Notre Dame is probably going to the Fiesta Bowl, and that’s not fair. Yes, Charlie Weis’ team was 9-2 and is ranked seventh in the country. They came within a yard of beating USC, produced a quarterback, Brady Quinn, who will probably finish no lower than fourth in the Heisman race, set school records for passing offense, and showed a lot of grit when games were on the line.
But the Irish schedule that was supposed to be one of the toughest in the country when the season began turned out to be as soft as a spring breeze. Pitt wasn’t even ordinary, Michigan State, which beat Notre Dame, couldn’t beat anyone else, Michigan, a pre-season Top 10 pick, lost four games, Tennessee, another alleged Top 10 team, didn’t even qualify for a bowl game, Syracuse would have had to play Buffalo 10 times to have a hope of winning five games, Stanford finished 5-6 — you get the idea; other than USC, the Irish didn’t play anyone who ended up being any good. Only three of Notre Dame’s victims are going to bowl games. Doesn't matter. Notre Dame is going to the Fiesta Bowl and, unless you’re Ohio State or maybe Penn State, you’re not.
Philip Marshall of autigers.com makes a very good case for why his team, 9-2 Auburn, should get the Fiesta Bowl bid instead. And Pac-10 fans are saying that Oregon deserves the bid, seeing as how the Ducks are ranked ahead of Notre Dame in the BCS and have one fewer loss. Once again, it may not be fair, but fair has nothing to do with it.
The reality is that the BcS itself is not fair. If you’re going to accept that you can choose a champion by letting voters and computers pick the two best teams in the nation and let everyone else play for third place, you have to accept that Notre Dame is always going to get the best and richest game it qualifies for according to the unfair rules.
The rules say Notre Dame can go to the Fiesta Bowl and collect $14.5 million, so that’s what’s going to happen. It will happen because Notre Dame will bring bigger television ratings (which equal dollars), and fan interest, than just about any other team. Put the Irish in with Ohio State, another legendary program, or Penn State and the renascent Joe Paterno, and you have a game that will be outdrawn only by USC-Texas.
Until there’s a playoff, it’s always going to be this way. The BcS says Notre Dame can go to one of the big four bowls as long as it’s no lower than 12th in the BcS rankings. Notre Dame meets that criteria. Oregon and Auburn can scream all they want about the injustice, but they’d be better off screaming for a playoff system.