Skip to content

Notre Dame is No. 1 (But the system is absolutely broken)

Nov 18, 2012, 1:35 AM EST

Kansas St Baylor Football

As it tends to happen in November, college football threw its fans a curveball and toppled the country’s top two teams, all but flipping the world on its head with just one week to go in the regular season. A week after an impregnable Alabama team fell to Texas A&M, the top two teams in the country, Kansas State and Oregon, lost as well. Oregon’s loss was dramatic, an overtime defeat to a Stanford team that battled back from three turnovers to vanquish an opponent that’s owned the Cardinal. Kansas State’s loss felt more like Cinderella after midnight, with the Wildcats turning into a pumpkin right before our eyes, getting steamrolled by a 4-5 Baylor team with the worst defense in the country.

Think about that. Collin Klein and Kansas State, called the best player and team in the country by Sports Illustrated just days ago, got blown out by a Baylor Team that lost four straight to the murders row of West Virginia, TCU, Texas, and Iowa State.

The beneficiary of all of this is Notre Dame. Brian Kelly’s squad, fresh off their most impressive offensive performance of the season, now jumps to the No. 1 team in the country. For Domers everywhere, things couldn’t get much better. After a decade of futility, life is good. A week after looking like the odd man out, the Irish ascend to the top spot in the country, all by beating Wake Forest to a pulp. Now, the only team between the Irish and immortality, is USC.

That’s right, Lane Kiffin, a black hat if there every was one, is the last enemy that needs vanquishing. You couldn’t script a better movie if you were spotted John Wayne and the Wild West.

But that’s where this story should stop.

Make no mistake, Notre Dame absolutely deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country. But this system deserves to be thrown in the recycling bin, a relic of yesteryear that is so outdated you’d look better pulling out a fax machine to check your Twitter feed at the sports bar.

The pollsters and the computers that determine who plays for the national championship have been over-matched for years. But watching Kansas State, a team that was considered the most battle-tested in the country lose by four touchdowns to a sub-.500 team, is just another notch in the belt of those that have forever screamed that the pollsters don’t know anything. Bill Snyder’s team losing isn’t another example of the SI cover jinx. It’s a fraud revealed. It’s college football’s Darwinism thankfully doing what pollsters weren’t capable of.

It’s a shame that it took Art Briles squad (a team that spotted Kansas State and Collin Klein seven points with one of the worst interceptions of the season) beating the Wildcats to understand that K-State just isn’t that good. This is a team that cancelled its best game of the year. (Ironically, against Oregon, who also benefited from a cupcake schedule.) It’s a team that scheduled Missouri State and North Texas, only leading the Mean Green by a botched extra point in the third quarter before pulling away. It’s a team with a Heisman candidate with an arm that makes Tommy Rees’ look strong, a guy who would’ve absolutely won the most coveted award in college sports if he didn’t collapse against the worst defense in the country, even though just about anybody who was honest with themselves — or who has actually seen Klein play — knew he’s a non-roster invitee in the NFL at best.

That’s not to spare Oregon. The Ducks, who worked their way to the top of college football in spite of an untested quarterback, have played such luminaries as Arkansas State, Fresno State, and Tennessee Tech before embarking on their conference schedule. They looked like the best team in the country for eleven weeks, if only because everybody assumed Chip Kelly and the Ducks were the real McCoy. That turned out to be incorrect as well, with the Ducks being toppled by a Stanford team playing a redshirt freshman at quarterback in his third state who survived three turnovers. Once again, an Oregon quarterback, this time Marcus Mariota, fell back down to earth when they played a legit defense. Stop me if you’ve heard that one.

None of this spares Notre Dame. That the Irish are the “best” team in the country in spite of struggling to beat Purdue, BYU and Pittsburgh shows you the system we’re working with. Yet in today’s college football, the Irish deserve to be at the top of the heap not because of their stout defense or improving offense, but because of the things they didn’t do: Lose football games and schedule cupcakes.

With a playoff system coming into fruition in 2014, articles like these will hopefully never be written again. But because there’s a championship to be played in Miami, and again next season, it is worth committing this to public record, if only to get in front of history, who will surely judge the current system as the dumbest in sports history.

Picking the top two teams in the country is hard work. So let’s get this on the table: Neither the media nor the coaches can do this job. It’s just too hard. The college football world is too flat, and the game’s best programs have spread too far across the country, all unwilling to play each other when it’s easier to simply battle familiar opponents and wage a PR war instead.

With college football’s warloads even making the computers irrelevant (formulas that can’t factor in margin of victory are less effective than a calculator missing a button), it’s down to the game’s power brokers and voters to steer the ship. We’d be better off with pro wrestling refs.

College football is filled with bias. Coaches, voters, writers, ESPN GameDay hosts. We’ve all got it. We wouldn’t love the sport if we didn’t. But it’s taken over the conversation and it’s all got to stop.

When Alabama works its way back into the national title game with a victory over a 1-10 Western Carolina team that hasn’t sniffed a victory in the Southern conference, it’s all too obvious this sport needs a hard reset. And thankfully in 2014, that’s coming with a playoff.

So while pundits, fans and talking heads will undoubtedly debate Notre Dame’s worthiness atop college football world, consider this a pleasant reminder: It’s not the Irish’s fault. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

No team has earned the right to call themselves No. 1 more than Notre Dame. And if they beat USC next weekend, that’s all the more clear.

Don’t get me wrong, I love college football. But that doesn’t mean the system isn’t broken.

Latest Posts
  1. Notre Dame football players: Why I’m Thankful

    Nov 27, 2014, 10:00 AM EST

    Luke Massa, Kyle Brindza Luke Massa, Kyle Brindza

    With the Irish heading to Southern California to try and finish the regular season with a much-needed eighth victory, seniors Austin Collinsworth, Kyle Brindza, Cam McDaniel and Christian Lombard look back on a football career that’s now ending.

  2. And in that corner… The USC Trojans

    Nov 26, 2014, 12:10 PM EST

    The greatest intersectional rivalry in college football might not have the shine of previous years, but it doesn’t make it any less important. Both Notre Dame and USC will enter the Coliseum desperate for a victory.

  3. Secondary depth chart reaches red-line status

    Nov 26, 2014, 11:47 AM EST

    Michigan v Notre Dame Michigan v Notre Dame

    A one-armed man. Two guys sentenced to a year in the house. And a parolee. Sounds like the cast list for a new cop drama. But that’s the safety depth chart entering the final Saturday of the regular season.

  4. Kyle McCarthy: Blessed with ND football during cancer fight

    Nov 25, 2014, 7:38 PM EST

    Washington v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Throughout the ups and downs of the football season, one thing was a constant in graduate assistant Kyle McCarthy’s first season of coaching. A life or death battle with cancer.

  5. Irish defense loses Jones, Tranquill for season

    Nov 25, 2014, 2:59 PM EST

    Notre Dame v Syracuse Notre Dame v Syracuse

    The hits just keep coming for Notre Dame’s defense. On Tuesday, Brian Kelly confirmed that defensive tackle Jarron Jones would be lost for the season. He also announced that safety Drue Tranquill tore his ACL, ending the freshman safety’s season as well.

  6. The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. Louisville

    Nov 24, 2014, 2:24 PM EST

    Brian Kelly Brian Kelly

    The Irish exited Notre Dame Stadium for the last time in 2014. And for the second-straight week they sang the alma mater after a defeat, taking another step backwards from a home-field advantage Brian Kelly and the Irish had quietly built over the past few seasons.

    Let’s take a look at the good, bad and ugly of Notre Dame’s 31-28 loss to Louisville.

  7. Young defensive front up for another challenge against USC

    Nov 24, 2014, 10:42 AM EST

    Jacob Matuska, Reggie Bonnafon Jacob Matuska, Reggie Bonnafon

    It appears that Notre Dame’s already youthful defensive line is going to be getting even younger on Saturday. After losing Jarron Jones essentially on the first play of Saturday’s 31-28 loss to Louisville, a Sunday MRI will determine the severity of the injury and whether he can play again this season.

  8. Five things we learned: Louisville 31, Notre Dame 28

    Nov 22, 2014, 8:40 PM EST

    Austin Collinsworth, Joe Schmidt Austin Collinsworth, Joe Schmidt

    Kyle Brindza stared down his spot. Envisioned making the kick. Took a final deep breath before waiting for the snap.

    And then he missed it.

  9. Live chat — Notre Dame vs. Louisville

    Nov 22, 2014, 3:15 PM EST

    Rice v Notre Dame Getty Images

    How will the regular season end for the Irish? Let’s talk about it here during the home finale from Notre Dame Stadium.

  10. Mailbag: Still steaming mad about last week

    Nov 22, 2014, 12:33 PM EST

    New Mailbox

    With the questions (understandably) a little bit more filled with frustration than usual, it seems more than a few of you are searching for answers to last week’s loss still. Let’s answer a few mailbag questions before the game.

  11. Former Irish greats talk about their favorite Notre Dame memories

    Nov 22, 2014, 10:42 AM EST

    Washington v Notre Dame Getty Images

    With Senior Day a perfect time to look back, some former Notre Dame football greats are looking back at their time with the Irish. And they’re doing it in a pretty cool way.

  12. Pregame Six Pack: Battling Louisville in Senior sendoff

    Nov 21, 2014, 4:31 PM EST

    Notre Dame v Arizona State Getty Images

    And just like that, Notre Dame’s season is nearly over. While losing three of four games has dampened the spirits of fans and detoured the team’s postseason hopes, the Irish will play their final game at home on Saturday, a senior sendoff in Notre Dame Stadium for a large group with a still-to-be-determined future.

  13. After unexplainable loss, can Irish rally again?

    Nov 20, 2014, 2:21 PM EST

    BYU v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Few memories are shorter collectively than football fans. Every mistake is magnified in the prism of “now,” with the devastation of a difficult to understand loss like last weekend’s to Northwestern consistently taking dead aim at the foundation of a football program, regardless of its stability.

  14. Louisville Mailbag: Now Open

    Nov 19, 2014, 11:07 PM EST

    New Mailbox

    Send your questions in below. Or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

  15. And in that corner… The Louisville Cardinal

    Nov 19, 2014, 9:30 AM EST

    DeVante Parker, Tyler Hunter DeVante Parker, Tyler Hunter

    Another Saturday, another football game for Notre Dame. And because of last weekend’s loss to Northwestern, the Irish face what now feels like a must-win game on Senior Day.

    Mark Ennis gets us ready for the Louisville Cardinals.

  16. Kyle McCarthy announces he’s cancer free

    Nov 19, 2014, 12:02 AM EST

    Washington v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Notre Dame graduate assistant Kyle McCarthy took to Twitter to share the good news that he’s been given a cancer-free diagnosis. The former Irish captain had been battling an undisclosed type of cancer since earlier this year, staying with the team throughout surgery and multiple treatments.

  17. BK: “We’re going to fight through this rough spot”

    Nov 18, 2014, 4:40 PM EST

    Purdue v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Brian Kelly met with the media this afternoon, a few days into preparation for Louisville. While there were certainly questions about how the Irish were going to challenge a Cardinals team with some really exceptional personnel on both sides of the ball, the focus was mostly on the guys inside Notre Dame’s locker room.

  18. The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. Northwestern

    Nov 17, 2014, 1:22 PM EST

    Will Fuller, Nick VanHoose Will Fuller, Nick VanHoose

    A little less than 48 hours after Notre Dame’s loss to Northwestern, it doesn’t seem like too many people are over it. So let’s dispense with the introductions and pull the band-aid.

    Here’s the good, bad and ugly from Saturday’s disastrous 43-40 loss to the Wildcats.

  19. Former Irish back Jonas Gray has monster game for Patriots

    Nov 17, 2014, 10:46 AM EST

    Jonas Gray Navy

    Jonas Gray became the NFL’s overnight sensation. It only took three long years for him to get there. The former Irish back dominated in a breakthrough game for the Patriots.

  20. Kelly talks failed two-point play, moving on to Louisville

    Nov 16, 2014, 4:06 PM EST

    Brian Kelly Brian Kelly

    As you might have noticed, Notre Dame lost to Northwestern yesterday. And that’s got more than a few people unhappy. Brian Kelly talked about moving forward on his Sunday teleconference.