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Football: Irish mull bowl options

Andrew Gastelum | Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Even with its close-but-no cigar loss to No. 8 Stanford on Saturday, it seems that Notre Dame’s bowl options have yet to change.

“I don’t think [the loss alters postseason plans],” Irish coach Brian Kelly said on Saturday. “I couldn’t tell you for sure … But there’s going to be some opportunities for us that we’ll just have to sit and evaluate and find out.”

With one week left in the college football season, the pot of bowl-eligible teams can still be stirred. But with no bowl tie-in as they had with the Champs Sports Bowl for the 2011 season and one year away from the ACC tie-ins, the Irish have the opportunity to be a bit more picky than usual.

“There’s a lot of schools that obviously still have an opportunity to take some of those spots that are there,” Kelly said. “We’re in a unique situation this year.  We’re appreciative of any bowl that would take a good, hard look at us.”

Since the loss to Pittsburgh on Nov. 9, the BCS suits have disappeared from the Notre Dame press box, to be replaced by a bevy of smaller bowls in search of a cash cow in what is certainly the largest of the at-large teams looking for a suitor. At Stanford, AdvoCare V100 Bowl (formerly known as the Independence Bowl) representatives from Shreveport, La., were on hand with hopes of swaying the Irish. Other contending destinations include the Pinstripe Bowl, the Poinsettia Bowl, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, the Hawaii Bowl and the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

After the loss to Stanford, a few Notre Dame players available to the media issued a preference, not of destination but of locale.

“Definitely not somewhere where it’s snowing,” senior receiver TJ Jones said.

Others were less direct, yet still increasingly hopeful for some sunshine.

“Wherever they send us really,” senior tri-captain Zack Martin said.  “Like most people, don’t want to play in the snow. But if we play there, we’ll be happy for it.”

The climate may be the biggest deterrent of the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, considered by many to be the favorite for landing the Irish. Notre Dame may also find itself at the very same bowl over the next few years with its ACC tie-in.

Meanwhile, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit and the AdvoCare V100 Bowl most likely don’t have the flair necessary to draw a consensus and the Irish already played in Dallas this season with the Shamrock Series. The Hawaii Bowl is a dream location, as it was when the Irish visited in 2008, but appears to be looming on the fringe with its Dec. 24 date and a complicated travel schedule.

The Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 26 seems to be another one of the heavy favorites, with the Pinstripe Bowl, and would be a welcome choice among the players for its weather and competition – Boise State and Fresno State are potential opponents. But the Poinsettia has a backup tie-in with the MAC, which has only four tie-ins throughout the bowl season with seven bowl-eligible teams. And although money may not be the biggest factor to the Irish, the Poinsettia Bowl has the second-lowest payout of all the bowls at $500,000 (compared to the Pinstripe Bowl’s $1.8 million prize).

But for some seniors, the destination isn’t nearly as important as the chance to play one final game.

“We just want to play. For us, we don’t have much decision about where we’re going,” senior quarterback Tommy Rees said. “We just want to play another game.  We’ll get that opportunity.  We’re just ready to compete.”

Meanwhile, Jones said the captains and veteran seniors would meet with Kelly on Thursday to discuss their options. Kelly had previously mentioned he would heavily consider the input of the seniors, who will be the first Irish class since 1995 to go to a bowl game for all four years.

For Martin, the bowl game represents a curtain call for a senior class that started in El Paso, Texas, with stops in Orlando, Fla., and Miami along the way.

“I mean, we want to go and win our last one,” the offensive lineman said. “We got one more game together. This team has worked too hard to not go out and play the right way our last game. We’ll go where they send us. But we like to go where it’s sunny out.”


Contact Andrew Gastelum at agastel1@nd.edu