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Football: ND still eligible for BCS paycheck

Kate Gales | Tuesday, November 28, 2006

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – After a 44-24 loss to USC Saturday, the most recent Bowl Championship Series (BCS) polls have the Irish at No. 10.

The team is No. 10 in the Harris Interactive Poll, No. 12 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll and No. 8 in the computer rankings. The BCS rankings average these three components, with equal weight.

The BCS now consists of the National Title game and the traditional Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar Bowls. The Irish automatically go to a BCS bowl if they finish in the top eight teams, and are eligible for selection if they are within the top 14.

After losing to USC, Irish coach Charlie Weis said the team would be happy to be selected for a BCS berth.

“I think that we got beat pretty good and we’ll be very happy to go to any BCS game that picks us,” Weis said. A reporter asked if the rumors were true that the Sugar Bowl officials had said they would take the Irish if they were available regardless of other team’s availability.

Weis’ response to that was simple.

“If New Orleans ends up picking us, sign me up,” he said. “Let’s go.”

The four bowls have several conference tie-ins, meaning that the conference champions will automatically go to those bowls unless selected for the national title game. The Rose Bowl is played between the Big Ten and the Pac-10 champions, the Fiesta Bowl is tied to the Big 12, the Orange Bowl is tied to the ACC and the Sugar Bowl is tied to the SEC.

The bowl that loses its tie-ins to the national championship game will pick before the other bowls. The Rose Bowl has already lost the Big 10 champion, Ohio State, to the national title game. Because the Buckeyes are No. 1, they will automatically receive the first pick of remaining teams. It could also lose the Pac-10 champion if the Trojans end up No. 2 in the BCS rankings, in which case it could pick any two teams not hosting bowls.

After the replacement bids, the Sugar Bowl receives the first pick, followed by the Orange Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl.

Zbikowski makes kickoff-return debut

Safety Tom Zbikowski, who also returns punts for the Irish, particuparted in his first kickoff return Saturday.

Weis said that Zbikowski has been preparing to specialize in kickoffs for several weeks.

“He’s worked for the last few weeks in prep that he’d be doing that,” Weis said. “He wasn’t the only guy we had on special teams, we used every guy we had on special teams today.”

Weis said it was important for him to put the best athletes on the field.

“You lose a game, you lose a game, but you’re going to lose a game with your best guys doing it,” he said.

Different lineup on the offensive line

To compensate for the loss of tight end John Carlson, Weis sometimes had extra linemen on the offensive line, which confused some onlookers.

“They weren’t unbalanced lines,” he said. “Those linemen were just taking the place of tight ends.”

Carlson’s replacement, Marcus Freeman, did catch a seven-yard touchdown pass from Quinn in the second quarter to put the Irish within 11.