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Notre Dame: “The best SEC team in the country”

Nov 21, 2012, 4:28 PM EDT

Prince Shembo AP

Notre Dame isn’t just in control of its own destiny this weekend, it’s in control of the entire college football world. A Notre Dame victory on Saturday guarantees that the Irish will find its way into the national title game. Everybody else — with Alabama having the inside track — will have to fight for the other spot.

With a rash of one loss teams all politicking for one spot, the inevitable beauty contest has begun in earnest, with conference affiliations, attractive losses, and other subjective measures all coming into play. And while the standard “SEC!” battle cry has been bellowed for weeks on end, it’ll be especially bombastic for the next few weeks.

Right now, the most widely accepted argument is that Alabama, the toast of the SEC, is the best team in the country. That logic, based on the conference’s unprecedented run on national titles, and the Crimson Tide’s impressive record the past two seasons, certainly makes a lot of sense.

But before people start discussing how many touchdowns the Tide will be favored by if and when they face Notre Dame in Miami on January 7th, Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples, a guy that knows plenty about the SEC, had an interesting take on the No. 1 Irish and the Southeastern Conference.

“I think Notre Dame is the best SEC team in the country, Staples told ESPN’s SVP & Russillo. “A couple of weeks ago I told you they were the second best SEC team in the country, but now that Alabama has lost, Notre Dame is the best SEC team in the country. A ferocious defense, an offense that kind of slides by and does what it needs to do, and that’s the SEC blueprint.”

It took some coming around from the national media, but finally people have started to realize that Brian Kelly built his team not based on his hurry-up, spread offensive background, but on the very tenants that help the SEC dominate.

That’s part of the reason why Staples thinks a title game including the Irish will end up being closer than most people expect.

“I think they match up pretty well there, and I think it would be a fun game to watch,” Staples added. “I don’t think the SEC is as great at the top as probably everybody else does. A lot of those teams are beatable.”

That might be an opinion that’ll fill up the phone banks on Paul Finebaum’s show, but it also goes to show you that maybe — just maybe — this college football season lacks a clear-cut great football team, especially when you consider the dearth of elite quarterback play.

“I can make a legitimate argument for probably top twelve teams about why they’re the best, and probably some of the two-loss teams, like Texas A&M and LSU,” Staples said. “I don’t think there’s any clear cut team. Everybody assumes that there’s this huge line of demarcation between teams, it’s not like that. It’s a couple bounces one way or the other.”

For the Irish, they’ve capitalized on the luck that they’ve been given this season, while creating their own along the way thanks to a stingy defense and still developing offense. Yet even without their most recent good break, an injured Matt Barkley, beating the Trojans is far from a lock. Even with Max Wittek at the helm of the Trojan defense, USC is one of the most dangerous teams in college football, and their inconsistencies on both offense and defense make predicting what happens this weekend even more difficult.

But that’s today’s college football. Funnily enough, that’s today’s SEC as well.



  1. piratey - Nov 21, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    Offense not defense in the last paragraph. Just lookin’ out :)

    • 808raiderinparadise - Nov 21, 2012 at 7:47 PM




    • tommynacc - Nov 22, 2012 at 2:41 PM

      I tweeted that to him to, like minutes after he published the article. Apparently Keith doesn’t read our comments!

  2. papadec - Nov 21, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    I don’t like ND being called the best SEC team – too many negatives associated with the SEC. Better than ANY SEC team, this year, sits better.

  3. steincj36 - Nov 21, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    Better than any team out there. That sits best with me.

    Team. This team defines team. The fact that there are no huge standouts on either side of the ball means everyone contributes to this team.

  4. andy44teg - Nov 21, 2012 at 6:18 PM

    I thought that was a given….you know…beings that we were voted #1 in both the AP and Coach’s Poll, and ranked #1 in the BCS….that’s nationwide, right????

  5. runners00 - Nov 21, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    This is a vey good team that reminds me of the Alabama team with Gene Stallings that won the title in 1992-1993. It’s a very quick defense and an offense that takes care of the ball and does enough to win games. Perhaps the outcome in the USC game will alter the landscape. But as far as I can tell, this team, which has exceled against some very good offenses and has held its own against decent defenses, is for real.

  6. atlirish1013 - Nov 21, 2012 at 8:27 PM

    Not to be too douchey, but Notre Dame’s GSR is only 97%. Still number one, though. I also don’t see that many problems with the offense. Oregon’s vaunted offense actually scored less on Stanford than Notre Dame did. This is a very good offense at all levels (o-line, running back, receiver, tight end, with an improving qb) that has experienced some inefficiencies in the red zone and on third down, but that’s expected with a young QB. That’s all but been eradicated the last two weeks and I dot expect it I change on Saturday. Go IRISH, beat the $h!+ out of the Trojans!!

  7. sneakydj17 - Nov 21, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    i think notre dame is a joke. they almost lost to michigan, purdue, byu, and pittsburg. notre dame will be the laughing stock of college football when they play georgia, texas a&m, florida, or alabama.

    • ndirish86 - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:41 PM

      or stanford. or oklahoma, or… oh wait.

    • ndirish87 - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:48 PM

      Almost lost is basically saying “barely won”. You didn’t lose but you barely won.. At the end of the day a win is a win. Winning no matter how ugly or non stylish will always be greater than a loss. So who cares bro.. Those games they “almost lost” have been apart of why they’re ranked #1 with the top defense. Along with why they are 60 minup.

      • ndirish87 - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:52 PM

        (Continued from above) 60 minutes away from playing in Miami. You don’t watch a single ND game all season, watch the highlights on ESPN, and then talk stupidity. You my friend are the real joke.

      • ndgoldandblue - Nov 22, 2012 at 7:00 AM

        It kind of reminds me of George Carlin’s take on airplanes that come close to colliding in flight, called “near misses”. That’s not a near miss; that’s a near hit. A collision is a near miss. Crash! “Look, they nearly missed.”

  8. necr0philia - Nov 21, 2012 at 8:54 PM

    I hope they do make it to the NC game, because this overrated team want get but 3 possible points against Alabama. If they score a TD I’ll chew off my arm on YouTube. And each additional score I’ll chew off another limb. LMAO at this so called # 1. Hahaha

    • ndgoldandblue - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:30 PM

      I know that a blog is not the kind of place for perfect grammar, but “…want get but 3 possible points against Alabama”? If you’re going to talk trash, at least do it right. I could imagine adding an extra “r” to guarantee or something, but confusing “won’t” with “want” is just plain bad. I mean, the “a” button is typed with your left pinky finger, and the “o” button is typed with your right ring finger. That’s not just kinda’ off, that’s, to quote Jim Carrey from Dumb and Dumber, “way off.”

      “Slippy, Slappy, Simmons, Swenson, Swanson? Samsonite, I was way off. I knew it started with an ‘s’ though.”

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Nov 21, 2012 at 11:52 PM

      this is good to know necro…I’ll be googling “man chews off limbs” in mid January. Seriously buddy, have you WATCHED ‘Bama this year. Their defense is solid, but this year’s D isn’t anywhere near some of the teams that they have put on the field over the past few years.

      And after you bleed to death from the limb chomping, will you donate your body to the necro club that your screen name so proudly proclaims?

    • papadec - Nov 22, 2012 at 12:13 AM

      necr0 – you better be an octopus or spider. Under the bridge troll – under the bridge.

  9. ccad05 - Nov 21, 2012 at 9:12 PM

    wow……….LOTS of new trolls (12 year olds) on here since Saturday night. They’re gonna be beside themselves when we go to Miami and show tide what’s up.

  10. surly1n1nd1anapol1s - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:35 PM

    If he’s following the SEC model, then can the academics-are-top-priority BS you spout. And frankly, you don’t have the cash to pay for SEC talent. Staples is just angling for relevance.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Nov 21, 2012 at 11:48 PM

      I can’t decide if this is an incomplete thought from a functioning brain or a complete thought from a partially functioning brain…..Oh well, six in one hand, half dozen in the other I guess.

      • Jennifer - Nov 22, 2012 at 1:58 AM

        Hilarious, Idrather!

      • Jennifer - Nov 22, 2012 at 2:03 AM


  11. dermmite - Nov 21, 2012 at 11:38 PM

    Gentlemen, I’m every bit nervous about this game today as I was at the beginning of the season.

    • papadec - Nov 22, 2012 at 12:17 AM

      derm – so am I – and that’s not at all. Worrying won’t get the job done – preparation will. Kelly & his assistants will have the team ready! GO IRISH!!!!

  12. papadec - Nov 22, 2012 at 12:24 AM

    Why do so many people think it’s a foregone conclusion that BAMA is going to the NC game? Drinking that espn crimson tide Kool-aide again. They still have to win the sec championship game – don’t they? OR, was that played in Bristol, Conn – and I missed it?

  13. mannydomer61 - Nov 22, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    The Irish have beaten two teams this year that would take bama to the shed.
    I too am so tired of hearing about espn favorite team. I don’t think they are gonna get past Georgia. Hey bam a fans you lost to a two loss team at home that has given up a ton of points this year. HERE COME THE IRISH!

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