Frank Jansky/Icon SMI
Hawaii (7-6) vs. Notre Dame (6-6)
Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Reason To Watch: Good background noise while you're assembling Junior's new train set. Notre Dame's implosion in the second half of the season has actually been compelling TV, and another loss to a mediocre team will send Domer fans into Christmas Day on yet another down note. This Hawaii offense does not resemble Colt Brennan's pinball wizards from last year, so don't tune in for that. Let's just see if the Irish miss out on a winning season for the fifth time in the last eight years.
Keep An Eye On: Jimmy Clausen vs. the Hawaii secondary. Hawaii's pass defense was stout the final three weeks of the year, allowing Idaho, Washington State and Cincinnati an average of just 143 yards while recording five interceptions against four touchdowns. Clausen, meanwhile, averaged just 167 yards per game with two TDs and eight INTs during ND's 1-3 finish. Notre Dame's rushing offense is No. 98 in the nation, so Clausen must shake off his funk if the Irish are to win, and Hawaii is well aware of this. Freshman wideout Michael Floyd should return, giving ND a much-needed playmaker.
Did You Know?: Fans are well aware Notre Dame is 0-9 in its last nine bowl games, but did you know the Irish were underdogs in each one? With Hawaii as a 1.5-point favorite, it makes 10 straight bowl games in which Notre Dame has not been favored. That, of course, is because bowls love to grab Notre Dame any time they can and will overslot the Irish to attract the fan base.
Final Analysis: Sure, it would be a nice story for Hawaii's first-year coach Greg McMackin to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of an ugly exit by June Jones, replace the incomparable Brennan and 13 other starters and finish the season 8-6 with a bowl win. But we all know this game is about Notre Dame and the program's puzzling mediocrity. Will ND's spiral continue with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1985-86? Or will ND end a forgettable season with a slight uptick and give Charlie Weis a chance to at least tell recruits the Irish made a four-win improvement over last season?
The Pick: Notre Dame 42, Hawaii 17. Finally, everything comes together for the young Irish. Unfortunately for Weis, few people will be watching on Christmas Eve, and even fewer will be impressed.