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Monday’s Leftovers & Links: If Notre Dame is 33-to-1 for the title, what does that actually mean?

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It was a simple enough conversation with a sports fan, albeit a hockey nut who only occasionally devotes time to football and is staunchly against gambling. Engaged to a Notre Dame alum, the question was, do the Irish have an actual chance at winning the national championship this year?

Rather than respond with an inaccurate “No” or an imprecise “Yes,” the odds were offered.

“Well, Vegas has Notre Dame at 33-to-1,” I said from memory, pulling up the rest of the listings to offer a more thorough answer. “That’s tied with LSU and Michigan State, behind 12 other teams.”

To a casual football fan devoid of wagering knowledge, that nonsense was most useless of all. The improvised search for ground to stand on led to an entertaining rabbit hole of finding other 33-to-1 scenarios, providing them as parallels.

“Here, we’re in southern California, the Angels have 33-to-1 odds of winning the World Series, even with Shohei Ohtani likely out for the year.” Note: Ohtani’s injury is one of the most-disappointing sports stories of 2018, perhaps our current frontrunner. More pertinent note: The Angels are currently 4.5 games out of a playoff spot.

“The World Cup is coming up, and you know soccer better than I do,” a statement true of the majority of the world. “Croatia is listed at 33-to-1, just behind Uruguay at 28-to-1.” That tidbit actually resonated, casting the Irish as akin to a pipe dream. It also led to a discussion which resulted in one more fan for Belgium this World Cup cycle devoid of the United States. The Red Devils are far from a traditional power, is clad in argyle fashion and hails from a country known for producing some enjoyable beverages. What more could a fan want?

“What about the NFL? You follow that more closely, especially as a Dallas Cowboys fan.” We’ll abandon the ensuing direct quotes to preserve a PG-rating, but suffice it to say the receiver-less Cowboys, the quarterback-less Denver Broncos and the running back-less Oakland Raiders are all listed at 33-to-1 to win the Super Bowl this season.

Of course, being 2018, with gambling on the rise and politics always on the conversational horizon, it was also mentioned Oprah Winfrey is listed at 33-to-1 to win the 2020 presidential election.

All this gives better color and context to how sportsbooks see Notre Dame in 2018. It may be within reason the Irish win the national title, but it is considerably more unlikely than the simple numbers may make it seem.

It also serves as an entryway and excuse to now provide your weekly reading …

But before that, consider this a humble request for any mailbag questions that may provide the hook for next week’s “Leftovers & Links,” or perhaps even lead to a specific article. Send them to insidetheirish@gmail.com. Of course, entering them in the comments below is always an option, but those often get lost in time, if not also discussed in comment responses long before addressed with a headline.

Thanks in advance.

INSIDE THE IRISH READING:
Notre Dame lands a punter; adds (another) late kickoff
No. 69 Aaron Banks, offensive tackle
No. 57 Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle, consensus four-star incoming freshman
No. 55 Jonathan Bonner, nose tackle
No. 54 John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53 Khalid Kareem, defensive end
No. 53 Sam Mustipher, center and captain

OUTSIDE READING:
Irish make the grade, but Brian Kelly hedges on Dexter Williams’ status for Notre Dame
Deon McIntosh set to transfer to East Mississippi junior college
Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson’s future eligibility uncertain
Notre Dame WR C.J. Sanders transferring to SMU
Houston adds fifth Power Five grad transfer in Notre Dame’s Nick Watkins
Alabama punter Jay Bramblett commits to Notre Dame
What will it take for USC to be a powerhouse again ($)
C.J. Prosise is on the roster bubble in Seattle

Monday’s Leftovers: On gambling and Notre Dame’s 2018 odds; With links to read

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Just about every sports website last week bore a version of the same headline: “Sports gambling is now legal!” This site did not, in no small part because wagering on sports is hardly more legal now than it was two weeks ago, and for the vast majority of us, that will not change between now and the start of Notre Dame’s season.

The Supreme Court did not legalize sports gambling across the United States; it removed the illegality of 46 states individually deciding to allow sports gambling. Few states will pass such laws and host operating sportsbooks before Sept. 1. Those that do are likely to be confined to the Atlantic Coast (as in New Jersey and possibly Delaware).

Even if those headlines had been completely accurate, the greatest purpose of including sports gambling in an intelligent discourse does not change. More than a means to make money — it barely ever is, and the only true exceptions include a boxer beating up on a mixed martial arts fighter in a squared circle — gambling odds offer a truer and more precise method of predictive evaluation than hot takes and polls do. When they were mentioned around these parts last season, it was with those intentions.

Whereas the headline’s goal is to attract readers, the tweet’s goal is to earn retweets and the poll’s seeming purpose is to offend every fan base, the bookmaker’s goal is to attract equal investment on both sides of a wager, earning his book a five percent return on the entire handle. Money talks, literally so if paying attention.

With those disclaimers in mind, noticing a few pertinent over/under win totals for the coming season feels like a good use of time. It should be remembered, sportsbooks will not put any win total above 10.5 in college football. Too many variables are in play.

This scribe predicted the Irish over/under would be set at 9.5. That was apparently high, with the line holding steady at 8.5 wins. Unlike a few to come, it will likely remain at that mark through the offseason, barring any massive suspension.

Michigan, Stanford, Virginia Tech and Florida State also all hold at 8.5 as of this morning, though the Cardinal opened as high as 9.5 in some locations and the Hokies can still be found at 7.5 if shopping around. USC opened at 7.5 wins before getting moved all the way up to 9.0 in reliable books.

Of the Power Five programs with lines set (so, not Ball State and Navy), only Wake Forest and Northwestern are also expected to be better than .500 this season, at 6.5 and 7.5 wins, respectively. Vanderbilt (5.0), Pittsburgh (5.5) and Syracuse (5.5) will be considerable underdogs when they face Notre Dame.

Speaking of facing Syracuse, perhaps that much-maligned move to play that game at Yankee Stadium in New York City can hold an unexpected benefit for those covering it. New Jersey happens to be so tantalizingly close. Now go ahead and mark off that sentence as one never before written in history.

ON NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS
Again, only looking at the 10 major-conference foes on the Irish schedule, as well as Notre Dame … and listed in order of likelihood:

Michigan: 15-to-1.
Florida State: 30-to-1.
Notre Dame: 33-to-1 in most places, sometimes as high as 55-to-1.
Virginia Tech: 45-to-1 for the most part, seen as high as 50-to-1.
USC: 50-to-1 usually, but some 40-to-1 options exist.
Stanford: 55-to-1.
Wake Forest: 225-to-1.
Syracuse: 350-to-1.
Northwestern: 350-to-1.
Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt: 600-to-1 each, otherwise known as 20 percent more of a payout than one would receive if holding an early futures ticket predicting the Las Vegas Golden Knights would win the 2018 Stanley Cup. That is, if the Knights manage to win four more games.

A LONG HELD HOLLYWOOD GRIEVANCE
It will shock exactly no one who reads this space to learn I have a few friends who place the occasional wager. If I ever personally live in a state where sports gambling is legal, maybe than I will publicly admit my notebook paying homage to the Philadelphia 76ers is filled with more than hypothetical wagers. Until then, it is certainly nothing more than a proof of concept.

Frankly, Don Cheadle’s (left) English accent in the “Ocean’s” trilogy does not get the critical praise it deserves. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

One of those friends considers “Ocean’s 11” to be among his favorite movies, understandably so. Within that, he elevates the most-quoted Daniel Ocean line above all other bits of that script.

“Because the house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes, the house takes you. Unless when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big, and then you take the house.”

What card game exactly is Mr. Ocean playing? The perfect blackjack hand is not seen until the wager has already been placed, and it can still be foiled by the dealer flipping 21. Poker is not played against the house. It is against players. Go ahead, when that perfect hand comes along, bet big, but you are only taking other losers’ money. You never take the house.

As it pertains to sports gambling, a topic to which Danny was not referring, herein lies the flaw to presuming profits. There is no perfect hand. UMBC beats Virginia. Leicester City wins the Premier League. An expansion team reaches the Stanley Cup Final. The house always wins.

Use gambling odds to put a conversation in perspective. Perhaps place a small bet to make a meaningless September afternoon more entertaining. Do not expect the supposed legalization of sports gambling to lead to a new source of taxable income.

INSIDE THE IRISH READING
Tricks with jersey numbers; Troy Pride’s sprinter’s speed
No. 89 Brock Wright, tight end
Auburn walk-on fullback transfers to Notre Dame, following in family’s footsteps
No. 88 Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87 Michael Young, receiver
No. 86 Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85 George Takacs, tight end
Notre Dame’s defensive line recruiting surge continues with Texas four-star’s commitment
No. 85 Tyler Newsome, punter and captain
No. 84 Cole Kmet, tight end

OUTSIDE READING
USC starting CB Jack Jones to miss 2018 season (academics)
Incoming Irish receiver Braden Lenzy earns four top-two finishes at Oregon Track Championships
Notre Dame football’s Brian VanGorder got at least $257,000 in buyout
A smattering of initial win totals from betonline.ag
Joe Staley preparing Mike McGlinchey to one day take his job
Jaylon Smith expects to be ‘better than Notre Dame 100 percent’
Bears waive Nyles Morgan

A final summary of Notre Dame bowl possibilites

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UPDATE: Wisconsin ranked at No. 6, with Auburn somewhere behind the Badgers and Alabama in the College Football Playoff, removes the Camping World Bowl from these considerations. If Notre Dame is in the top 12, it will head to a playoff-eligible bowl, most likely the Cotton Bowl. If not, then the Irish will be in the Citrus Bowl facing an SEC team on Jan. 1.


By the time today’s first NFL game kicks off, Notre Dame will know its bowl destination. If not then, shortly thereafter. It entirely depends on the final College Football Playoff selection committee poll, though not entirely concerning where the committee slots the Irish. The poll is scheduled to be announced at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Three possibilities remain plausible enough to be outlined.

Playoff-eligible bowl, most likely the Cotton Bowl
This is the most unlikely outcome, but also the one deserving of the most debate. After the weekend’s conference championships, Notre Dame is one of three teams in the rational discussion for the 12th and final spot in the six playoff-access bowls.

In last week’s poll, TCU ranked No. 11, Washington at No. 13 and the Irish were No. 15. Since then, the Horned Frogs lost 41-17 to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. Neither the Huskies nor Notre Dame played, while No. 12 Stanford fell 31-28 to USC on Friday.

There is logic to elevating the Irish past TCU and Washington.

There is also one fact: The committee ranked the Huskies ahead of Notre Dame last week. It is a stretch to think Georgia’s and USC’s victories were enough to change that, especially when considering Miami’s face plant (lost 38-3 to Clemson) diminished the Irish claim.

If the Irish finish at No. 12 in the ranking, then a playoff-eligible bowl it is, and the Cotton Bowl seems the most likely destination. Central Florida is a near lock for the Peach Bowl due to proximity. USC is headed to the Fiesta Bowl for similar reasoning, and Miami is obligated to the Orange Bowl. Avoiding regular season rematches, Notre Dame would not head to either of those latter two.

An SEC team will almost undoubtedly oppose the Knights in Atlanta, and one way or another it is natural to move a Big Ten team to face the Pac 12 champion, befitting tradition. Then, either a remaining SEC team or Big Ten team — whichever conference does not snag the fourth spot in the Playoff — will face the Hurricanes.

That leaves the Cotton Bowl and, presumably, Penn State (Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Don’t hold your breath.

Citrus Bowl; Orlando, Fla. (Jan. 1, 1 p.m., ABC)
For the Irish to head to the New Year’s Day lead-in to the Playoff, Wisconsin must head to the Orange Bowl. The Badgers get that right only if they are ranked ahead of all non-Playoff SEC teams. In other words, Wisconsin needs to be ranked ahead of Auburn and possibly Alabama, if Ohio State claims the fourth and final Playoff spot.

The Buckeyes cannot go to the Orange Bowl, a quirk included in the contracts as something of a concession to the Rose Bowl in years where the Rose Bowl is a semifinal. Thus, even if Alabama makes the Playoff, it is the Badgers who need to fit in ahead of Auburn, not Ohio State.

In the case of Alabama making the Playoff, a conspiracy theorist could see the committee putting Wisconsin ahead of Auburn to be sure to send an SEC team to the Peach Bowl, held at the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. If the Tide do not make the Playoff, then that would no longer be a concern as the SEC would have two teams floating amongst the eight to be assigned to eligible bowls.

If any of this comes to be, Notre Dame would face an SEC team in the Citrus Bowl, theoretically LSU.

Camping World Bowl; Orlando, Fla. (Dec. 28, 4:15 p.m., ESPN)
If Alabama is not in the Playoff, then this is the reality awaiting the Irish. The Tide would head to the Orange Bowl, a Big Ten team to the Citrus Bowl and then Notre Dame plays the Thursday evening following Christmas.

This all also applies if Alabama is in the Playoff, but Auburn finishes ranked ahead of Wisconsin. The Tigers would subsequently head to the Orange Bowl, and the dominoes fall right back into place.

The Irish would face a Big 12 foe, perhaps Iowa State.


Nailing down which of the latter two scenarios is most likely hinges largely on if Ohio State or Alabama claims the final Playoff spot. If the Buckeyes do, then the odds tilt heavily toward Notre Dame going to the Camping World Bowl. If the Tide gets a chance to face Clemson for the third January in a row (from a selfish view, please let that be case), then the question would be if the committee gives merit to how close Wisconsin kept the Big 10 title game compared to the SEC’s blowout with Auburn on the losing end.

A meaningless prediction from these parts: Alabama gets in, Wisconsin heads to the Orange and Notre Dame beats LSU to start 2018.

Notre Dame’s bowl projections and opponents’ results

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Notre Dame fell to No. 15 in the most-recent College Football Playoff selection committee poll Tuesday night. At this point, a bowl appearance in Orlando is a near certainty. Three possibilities remain, listed in order from most-to-least likely:

Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET: The Irish head to the Citrus if the Big Ten has a higher ranked non-Playoff participant than the SEC does. A second-tier SEC opponent would await in the Citrus Bowl, most likely LSU or perhaps Mississippi State.

In other words, if No. 8 Ohio State beats No. 4 Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship as bookmakers project, but No. 5 Alabama makes the Playoff rather than the Buckeyes, then a Notre Dame afternoon in the Citrus Bowl seems likely.

Camping World Bowl, Dec. 28, 5: 15 p.m. ET: If an SEC non-Playoff participant is higher ranked than all the Big Ten’s such teams, then the Irish will fall to the Camping World Bowl to face a Big 12 foe — Iowa State, for example.

Should the Tide be left out of the Playoff in nearly any way, it appears destined for the Orange Bowl, opening a Big Ten slot in the Citrus Bowl and moving Notre Dame to an evening discussing camping gear.

ND to the Citrus ND to the Camping World
Big Ten > SEC — Orange SEC > Big Ten — Orange
Big Ten to the Citrus Bowl

Cotton Bowl, Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m. ET: What would it take for the Irish to reach a Playoff-eligible bowl? Notre Dame would need to move into the top 12. If No. 10 USC blows out No. 12 Stanford in the Pac 12 championship, the Cardinal could fall below Notre Dame. Subsequently, No. 3 Oklahoma embarrassing No. 11 TCU might drop the Horned Frogs past the Irish. That would still not be enough, though.

What if the Badgers beat Ohio State by something along the lines of 70-0? Then, and only then, the Buckeyes might drop out of the top 12 and open the possibility for Notre Dame to face current No. 13 Washington.


So much chaos is needed to move the Irish into the top 12 despite a rather strong schedule. Ten Irish opponents made bowl games, only Miami (OH) and North Carolina the exceptions. Eight of the 12 exceeded preseason expectations, totaling a 91-51 record, a .641 winning percentage.


Georgia (11-1): The Bulldogs remain in the Playoff hunt thanks to a 38-7 win at Georgia Tech. If Georgia tops No. 2 Auburn in the SEC title game (4 p.m. ET; CBS), then it should leap from No. 6 to the needed top four. It may be difficult, though, with the Tigers favored by two points and a combined point total over/under of 48.5. The Bulldogs will need to flip the script on an expected 25-23 conclusion.

USC (10-2): The Trojans enjoyed their first off week of the season. That rest may play a part in USC being favored by four in the Pac 12 championship against Stanford (8 p.m. ET on Friday; ESPN). An over/under of 58.5 creates a theoretical final of 31-27.

Miami (10-1): The Hurricanes fell 24-14 at Pittsburgh on Friday, endangering their Playoff hopes. A victory over Clemson to claim the ACC could still vault No. 7 Miami into the top four. It would be a notable upset, considering the Hurricanes are 9.5-point underdogs with an over/under of 47. Rough math makes for a 28-19 Tigers victory.

Stanford (9-3): If the Cardinal top USC on Friday, it should be headed to the Fiesta Bowl.


Temple (6-6): A 43-22 win at Tulsa got the Owls to bowl eligibility, though the six triumphs still fall ever so slightly below the preseason win total over/under of 6.5 victories.

Freshman running back A.J. Dillon provided the spark that changed Boston College’s season, carrying the Eagles offense through the latter half of the year. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Boston College (7-5): The Eagles finished the regular season on a high note with a 42-14 walloping at Syracuse, once again carried by freshman running back A.J. Dillon. The stalwart took 23 carries for 193 yards and three touchdowns to finish his debut campaign with 1,432 yards and 13 touchdowns on 268 rush attempts. Boston College’s closing stretch of five wins in its final six games cleared the win total over/under of four all on its own. It seems worth noting the Eagles visit South Bend in 2019, before Dillon will be eligible to declare for the NFL Draft.

Michigan State (9-3): The Spartans routed Rutgers 40-7. Much like Notre Dame’s rebound of a season, Michigan State had no trouble surpassing its expected 6.5 wins.

Miami (OH) (5-7): The RedHawks concluded their season last Tuesday with a 28-7 win at Ball State. Miami entered the season favored to win the MAC’s Eastern Division, instead finishing third, so consider the season fitting of the spirit of an under.

North Carolina (3-9): The Tar Heels’ misery ended with a 33-21 loss at North Carolina State, finishing the season well short of the preseason’s over/under of seven victories.

North Carolina State (8-4): Speaking of the Wolfpack, it needed that victory to clear its over/under of 7.5

Wake Forest (7-5): The Demon Deacons finished the year on a down note, dropping the finale 31-23 to Duke, yet clearing the over/under of 5.5.

Navy (6-5): The Midshipmen lost 24-14 at Houston on Friday, but will have a chance to further their win total next weekend against Army (3 p.m. ET; CBS).


For thoroughness’ sake, all four teams playing this weekend cleared the overs on their win totals. Georgia — 8.5; USC — 9.5; Miami — 9; Stanford — 8.5.

Friday at 4: Some complaints, some predictions in the balance & one thought experiment

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Finding 40 things, concepts and people somewhat tied to Notre Dame and deserving of appreciation was an appropriate gimmick for yesterday, but it runs contrary to this scribe’s reputation. In an attempt to protect that cynic’s stance and counterbalance that 40, here are a baker’s dozen items worthy of Irish fans’ criticism, regret and/or disappointment:

— The lack of Notre Dame composure from the start at Miami two weeks ago.

— The lack of Irish execution at the end against Georgia in the season’s second week.

— Twitter’s 280 characters. As of now, excluding links and mentions, @D_Farmer has yet to release a tweet longer than 140 characters, and that will continue as long as is feasible due to some misguided and unfounded principle.

— The possibility of losing senior defensive tackle Jonathan Bonner after this season even though he will have another year of eligibility remaining. Bonner told Notre Dame’s independent student newspaper, The Observer, he does not intend to pursue a fifth year with the team. If that proves true, it will cut into the both the depth and the rotation on the interior of next year’s defensive line.

Bonner’s mother having cancer may be part of his motivation to move on to the next stage of his life, understandably so if so.

— Injuries throughout the NBA, including to Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap and Patrick Beverley. Each one diminishes an outstanding product.

— Ankle injuries, as suffered this season by Josh Adams, Dexter Williams, Tony Jones and Bryce Love.

— Brandon Wimbush lucked out of a number of interceptions in September’s first few weeks. Perhaps a humbling moment then may have forced the issue of earlier growth.

In a shortened season, sophomore receiver Kevin Stepherson has made his presence quite known. Notre Dame fans will have to wait until 2018 to see what he can do when incorporated into a September. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

— Kevin Stepherson missing the first four games. The suspension was presumably warranted — there has been no reason to think otherwise — but given the sophomore receiver’s progress the last few weeks, it is tantalizing to think what he could already be if he had played a full fall.

— Sometimes, the toughest of times, the bacon-wrapped shrimp dish has only three such delicacies. Has that ever been enough? No. It has never been a satisfactorily-filling serving.

— Football season is only three months long. File that under the disappointing category.

— Notre Dame’s safety play remains undeniably underwhelming. Fortunately, there is an entire offseason to learn the grammatical nuances of Aloha and workshop the appropriate Aloha Alohi headlines.

— Online commentators. As advertised, this segment is intended to counterbalance yesterday’s good will.

More than a quarter of the 40 preseason predictions will be determined tomorrow.

A total of 11 of those 40 stand very much in the balance, including three in direct conflict with two others.

19) If junior receiver Equanimeous St. Brown plays (concussion protocol), he will need two catches and 34 yards more than sophomore receiver Chase Claypool records to take the lead in those categories and a touchdown more than sophomore receiver Kevin Stepherson scores to lead the Irish in the third receiving category.

24) Notre Dame currently averages 36.7 points per game. To fall within the predicted range of 34.9 to 36.4 points per game, the Irish would need to score between 15 and 34 points at Stanford.

His tackle totals are not astronomical, only third on Notre Dame’s defense, but senior linebacker and captain Drue Tranquill has affected the season in big ways, nonetheless. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

26) Statistically speaking, senior linebacker Drue Tranquill and junior linebacker Te’von Coney are tied for “big” plays this season. August’s prediction No. 26 implied Tranquill would lead Notre Dame in the category.

27) With 20 sacks to date, the Irish defense would need to record five more to reach the projected range of 25 to 29.

28) The exact same numbers apply to turnovers forced.

31) This space predicted Notre Dame would beat Stanford. It also predicted the Cardinal would fail to reach nine wins (No. 32) in the regular season and only four Irish opponents would finish the season ranked (No. 35). If Stanford wins Saturday, all three of those predictions will be foiled with one fell swoop.

32-33) The other season win total over/unders hanging in the balance are North Carolina State exceeding 7.5 wins (currently at seven), Georgia Tech failing to reach six wins (currently with five) and LSU falling short of nine wins (currently at eight). If all three of these and the Cardinal prediction were to come true, the over/under predictions would finish at 5-5 overall, a losing record when factoring in the discrepancies inherent to such wagers.

38) August predicted Notre Dame would finish ranked between Nos. 13 and 18. It will undoubtedly finish higher than that with a win this weekend.

39) Likewise, a win this weekend will send the Irish to a playoff-eligible bowl, not one of the two options in Orlando as predicted.

Finally, a thought experiment prompted by …

In the last four decades, 21 teams have won national championships. That list, in full, in order of most recent title:

Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, Auburn, LSU, Florida, Texas, USC, Miami, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Nebraska, Michigan, Washington, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Penn State, BYU, Georgia.

Russo’s point is valid. That is a pretty thorough list. Add in the likes of UCLA and Oregon, perhaps Texas A&M due to its recruiting base, and it may be comprehensive.

One exception needs to be added, though. In basketball, it is referred to as the “Larry Bird factor.” Bird led Indiana State through an undefeated season to the 1979 National Championship game, falling to Magic Johnson and Michigan State.

One player changing every dynamic of a game happens more frequently in basketball than it does in football. In the former, one player is 10 percent of the participants, not less than five percent as he is in football. But every so often, once every five or seven years, a quarterback comes along with that exact effect.

Vince Young at Texas in 2005. Cam Newton at Auburn in 2010. Deshaun Watson at Clemson in 2017. Admittedly, Clemson also won the national title in 1981, but otherwise, none of those three schools make this listing without those quarterbacks.

The four-team Playoff format makes it even more difficult for an upstart program to reach the promised land, but Larry Bird had to navigate four rounds before even facing Magic Johnson. It is rare one player has such an effect, but it is neither unheard of nor impossible to fathom again.