STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Notre Dame is playing for big money and a trip to the Bowl Championship Series.

No offense to the Insight or Gator bowls, but the Fighting Irish hope to have more appealing travel plans for the holidays.

And getting by Stanford certainly seems like a simple enough task considering Walt Harris’ consistently inconsistent squad is coming off an embarrassing 27-3 home loss to archrival California in last week’s Big Game.

No. 6 Notre Dame is seeking its first BCS berth since 2000 and the hefty payout that would come with it.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it,” said quarterback Brady Quinn, who has thrown a school-record 29 touchdown passes this season. “But at the same time, we don’t try to focus on that. Really, when it comes down to it, that’s not even an option if we don’t win this week. So really, all we’re thinking about is Stanford right now.”

As much as the Irish (8-2) try not to focus beyond today’s game, everyone around them has made that difficult. Students tossed tortillas onto the field last Saturday during a 34-10 win over Syracuse in anticipation of a potential trip to the Fiesta Bowl.

Notre Dame is in a unique situation from a payoff perspective, too.

Starting next year, there won’t be the same kind of financial pressure on the Irish players. The school will be guaranteed a projected $1.3 million from the BCS and would only receive about $4.5 million if Notre Dame makes one of the marquee bowls, compared to at least $14 million the team could make this year.

“We don’t sniff a dime, so it’s not about money to us,” receiver Jeff Samardzija said.

Stanford, too, has plenty to play for. The Cardinal (5-5) need a victory to make a bowl game for the first time since 2001 and not be haunted all offseason by their embarrassing 20-17 loss to UC Davis in Harris’ home debut — yes, a team making the transition from Division II to Division I-AA could be responsible for keeping Stanford home this postseason.

For Harris, it’s the game that must not be named. Stanford’s schedule in his first season was ranked second-toughest in the nation behind Oklahoma by the NCAA.

Harris has preached all season about the importance of bouncing back quickly from tough losses, and that’s what Stanford will have to do if the Cardinal want to be competitive with a Notre Dame team that is bigger and more athletic.

“We have to approach it how we’ve approached all the downs this season,” senior nose tackle Babatunde Oshinowo said. “It’s a one-game season for us. It’s all we have left. It’s easy to get started on that.”

Especially because anyone who’s ever been a part of this tight-knit campus community will be eager for a victory in the final event played at 84-year-old Stanford Stadium, which will undergo a $90 million facelift to transform the venue into a state-of-the-art facility for 2006.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis has explained the scenario to his team in the simplest of terms: If Stanford lost to Cal, the Cardinal would need to beat the Irish to be bowl eligible. And for Notre Dame, it’s beat Stanford and be part of the BCS.

“Realizing that we’re both playing for something big,” Weis said.

He also talked to his players about the natural distractions that come during Thanksgiving week and not losing sight of what could lie ahead.

“First of all, you don’t want to be disrespectful to the Gator Bowl or anyone else because there isn’t a bowl game that isn’t important,” Weis said. “That’s why there are so many of them and that’s why the schools are so happy to go to them. But to be chosen as one of the eight best programs in the country, that’s something special.”

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