Holiday Bowl watch: Notre Dame popular pick and Utah a likely Pac-12 opponent

Holiday Bowl watch: Notre Dame popular pick and Utah a likely Pac-12 opponent

Selection Sunday is just two weeks and two days away, but the college bowl picture will remain fluid until just hours before the announcements.

SDCCU Holiday Bowl officials will be on pins and needles in the meantime. They will be hoping things continue to fall into place in such a way that Notre Dame comes to town for the Dec. 28 game to be played at Petco Park.

Notre Dame played in San Diego for the first time four years ago, beating Navy 44-22 in a game played before a crowd of 63,626 at SDCCU Stadium.

The Fighting Irish (8-3), No. 15 in this week’s CFP rankings, concludes the regular season Saturday afternoon at No. 6 USC (10-1).

The Holiday Bowl matches teams from the ACC (Notre Dame is grouped with the conference for bowl purposes) and Pac-12. At this point, Utah (8-3) is a likely representative from the Pac-12. The Utes wrap up the regular season Saturday at Colorado.

Here’s a look at how things are shaping up in the ACC and Pac-12 as bowl officials consider which two teams to invite Dec. 4 to this year’s game:

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

Wednesday, Dec. 28, 5 p.m. (Fox), Petco Park

Expected payout: $3.23 million per team.

Conference tie-ins: ACC vs. Pac-12.

2022 Playoff Semifinals: Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl.

Other New Year’s Six games: Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl.

Pecking order: After the NY6 slots are filled, the Holiday Bowl gets the second pick after the Alamo Bowl in the Pac-12 (note that in odd years, the Holiday picks third after the Alamo and Las Vegas bowls).

In the ACC, the Holiday Bowl, Gator Bowl and Cheez-It Bowl all submit their top three choices. If all three bowls select different schools as their top pick, then they get that team.

If there is overlap, then the conference and bowls work things out.

Comments: The CFP selection committee moved Notre Dame up three spots — from No. 18 to No. 15 — in its latest top 25 rankings.

If Notre Dame beats USC, then the Fighting Irish could potentially move up in the rankings and position themselves for an at-large spot in the Cotton Bowl. Of course, a lot of things would have to fall into place — several teams above them all losing — for this to take place.

If Notre Dame loses to USC, then all of that is moot.

Even with a win, the most likely scenario is for the Irish to be in play for the Cheez-It, Gator and Holiday Bowls.

At this point, North Carolina and No. 16 Florida State (8-3) appear better fits for the Cheez-It and Gator, based on the teams’ success and proximity to the bowls.

No. 8 Clemson (10-1) and No. 17 North Carolina (9-2) will meet in the ACC championship game. The Tigers would need help to move into a CFP berth, although both schools still have an eye on NY6 berths.

Should either team fall down the stretch, both would have appeal to the Holiday Bowl.

The “no repeat” clause — as well as two recent losses — removes North Carolina State (7-4) from consideration here since the Wolf Pack came to town last season to play UCLA, which bowed out at the last minute (citing COVID issues within the program).

On the Pac-12 side, USC has aspirations of somehow qualifying for the playoff, with the Rose Bowl a consolation prize.

Losing last week to USC means the best hope for No. 18 UCLA (8-3) is the Alamo Bowl, which also will have its eye on Oregon (9-2). The Ducks have to get past No. 21 Oregon State (8-3) this weekend to keep hopes alive for an NY6 game.

After losing last week against Oregon, No. 14 Utah (8-3) fits squarely in the Holiday Bowl’s picture. But Holiday Bowl officials will be watching the Oregon-Oregon State game closely. If the Ducks stumble, then they, too, will be a prime candidate for the Holiday.

Friday’s impact games

ACC

(CFP rankings)

NC State at No. 17 North Carolina, 12:30 p.m. (ABC)

Florida at No. 16 Florida State, 4:30 p.m. (ABC)

Pac-12

No. 18 UCLA at Cal, 1:30 p.m. (FOX)

Saturday’s impact games:

ACC

South Carolina at No. 8 Clemson, 9 am (ABC)

Pac-12

No. 9 Oregon at No. 21 Oregon State, 12:30 p.m. (ABC)

No. 14 Utah at Colorado, 1 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

No. 15 Notre Dame at No. 6 USC, 4:30 p.m. (ABC)

No. 13 Washington at Washington State, 7:30 (ESPN)

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