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Notre Dame’s Opponents: A newfound Citrus Bowl possibility

Boston College v Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 23: Chase Claypool #83 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is lifted up by teammate Aaron Banks #69 after a six-yard touchdown reception against the Boston College Eagles in the second quarter at Notre Dame Stadium on November 23, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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When Ohio State took a 21-0 lead against Penn State early in the second half Saturday, Notre Dame’s Cotton Bowl hopes had a semblance of renewed hope. A blowout there combined with a possible, and eventually realized, Pac-12 upset could have positioned the Irish for a return to Dallas.

Then the Nittany Lions made things respectable, losing 28-17, and as a result, they remained in the top 10 of Tuesday’s newest committee rankings. With that status, Notre Dame’s chances at a New Year’s Six chances have been cast aside for 2019.

Because someone will ask ... For the Irish to go to the Cotton Bowl, they would need No. 10 Penn State to lose to Rutgers, No. 11 Florida to lose to Florida State, No. 12 Wisconsin to lose at No. 8 Minnesota, No. 13 Michigan to lose to Ohio State, No. 14 Oregon to lose to either Oregon State or No. 6 Utah, and No. 15 Auburn to lose to No. 5 Alabama.

Suffice it to say, it isn’t going to happen.

But the Nittany Lions staying in the top 10 could open up a different bowl opportunity for Notre Dame.

By staying ahead of Florida, a status that should not have reason to change, Penn State could send the Irish to the Citrus Bowl. That possibility remains contingent on a few fluid dynamics, all tied to the necessity of the second non-Playoff Big Ten team finishing ahead of the second non-Playoff SEC team.

If only one SEC team makes the Playoff, then the duo of Georgia and Alabama will halt this thought outright. If two do, though, and the Big Ten West winner stays ranked ahead of the Gators, then Notre Dame could have a New Year’s Day showcase. (Of course, if Ohio State loses to either Michigan or the Big Ten West winner, that only furthers this cause.)

No, these things should not be the logical reasons to determine an ACC bowl berth, but the Citrus Bowl only reaches to the ACC if the Orange Bowl features a Big Ten team, logical or otherwise.

If the Irish end up in the Citrus Bowl, they would face the first SEC team to miss out on the New Year’s Six, most likely Auburn, but perhaps Florida.

Should No. 6 Utah or No. 7 Baylor leapfrog Alabama after No. 2 LSU beats Georgia in the SEC title game, Notre Dame will head to the Camping World Bowl as expected for the last month. The opponent there will likely be the winner of this weekend’s No. 23 Iowa State at Kansas State (7 ET; FS1), with the Cyclones favored by 5.5.

Louisville (7-4): The Cardinals rolled to a 56-34 win against Syracuse behind quarterback Micale Cunningham’s six touchdowns. When the Scott Satterfield success reaches its second season, Cunningham could be a driving force.

Satterfield’s impressive debut season will lose some of its shine if Louisville falls against Kentucky (12 ET; SECN) this weekend. The Wildcats are favored by 3.5 with a combined point total over/under of 53, suggesting a 28-25 nailbiter for the in-state rivalry.

New Mexico (2-9): The Lobos and Bob Davie will part ways after this season, a decision announced following New Mexico’s 44-22 loss to Air Force. Davie’s last game will be against Utah State (4 ET). That should bring about as much success as New Mexico’s whole season has, with the Aggies favored by 11.

Georgia (10-1): The Bulldogs held on for a 19-13 win against Texas A&M, hard to believe given they were out-gained, managed fewer first downs and forced just one turnover. Georgia is, nonetheless, favored by 28.5 against Georgia Tech (12 ET; ABC), the over/under of 46.5 making a 38-9 blowout likely.

Virginia (8-3): The Cavaliers had no trouble beating Liberty, 55-27, even though that could have been a monster lookahead situation. They will now try to beat Virginia Tech (12 ET Friday; ABC) for the first time in 16 tries, and with the ACC Coastal title on the line. What was once a pick’em has seen the Hokies become field goal favorites A 26-22 scoreboard should be a great way to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers.

Bowling Green (3-8): The Falcons will finish a disaster of a season at Buffalo (12 ET Friday; ESPN+).

No. 22 USC (8-4): The Trojans’ regular season ended with a 52-35 win against UCLA. What is more notable than USC’s schedule wasting an idle week is that head coach Clay Helton remains on the staff (as of early Wednesday morning).

No. 13 Michigan (9-2): The Wolverines have averaged 41.5 points per game in their last four, most recently with a 39-14 rout at Indiana, a game widely-expected to be within single digits. If Michigan keeps that momentum going, it will have a solid chance against No. 1 Ohio State (12 ET; FOX), despite the Buckeyes having a projected edge of 9.5 points.

No. 24 Virginia Tech (8-3): In defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s last home game, the Hokies shut out Pittsburgh, 28-0.

Duke (4-7): The Blue Devils’ lost any possible bowl hopes with a 39-27 loss at Wake Forest, putting into doubt any motivation they may have against Miami (3:30 ET; ESPN2). As a 9-point underdog, bookmakers see that same question about Duke this weekend.

Navy (8-2): The Midshipmen pulled off a win against SMU with a 70-yard touchdown run from senior quarterback Malcolm Perry halfway through the fourth quarter. The victory kept Navy in the AAC title conversation, needing Cincinnati to beat Memphis this week while the Middies take care of business at Houston (7 ET; ESPN2) as 8-point favorites.

Boston College (5-6): After the 40-7 loss at Notre Dame, the Eagles will need to upset Pittsburgh (3:30 ET; ACCN) to keep Steve Addazio’s eight-year bowl streak alive. As 9.5-point underdogs, Addazio and Boston College will probably have the Christmas season off this year.

Stanford (4-7): The Cardinal lost 24-20 to Cal, erasing its bowl possibilities and effectively ending its season before the Irish even arrive (4 ET; FOX). Notre Dame has not been a two-possession favorite against Stanford since 2006, but is now given a 16-point edge with a 51-point over/under hinting at a 34-17 result.