game.
Certainly, the Irish could conceivably pass up an undefeated 5th-ranked Kansas State based on their strength of schedule. But both Jesse Palmer and Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN acknowledged that Notre Dame would have a tough time passing up numbers one, two, and three, Alabama, Florida and Oregon, if two of those three teams also remained unbeaten.
“The Irish’s wins against the Big Ten no longer look so big,” said Herbstreit, adding that Miami and (next week’s Irish foe) BYU both now have three losses, and aren’t as formidable-looking as they once were.
Still, the Irish seem to be taking it both with pride and in stride. As senior Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert explains, since he’s been here, “[w]e haven’t even been close to [the top] so it’s pretty cool,” while Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly adds, “[t]here’s no question that when you’re putting…Notre Dame up there in the top five, there’s a sense of pride.”
But what about getting to the BCS Championship game? “My [job] is to make them understand that, with that pride, comes a greater obligation to do things the right way…to [become] a championship program and let the rest take care of itself.”
Or, as Bon Jovi (or was it Manti Te’o?) once said: “We’ve got each other and that’s a lot / For love – we’ll give it a shot!”
Besides, if any team’s hopes had to be “livin’ on a prayer,” it might as well be those of Notre Dame, where hopes and prayers go together like the Cross and the Resurrection.
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