The Death of Notre Dame Football: At Least as Far as I’m Concerned
1. I wrote this from my cozy spot in coach on a Delta flight. If you know me I’m about 6-3 and husky (yes, husky). I don’t fit so well in those seats and it’s a safe bet that if a word needed something on the left side of the keyboard, it got misspelled. Fortunately I was on the aisle but I didn’t exactly have room on my left side for proper wrist positioning.
2. More important but less valid as an excuse, I’m staying at the Palmer House in Chicago which claims to be where the chocolate brownie was invented. That is all I can think about right now. I’m making no effort to proof-read this. I’m getting a brownie. A party to that, I wrote this on Tuesday and it’s going live on Wednesday so I’m pretty sure there are some seriously confusing tidbits regarding “yesterday’s” game which by the time you read it will be two days ago. Know that I realize when the game was and if I say “last night” I was talking about “Monday night.” But the Dude has to get a brownie five minutes ago.
This isn’t an article about the Alabama Crimson Tide’s third National Title in four years. It’s not an article about how as a Georgia fan I thought the Dawgs should have gotten a rematch in the National Championship. It’s not an article about the SEC’s strength or about the seven consecutive titles the Conference claims. I will probably touch on all of those things, but that’s not what this article is about. This article is about the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the national ignorance that has given and continues to give credence to the Catholic football team that calls South Bend, Indiana “home.”
Notre Dame is not a good team. I hypothesized on the Twitter Machine that I thought Notre Dame looked like an 8-4 team. That was before they took the field against Alabama. It then became overwhelmingly evident that even I – an unashamed Catholic School Football Hater/SEC Homer/Logical Thinker – had given the Irish too much credit. If Notre Dame is an 8-4 football team, they must be playing in the MAC. If Notre Dame is really talented and coached well enough to consistently win eight games then their competition level must be downright childish. And yet, Notre Dame won twelve games this year. So what gives?
Notre Dame’s Schedule
Notre Dame did more to prove the strength of the SEC last night than Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU had managed to do in their combined six consecutive National Titles. Notre Dame’s goose egg in the first half said more about the strength of the SEC than the fact that seven teams (Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, LSU and Vanderbilt) finished in the AP Poll’s final top-25. You see, this was a team that by all accounts had played a real schedule.
If you could look past the fact that nearly half of Notre Dame’s games were won by seven or fewer points then maybe you showed some interest in Notre Dame’s schedule. But, if you did show that interest you were in the vast minority if you looked at the actual quality of the teams Notre Dame played. Because you couldn’t possibly look at the Irish’s mediocre performances against sub-par teams and think the Catholics belonged in Monday night’s game. And the overwhelming sentiment was that the Fighting Irish had a fighting chance.
This year ND needed OT to beat a crappy Pittsburgh squad that got blown out by Ole Miss. ND struggled against a Stanford team (and frankly, we all know the Cardinal scored an uncounted TD), and Stanford in turn struggled against a five-loss Wisconsin team (the Badgers covered the spread by several points). ND needed “a goal line stand for the ages” to beat USC. USC lost half a dozen games and was embarrassed by Georgia Tech in a Bowl game. ND was generally unimpressive against Boston College. ND struggled (at least to an extent) against the Michigan team that was emasculated by Alabama in front of a sold out Dallas, TX.
Were these games coincidental? Were they one-off outliers? I don’t think so. Were they a trend? Were they representative of Notre Dame’s 2012 season? The answer came last night for the slower thinkers and it was an overwhelming YES!
The Perfect Season
I joked on Twitter last night that a thousand talking-heads who somehow are more credible than I am would coin countless phrases along the lines of, “Lost in this poor performance is the fact that Notre Dame really had a magical year this year.” I half-way agree with that sentiment.
Notre Dame had the perfect season this year. They won 12 games, several of which they could have easily lost, against mediocre opposition while steamrolling on a train of praise readily offered up by the media with only one stop: The Days of Old. Notre Dame is back! The Irish are returning to prominence. They are relevant! At least that’s what we were told. Over. And over. And over. And over.
That – the media’s insistence of the importance of Notre Dame – is the perfect season for Notre Dame. How many times did you hear a pundit or ignorant ND fan insist that college football is better when Notre Dame is better? How many times did the answer to the rise of college football without Notre Dame over the past 15+ years?
But Notre Dame is back! Notre Dame is the new Lebron James (but without a first, second or third quarter). We are all witnesses! I witnessed it with the hire of Ty Willingham when I was in middle school. Notre Dame was back! Charlie Weiss and Jimmy Clausen brought Notre Dame back too! Now Manti Te’o and a non-existent offense have finally resurrected the program!
This was the perfect season for Notre Dame. And it ended the perfect way. The Irish were thoroughly outmatched by a superior opponent. But at the end of the day the coup had already been staged. America had talked the Irish into the National Championship Game.
It’s days like today where it borders on embarrassing to kind of sort of almost be associated with the college football media. I don’t vote in the AP Poll, but I’ve been credentialed in the same manner as those who do vote and I belong to the same professional affiliation as many of them (FWAA). As far as Notre Dame is concerned there were four distinct phases of Media ignorance this year:
- Ignorant Hyping: Notre Dame began to win some games on the heels of some Hawaiian dude who went through some personal tragedy and suddenly the world was one big Irish oyster. But hadn’t we seen that story before? Didn’t the University of Hawaii coin the whole “ride the Hawaiian’s tribal tattoos straight to the top while beating mediocre opposition” process? They did. Their 2007 Sugar Bowl matchup with Georgia was a precursor to Notre Dame’s embarrassing defeat last night. The Media hyped ND to the extent that ESPN had a special “Coaches Corner” show featuring Notre Dame coaches past and present while Nick Saban diligently prepared for his third ring in four years. This phase lasted well into the first quarter of Monday night’s game.
- Ignorant Disbelief: By the middle of the first quarter most media members were in shock. Many had predicted Notre Dame to win (some in dramatic fashion), others had predicted a close game. Hardly anyone predicted a blowout with the Tide rolling. Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musburger tried to sell the “spirit of Notre Dame” repeatedly as Manti Te’o laid on his back and reached for a juking Eddie Lacy already in the endzone. They ran out of inspirational messages by the end of the first quarter with Alabama knocking at the door of a 21-0 lead. The second quarter was the most silent quarter of National Championship Football history.
- Reckoning for the Ignorance: Then came the reckoning. The “Alabama’s line is really dominating” statements lead to “I’m surprised be the efficiency with which Alabama is moving the ball.” Slowly the media turned on Notre Dame in an effort to say something nice about a team that was handing out one of the largest cans of whoop-ass this college football season could claim. By the end of the game several media outlets were singing a different tune. Every media outlet shared a general disgust for Notre Dame’s presence in the game and was adamant about the need for a playoff. Everyone agreed that the game was a disaster.
- The Return to Ignorance: This was the most ignorant phase of all the ignorant phases! Tuesday morning I woke up to discover that Notre Dame finished fourth in the final AP Poll. Now, the same people who spent the entire season selling a defected product before pretending to recognize that it wasn’t really what the customer wanted were back on the sales floor pithing the same product to the same customer. Notre Dame – the team that was a travesty to the system and an insult to Alabama – finished the season ranked fourth in the nation. FOURTH!
Who’s Better than Notre Dame?
Notre Dame’s record, although unblemished, was shaky at best heading into the National Championship game. No they hadn’t lost, but who of real value had they defeated? Who of real value had they competed with? The short answer: nobody. This game should have destroyed any and all remaining credibility Notre Dame had, and I don’t know that they had any!
But here they are, ranked fourth in the nation. You know who’s better than Notre Dame? Based on what I saw Monday night a couple dozen teams are. Based on résumés, here is a short list of teams I watched in the postseason that I think could beat Notre Dame:
- Texas A&M: The Aggies actually beat Alabama. In Tuscaloosa. Enough said.
- Florida: All season the knock has been on Florida’s offense. I’m not sure that Florida’s offense is any worse than the Notre Dame defense that showed up to play Bama. And, I know that Notre Dame couldn’t move the ball on the Gators.
- Louisville: I don’t think Louisville got Florida’s best game (not by a long shot), but if you don’t think Charlie Strong could outcoach Brian Kelly you are out of your mind.
- LSU: See explanation on Florida.
- South Carolina: No Lattimore, no problem. Jadeveon Clowney might kill Everett Golson. Literally.
- Vanderbilt: I’m not kidding here. Vanderbilt looked better than Notre Dame.
- Georgia: Did anyone else watch the SEC Championship? Or any other game Georgia played? Then you know what I mean.
Notre Dame’s loss to Alabama vs. Georgia’s loss to South Carolina
I’ll head this one off before I read about it in the comment section. South Carolina beat the tar out of Georgia in early October. Alabama just beat the tar out of Notre Dame. These two losses (for Georgia and Notre Dame respectively) are completely different for a number of reasons including, but not limited to:
- Georgia played at South Carolina – a very hostile environment. Notre Dame played Alabama on neutral field and by all accounts the stadium was split evenly and Miami as a whole was about 5-to-1 in favor of Notre Dame fans.
- Georgia had Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to prepare for the game. Notre Dame had over six weeks.
- South Carolina played an out-of-their-minds, scary good game against Georgia. Alabama played the way they always play against Notre Dame.
- This. Was. The. National. Championship. Period.
Manti Te’o = Notre Dame Football
I love nothing more than bagging on college-aged kids because I am heartless never-was and that’s what I do. I’m not going to bag on Manti any more. I’m just going to make a few short points. Manti Te’o is the most pure and unadulterated representation of Notre Dame you could find. He’s overhyped by the media. He’s good at what he should be good at – he makes tackles; the Irish beat bad teams. I don’t know that he would start for a few SEC teams and I know that he wouldn’t be a household name if he played at Mississippi State.
Allegedly Manti Te’o recorded 10 tackles on Monday night. Do you remember any of them? Me neither. But he’s really, really, really good – so we’re told. Notre Dame won 12 games this year. Do any of those mean anything? No. But the Irish are back! So we’re told.
Wait, haven’t I heard this before?
You mad, bro?
Yeah I’m mad. I love college football. I spend an inordinate amount of time(WifeYouCrazy might use the term “obsessive”) on college football. I’m a fan of the game. And this is what I get? It’s insulting.
What’s the solution? Is it a playoff? Is it the end of automatic tie-in? Is it the abolishment of the BCS? I don’t know. But how about we start here: IF YOU ARE VOTING, WATCH THE FREAKING GAMES!
Monday night shouldn’t have been a shock to somebody who is paid to watch, know and write about college football. Notre Dame shouldn’t be ranked in the top-5 by professional sports writers. It’s embarrassing.
That’s all I got/