???

Yesterday it was obviously going to be the Gator Bowl, today things are not so clear.

Fighting Irish Preview’s survey of the bowl game projections of ten major sports websites published just yesterday expressed a strong consensus that the Irish were headed to the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on December 30. In fact nine out of the ten predicted it. The lone hold out had the Irish in the December 28 Holiday Bowl.

To channel a little Lee Corso here: “not so fast my friend!”

Today it is being reported that the Rose Bowl may bypass Ohio State and select 10-2 Penn State instead. The move would make some sense and would knock over a whole bunch of bowl eligible dominoes if it comes to pass. According to The Athletic, such a move would likely result in the Irish heading to the January 2 ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa, to play Mississippi St.

The Rose Bowl has hosted Ohio State twice in the last four years including last year and apparently Rose officials have a preference for some fresh blood in their game. Penn State would fill that bill as they have not been to Pasadena since 2016. Such a move would be permissible under the Rose Bowl’s contractual ties to the Big Ten and the Pac 12.

Traditionally the Rose Bowl selects the Big Ten champion or, if that team is in the College Football Playoffs, the next highest ranked Big Ten team. However, as stated on the Rose Bowl’s website there is “a caveat” in it’s contract that would allow them to select an alternate Big Ten team if they so desire.

According to The Athletic if the Rose Bowl makes the move, it would likely land Ohio State in the Orange Bowl which would then domino through 17 total game matchups.

Of course the calculus on this all could again change again dependent on the results of the conference championship games this weekend. Upsets would change things. Two games in particular to watch are the Big Ten and Pac 12 championships. In the Big Ten #2 Michigan is a 16.5 point favorite over Purdue and #4 USC is a 2.5 point favorite over Utah in the Pac 12.

The ReliaQuest Bowl traces it’s history back to 1986 when it was known as the Hall of Fame Bowl. Starting in 1995 it was named the Outback Bowl. Last June, Tampa based tech security company ReliaQuest became the title sponsor.

Notre Dame has never played in the Tampa based bowl, nor have they ever played their projected opponent, the Mississippi St. Bulldogs. The 20th ranked Bulldogs are 8-4 and are coming off a 24-22 win over Ole Miss in their season finale.  Their losses have come at the hands of Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky and LSU. 

The ReliaQuest Bowl kicks off at noon EDT on January 2 and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

By Phil Houk

For over 25 years, bringing you the glory of Notre Dame football.

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