Notre Dame will announce its bowl destination on Sunday, Dec. 8. Until then, let the speculation run rampant.
Notre Dame's most popular projections throughout the last few weeks are as follows:
- Pinstripe Bowl (NYC)
- Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego, Calif.)
- Independence Bowl (Shreveport, La.)
- Little Caesar's Bowl (Detroit, Mich.)
- Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dallas)
- Hawaii Bowl (Honolulu)
- Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
Head coach Brian Kelly said Notre Dame has narrowed the field down to "probably three bowls." Earlier in the week, Kelly dropped some hints to ESPN.com as to where the Irish might end up later this month:
- A bowl before Dec. 29.
- No ties to the Atlantic Coast Conferece, "for one last go-around."
- Let the seniors decide where to play.
A pre-Dec. 29 date eliminates the Independence Bowl (Dec. 31) and Heart of Dallas Bowl (Jan. 1).
The Dec. 28 Pinstripe Bowl is also seemingly out of contention because it'll tie in with the ACC starting next year. Because Kelly is letting his seniors choose the bowl game, and those seniors have been pretty vocal about staying away from the snow, New York in late December may not be an ideal destination. However, New York City has a strong Notre Dame following, the Irish have played in Yankee Stadium before and the Pinstripe Bowl reportedly has a $1.8 million payout, so I wouldn't cross NYC off the list quite yet.
That said, here's a look at the final four:
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl San Diego, Calif.9:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 26(Army vs. MWC)
Because Army (3-8) failed to qualify for a bowl game, Notre Dame is in a prime spot to pick this one up. Warm, sunny San Diego fits both Kelly's requirements and the seniors' wishes.As appealing as the locale is, the kickoff time (9:30 ET), the payout ($500,000) and the date (ND would have to leave a couple days after final exams) are detractors.Also, there's the small fact that the Poinsettia Bowl has an agreement with the Mid-American Conference for a spot in this year's game. Executive director Bruce Binkowski said he wouldn't choose Notre Dame over a MAC team unless the ousted squad can be "made happy and whole.""We would not renege on our agreement with the Mid-American Conference,” Binkowski said Nov. 24. “We have a long-standing relationship with them, either as a backup or a primary team through 2019. And I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that.”A Northern Illinois loss to Bowling Green in Friday night's MAC championship game could effectively elbow Notre Dame out of the way.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Honolulu, Hawaii8 p.m. ET, Dec. 24(MWC vs. C-USA)
This dark horse has quietly emerged in the past few days as a viable option for Notre Dame. Notre Dame played in this bowl in 2008, and the locale can't be beat. In fact, Brian Kelly joked several times about Hawaii "or Bermuda" being ideal bowl destination.On Friday, Hawaii News Now announced that Notre Dame had expressed interest in the bowl, but admitted "the chances are slim" for the Irish to actually play in it.Like the San Diego bowl, this runs into all sorts of logistical problems. Again, the proximity to finals week (Dec. 14-20) puts a damper on this possibility.The Mountain West Conference and Conference USA also have teams eligible for this game, which means Notre Dame would have to buy its way into this game and ensure the other team has a place to play.This one remains a long shot, and perhaps something of a pipe dream for the warm-weather seeking seniors.
Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl Detriot, Mich.6 p.m. ET, Dec. 26(Big 10 vs. MAC)
The fact that Ohio State and Michigan State could very well end up in BCS games and Penn State is still under bowl sanctions opens up the Big 10 slot for this game. Notre Dame could be faced with a hot MAC team (Northern Illinois, Bowling Green or Ball State). The cold-weather setting detracts from this game, as well as the destination (What 22-year-old would pick Detroit over San Diego?). The possibility of this game likely depends on the outcome of Friday's MAC championship game. Personally, I cannot see Notre Dame agreeing to play Ball State, as much as that would make my BSU alum parents and brother extremely happy.
Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl St. Petersburg, Fla. 2 p.m. ET, Dec. 23 (AAC vs. C-USA)
Like Hawaii, this is probably another long-shot situation. The only thing that makes this game appealing is that it happens to fit the criteria Kelly and the seniors laid out.It's pre-Dec. 29, Florida is warm and it has no ACC ties. The possibility of a Notre Dame bid depends on if both SMU and Rutgers (both five-win teams) win this weekend. If so, the American Athletic Conference will have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill this game. If not, Notre Dame is looking to play ... Florida Atlantic or Middle Tennessee State. Not exactly the most enticing opponents available.
Kelly says the team has whittled down to three destinations. My guess those are Hawaii (however far-fetched), New York and San Diego.
That said, Notre Dame will likely either end up at the Pinstripe Bowl (most lucrative choice) or the Poinsettia Bowl (fits all coach/player requirements).
My gut says Pinstripe Bowl.
Where do you see the Irish playing in late December?