Bowl scenarios for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish after regular season finale

Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman spent five years at Wake Forest before joining the Irish.
Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman spent five years at Wake Forest before joining the Irish.

After a season full of ups and downs, all that Notre Dame's football team can do now is wait to see which bowl they'll be playing in to cap off their year.

Fortunately (or unfortunately for them), there are only a couple of possibilities for them, given the school's final record and the talent in the ACC, the conference with which they're partly affiliated.

The Fighting Irish concluded their season with a 56-23 shellacking of the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday. It was Notre Dame's ninth win of the season in head coach Marcus Freeman's second year at the helm. Their final regular season record was 9-3, a slight improvement upon the team's 8-4 campaign in 2022.

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Will Notre Dame play in a New Year's Six bowl?

Notre Dame's odds of playing in a New Year's Six bowl were just about dashed when it lost its third game of the season – to Clemson, in early November. The team's 9-3 record, while impressive in a vacuum, won't cut it in the competitive college football landscape.

This year, it's especially competitive. The top eight teams in the latest US LBM Coaches Poll have one loss or fewer, and only four of those teams get into the College Football Playoff – either the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl. The other four will likely take spots in the New Year's Six bowls that aren't part of the playoff this year: the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange and Peach Bowls.

All of the remaining spots after that will go to teams with two or fewer losses, of which there are several: Oklahoma, Tulane, Missouri, Penn State and Louisville are just a few examples.

So, Notre Dame won't be playing in a New Year's Six bowl this season. With more improvement under Freeman's watch in the coming years, they could make a run at the new, 12-team playoff. Starting in 2024, it will include all six New Year's Six bowls.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2023 bowl projections

Though they won't play in one of the New Year's Six bowls, Notre Dame's solid season will be enough to earn them a spot in an entertaining bowl game with a formidable opponent.

Two bowl games in particular stand out for Notre Dame, and many bowl projectionists have called them out as the Fighting Irish's potential spots: the ReliaQuest Bowl and the Pop-Tarts Bowl.

ReliaQuest Bowl

Formerly known as the Outback Bowl, the ReliaQuest Bowl will take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fl. on New Year's Day – Jan. 1, 2024. The Florida-based bowl has affiliations with the Big Ten and SEC conferences, and several bowl analysts project LSU or Ole Miss to take one of the spots.

Should Notre Dame play the Tigers, it would give the Fighting Irish an opportunity to face off against their former coach, Brian Kelly, who left for LSU ahead of the 2022 season.

Notre Dame has only faced Ole Miss in football twice, most recently in a 37-14 win in 1985.

Pop-Tarts Bowl

The Pop-Tarts Bowl was previously known as the Cheez-It Bowl, and before that, the Camping World Bowl. It will take place in Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fl. on Dec. 28. The bowl holds affiliations with the ACC and Big 12 conferences, with bowl analysts projecting Oklahoma State or Kansas State into one of the spots.

Notre Dame played Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2021 season. The Fighting Irish suffered a 37-35 loss to the Cowboys in Freeman's first game as head coach.

The Irish have never played Kansas State in college football.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Notre Dame bowl game: Outlook, bowl options after regular season finale