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BCS hysteria can wait, Notre Dame still needs to beat USC

Nov 12, 2012, 3:57 PM EDT

Curtis-McNeal-Stiffarm

With two Saturdays left in Notre Dame’s season, two highly unrealistic scenarios are close to playing out before our very eyes. First, the Irish might run the table, completing as improbable of a undefeated regular season as you can remember. Second, it might not matter, and a 12-0 Notre Dame will be held out of the national championship game.

If you were looking for a prop bet that would pay out like a super lotto ticket, you could’ve found plenty of takers back in August. That’s when Notre Dame was kept out of the preseason polls, if only because it was widely agreed that the Irish played the toughest schedule in the country, a slate that felt destined to come with four or five losses.

But a funny thing happened along the way. After months of offseason hypothesizing and turning coffee table debate into definitive, preseason rankings, eventual football games were played. And it turned out that the Irish were much better than people expected while their opponents maybe weren’t as tough. Sure, Michigan and Michigan State didn’t turn out to be top ten teams, and BYU slipped up some after a ten win season. But they definitely didn’t turn into Missouri State or North Texas, two pre-purchased victories for Kansas State. Winning ugly against BCS opponents like Purdue or Pitt isn’t going to win a fashion show, but it tells you more than scheduling Arkansas State or Tennessee Tech will, the pride of conferences Sun Belt and Ohio Valley respectively.

Yet this isn’t another column to bemoan the plight of the Fighting Irish. It’s not another wasted exercise in trying to find apples-to-apples comparisons in a college football world that will never resemble a fruit stand. Don’t get me wrong, those arguments can — and should — be made. But only after Notre Dame beats USC. Because until then, there’s really nothing to talk about.

In many ways, USC’s season is a microcosm of Notre Dame’s opponents. The Trojans started the year atop the national rankings. Armed with a golden boy quarterback, two elite wide receivers, a running back acquired via virtual free agency from Penn State, and a defense that returned eight starters (remember, that’s what matters in those summer months), it took a while for some of Southern Cal’s fatal flaws to be exposed, as they were in losses to Stanford, Arizona and Oregon.

But that’s not to say the Trojans aren’t dangerous. In many ways, having USC in the way of Irish immortality makes this team one of the most frightening of all. As Lane Kiffin learned this year, it’s quite different being the hunted rather than the hunter, a role the Trojans relished during their 10-2 2011 campaign. It’s a role they will easily adopt next Saturday, as Matt Barkley leads his teammates into the Coliseum one last time.

The Irish still need to get past Wake Forest, a team that also beat Boston College by two touchdowns. A loss to the Demon Deacons ends any championship discussions quickly, and also legitimizes any arguments being made that Notre Dame is a pretender. But if the Irish walk out of the Coliseum 12-0, they’ll have done everything asked of them, completing a schedule that may not have been Kilimanjaro, but certainly a tougher climb than the slates faced by the other title contenders.

Any championship determined by computers, pollsters and fellow coaches is bound to end up rankling a team or two, especially if more than two teams run the table. But you can hardly blame Brian Kelly for staying out of the debate, as he knows what stands between him and his shot at a national title.

Southern Cal.

A year after getting punked at home at Notre Dame Stadium, don’t expect Kelly and his staff to come up for air until they leave Los Angeles undefeated.

Then? Let the politicking begin.

  1. idratherbeinsouthbend - Nov 12, 2012 at 11:06 PM

    GREAT article on why ND is ranked #3 right now….and probably the only ACCURATE, LOGICAL arguement that i’ve seen for us being ranked 3rd. No stupid eye-ball test, no margin of victory BS…

    You want to know why ND is ranked #3 right now…READ THIS

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/ncaaf–undefeated-notre-dame-stuck-at-no-3-need-help-archaic-preseason-polls-bcs.html

    • stedward - Nov 13, 2012 at 10:02 AM

      This is not why Notre Dame is #3. Notre Dame had already passed Kansas St after the Michigan State game. So there goes the preseason poll argument. Kansas St jumped Notre Dame after they beat Oklahoma. In order for the preseason poll to matter we would have to be ahead of Oklahoma. At that time we did not know what the defense was going to be and we had a new starting QB. We would have maybe cracked the top 20 if we had won the bowl. The reason Notre Dame is #3 is because we play close games and voters like high powered offense.

      • runners00 - Nov 13, 2012 at 12:31 PM

        I think that you are partially right about this. Even though margin is not supposed to be a factor, for sure it is a factor. While we were winning at Oklahoma, Oregon was winning against lowly Colorado, 70-14. The same is true in early season games: when we played Michigan, Oregon was beating up Fresno. The week we played Stanford, they buried Arizona State.

        So, margin matters. The biggest factor, though, is the unwillingness of voters to allow Notre Dame to leapfrog other major conference teams based on our performance. I mean, the big one was Oklahoma. Most of us who follow BCS could sense that something was wrong after that week. We went into a very difficult environment and beat a strong Oklahoma team. Sure, it was close for a lot of the game but it looked like we handled OU — especially in the second half. After that game — and the Stanford game and the Michigan/Michigan State and Miami games — we deserved a higher ranking within the undefeateds. Instead, we were fairly low among undefeated teams. And we won’t recover unless and until Oregon or K State loses.

        Fortunately, we have a great team and that is what we’ve wanted for a long time. And so we should be able to accept that this is a great season — regardless of margin of victory.

      • simmel65 - Nov 13, 2012 at 2:27 PM

        What is so frustrating to me is that Florida needs a blocked punt to beat the Rajin’ Cajuns at home and barely drops in the polls… And no one really says anything. Alabama has a let down after playing LSU? Really? Yes, it is hard to play a BCS opponent week after week like Notre Dame does… Discount BC, Pitt and Wake all you want, but it physically tougher than a FCS or Mac opponent to play week in and week out..

        That is what I love about this ND season…

        GO IRISH!

      • mgreenhut - Nov 16, 2012 at 4:15 PM

        Except that KSU stayed ahead of ND in the coaches poll and the Harris poll hadn’t been released yet. They did briefly go above KSU in the AP but that poll doesn’t matter to the BCS. And ask yourself this, if ND had played OU when they were undefeated before KSU, do you think that KSU would have leapfrogged ND in the AP after beating a 1 loss OU team?

        ND is ranked below KSU due in part to being ranked lower at the beginning of the year and in part due to the fact that KSU beat OU first when OU was still considered a title contender.

      • terryb101 - Nov 16, 2012 at 4:26 PM

        your right “style” does matter,, seems we peaked too soon,, i mean really, we were 3rd in the bcs then need 3 ots to beat a 4 and 4 team at home.. if we dont move up we can look back at the pitt game as the point at were we stumbled. eventho we won,, ugly wins only count when you have real playoff system

  2. papadec - Nov 13, 2012 at 3:21 AM

    Nice article by Matt Fortuna @ espn on Kelly & ND.

  3. yaketyyacc - Nov 13, 2012 at 6:31 AM

    Nude, agree with both of your posts. saves me a lot of typing. first Wake Forest, and then the litle tikes of troy. THE IRISH ARE COMING!

  4. jimkress999 - Nov 13, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    BCS hysteria can wait, Notre Dame still needs to beat WAKE FOREST!

    THEN, they can worry about USC.

  5. irishadrian - Nov 13, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    I still can’t believe ND has the opportunity to go into the SC game at 11-0. I wouldn’t have believed it at the beginning of the season, congratulations to everyone involved. A lot of great play and also a lot of luck…it’s about time. My only gripe with Brian Kelly is that he still screams at players AND coaches when they make a mistake. I was watching Paul Christ and Brady Hoke over the past few weeks and they really seem like players coaches…Brian not so much but you can’t argue with the results.

    • runners00 - Nov 13, 2012 at 11:42 AM

      I don’t want a player’s coach. Do you think that Nick Saban is a player’s coach? NFW. How about Les Miles or Urban Meyer? What do you think their practices are like? Player’s coaches don’t win. Coaching wins. And to coach, sometimes you have to scream. Now, I don’t want any craziness like that nut at Washington State, but I want a coach who pays attention to the strengths and weaknesses of the players and who can motivate the players. Kelly has done this during this season. He’s not as wild as he was in 2010, but I suspect that is because his kids are much better than they were in 2010.

    • italianirish - Nov 13, 2012 at 11:53 AM

      Once the game starts, Brady Hoke has as much of an influence over the outcome as I do. He doesn’t wear a headset, talk to other coaches, and barely talks to his team. I’d rather a coach who is involved.

    • ibleedirish - Nov 13, 2012 at 3:09 PM

      my lord, its football you cryass.

    • 9irish - Nov 13, 2012 at 3:43 PM

      I don’t even know what the hell that means…a “player’s coach”, you mean the guy that lets everybody slide, pats them on the head when they screw something up? Let me call Gerry Faust and Ty Willingham up, maybe they can help us out.

      • madmick69 - Nov 13, 2012 at 4:57 PM

        Call Weis while you’re at it too…

        I like the fact that BK gets in their face and coaches ‘em up! Hell I liked the fact that he lit his tight end coach up in the OU game, didn’t have the right personnel on the field cost them a time out he didn’t want to burn one.

        Either get with the program or get out! What really pisses him off, as it should anyone is someone who keeps making the same mistake time and again.

        Get ‘em coach, it’s worked so far 10-0!

        Slainte,

        GO IRISH!!!

    • 1historian - Nov 13, 2012 at 5:38 PM

      “I was watching Paul Christ and Brady Hoke over the past few weeks and they really seem like players’ coaches….. Brian not so much but you can’t argue with the results.”

      So – don’t

  6. runners00 - Nov 13, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    First Wake Forest. Then Southern Cal.

    But overall, people should accept that K State or Oregon must lose for us to have a shot in the championship game. I mean, even if we blow out Southern Cal, the fix is in. The conferences will defend the conference structure until death. And they’ll wrestle with us in the process. Does anyone think that Oregon is really deserving, given its incredibly weak non-conference schedule (Arkansas State, Tennessee Tech and Fresno State)?

    That said, Oregon has two pretty challenging opponents in the next two weeks: Stanford and Oregon State. We’ll see whether they can run on The Cardinal. That should provide a clue about whether they belong at the end. . . .

    • mgreenhut - Nov 16, 2012 at 4:19 PM

      If Oregon beats Stanford, then Oregon State then wins the Pac-12 championship they deserve to be in. Just like ND does if it wins out – and so does KSU. All three have played credible schedules – the problem isn’t that ND deserves to be in and one of the others doesn’t – it’s that all three deserve it.

  7. oldestguard - Nov 13, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    That gol-darned Brian Kelly – look what he’s done !!

    He’s gotten this team into the NC mess 2 years ahead of schedule !!

    He didn’t even wait for his O or Special Teams to develop – just built that damn D too good to be denied.

    What a mess….what are we going do now ? The “voters” are not ready for us.

    ________________________________________________________________________

    That’s what I like to refer to as a “nice problem to have ”

    Being from Chicago – where votes seem to have a way of working themselves out favorably for the Home Team, I trust this will all wind up just fine in the end.

    • bernhtp - Nov 13, 2012 at 2:50 PM

      Do you think that you could get your Chicago friends to get Knute Rockne’s and Frank Leahy’s votes to count in the coaches poll?

      • oldestguard - Nov 13, 2012 at 3:08 PM

        …some of our greatest elections have been decided by the gravesite vote counts !

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 14, 2012 at 5:07 PM

        Maybe the Chicago-machine can deliver, like it did for JFK. Not sure how to get dead people to vote in the NC polls, but if any town can do it, Chicago can. Vote early and often!

    • madmick69 - Nov 13, 2012 at 4:59 PM

      It is a nice problem to have…and you went there, you went all Daley with the voting thing!

      NICE!

  8. kazmar619 - Nov 13, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    USC has basically two rivalries, ND and UCLA. Before there was a Pac-12 Championship game, the UCLA game would be after the ND game (when played on the west coast). Now and in the future there will be a different dynamic since the UCLA game is before the ND game (when played on the west coast). In the past a weak UCLA team got the benefit of a “spent” USC team after the ND game and a weak UCLA team was able to upset the stronger USC team on many occasions. Now the tables are turned and USC needs to beat a stronger than usual UCLA team before the ND game to make it to the Pac-12 championship game. The ND game this year really doesn’t matter that much to USC but the UCLA game really does matter. And if USC beats UCLA they will need to play in the Pac12 Championship game the week after the ND game. Not saying USC won’t be ready to play ND, just reminding everyone of the new dynamic coming into play.

    • 1historian - Nov 13, 2012 at 5:41 PM

      “The ND game this year really doesn’t matter that much to USC”.

      Really?

  9. tony34343434 - Nov 13, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    Simple truth is the people voting are more impressed by offense than defense. They see Oregon winning 60-56 better than ND winning 20-16. Same four point difference but people love the offense. I think we should be number one with our strength of schedule, Go Irish!!!

    • dudeacow - Nov 13, 2012 at 4:38 PM

      I agree. As soon as I saw the score, I thought for the first one, “Wow, the winner is really good and wins tight games.” For the second one I thought, “Well, that’s an ugly victory. That team needs some work.”

      • madmick69 - Nov 13, 2012 at 5:02 PM

        Can someone name the last PAC 12 team that was known for it’s defense?

        Yeah, I didn’t think so.

        Defense wins championships, offense sells tickets.

        It’s just that simple.

      • dudeacow - Nov 13, 2012 at 6:06 PM

        I think Utah had a good defense once…

      • ndirish10 - Nov 13, 2012 at 6:24 PM

        madmick69,

        If offense sells ticket, then BcS will take Oregon and KState for the NC game. Now if they really want to hit the jackpot BcS will pit ND v. Oregon.

  10. deaconjack - Nov 13, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    Incredible lack of maturity shown on this blog. We should have a self imposed week of nothing but good offerings on this blog. There are so many good things to post as wells constructive advice and varying criticism that is worthwhile. It is just useless to display the worst side of being a male.

    • madmick69 - Nov 13, 2012 at 5:04 PM

      Really, we are grown men talking about college football and you expect a certain level of maturity? A certain level of decorum?

      Have you checked out some of the screen names on here?

      Yeah, that’s not going to happen…thanks for stopping by!

      Slainte,

      GO IRISH!!!

  11. deaconjack - Nov 13, 2012 at 7:54 PM

    I will stop by again. I would agree that perhaps the men are up in age but necessarily grown men. Someday everyone on his own hopefully will become a grown man.

  12. deaconjack - Nov 14, 2012 at 4:15 AM

    Oh it is bar talk, very immature. I won’t leave but my reaction is still disgust. Try a ten day period with some class and you will probably surprise yourself.

    • ibleedirish - Nov 14, 2012 at 7:50 AM

      ok now i get! you’re joking. phew! for a minute i thought you were a total douche!

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 14, 2012 at 5:11 PM

      are these comments made by Siri from your i-phone? they sound a bit too mechanical and forced to be sincere. either that, or these comments come from a british grandmother.

    • 9irish - Nov 14, 2012 at 11:28 PM

      I think I understand what you are talking about, but you’re doing it all wrong. You can respond DIRECTLY, to people, don’t just respond where it shows up at the end and nobody knows what you’re talking about.

      There are some personal feuds going on, but I just leave it alone…they can beat each other up all they want. If you’re talking about “hell, damnit, etc”, all the words we’ve always heard, I can’t help you.

      Go Irish

  13. fnc111 - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Amen! Seeing Oregon fans mocking ND’s schedule is priceless. Of the top 4 teams in the BCS standings right now, ND’s schedule will be the toughest. Oregon is just now playing good teams. Good chance ND has ten of its ’12 opponents in bowl games this season. Looks like only seven for Kansas State.

  14. fnc111 - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    dudeacow,

    Gimme break! Arkansas State plays nobody. They are a good team against crap competition. They are signing up for an automatic loss against a big boy team. Look at Kent St they are 9-1. Their one loss was to a pathetic Kentucky team. Arkansas State just stinks less than Tennessee Tech and North Texas but they are all 1-AA type teams. Who cares about which one is the better pushover?

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