Knute Rockne is rolling over in his grave.
With three weeks (plus Army-Navy) left in the college football regular season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 10-0. Yet barring a loss from one of the top two, they will be left out of the national championship game it appears regardless of whether or not they run the table. Now with college football having the most outdated and corrupt “playoff system” in all of sports, perhaps we shouldn’t count out the Irish and the cash cow they would be just yet. However, we’ll just assume that the NCAA doesn’t pull some strings to get the Irish in and they need a loss.
It’s rather unfathomable that it could come to this, no? A program that ranks as quite possibly the greatest in the history of the sport would not be welcomed to the national championship with an unbeaten record in favor of two programs who don’t have an illustrious history. The Ducks of Oregon and the Kansas State Wildcats are polar opposites yet both reflect the popular brand of football nowadays that draws eyes and that is high scoring offenses. That leads to the first problem I have:
The Irish Aren’t “Fun” To Watch
At some point in the last decade football became about scoring and offense. Who could throw for the most yards? What team could produce the most highlight reels? Why that ensued is a baffling question I ask myself regularly but reality is people like scoring over defense. The low point of my existence as a supporter of defense and playing both sides of the ball was last year’s Alamo Bowl between Washington and Baylor. Somewhere in that 67-56 Baylor win people found exciting, entertaining college football.
I looked. I really did.
I didn’t see it though. I saw two teams that were atrocious at tackling and paid no attention to half the sport of football. The fact it was seen as a good football game was a knock on the nation of college football fans and what they deem appropriate for the sport.
Notre Dame fails in this regard. They’re viewed as boring. The fact they play sound, punishing defensive football isn’t good enough. Their offense is too simplistic and has no home-run hitters that draw attention. Sure, they’ll win games 27-10. They’ll run the ball nearly 200 ypg (31st in the country), but they don’t do it in a way the public wants them to do.
Handing it off and running it down people’s throats is so….ancient. It’s all about trickeration. That’s what the masses want and perhaps it has rubbed off on the coaches. Oregon and their shiny uniforms with an explosive offense is fun to watch. I won’t deny that. I’m always finding a TV to watch Oregon. I think they’re the best non-SEC team in America. Kansas State and Collin Klein may not be household favorites like Oregon but the fact they have one guy who runs at will over the opposition is something people can get behind. Defensive football simply doesn’t do that. America has been forced fed SEC defensive football to the tune of six straight national champions.
If they’re going to finally avoid an SEC team in the title game, the last thing they want is another team who is closer in style to them than the alternatives.
Silence From Resume’ Supporters
I’m pro eye test. I believe with the minimal inter-conference games by the nation’s elite, there’s not a big enough sample size to say who the two best teams are. Most years I just lean towards the best teams from the toughest conferences in the nation. The fact a team might be able to beat up on three weak OOC opponents and then perfect their league’s style of play to reach the national championship game is weak to me, but what can you do.
However a more interesting development in 2012 is the complete lack of uproar over resume’s that we heard at the end of last season. Perhaps it was the SEC fatigue phrase that has been uttered. Perhaps it goes back to the style of play thing we referred to and Oklahoma State’s high scoring offense. Mostly it was a product of the first game between Alabama and LSU that left very few (I was one however) wanting more.
Still the biggest yells in Oklahoma State’s corner surrounded the resume’ they had in the Big 12 conference which rated as the top conference by the computers. Cowboy backers and Crimson Tide naysayers argued Oklahoma State deserved a shot given their quality of wins throughout the season and the fact they played a tougher schedule. Ironically we don’t hear that this year. Lets look at the schedules of the three teams:
*All Numbers At Time of Writing (Wednesday November 14th)
Computer Ranks: Notre Dame (1.25 avg, #1 in 4 of 6 comps, #2 in other 2), KST (1.75 avg, #1 in 2, #2 in 3, #3 in 1), Oregon (4.25 avg., #3 in 1, #4 in 3, #5 in 2)
As we’re reminded by Yesh weekly, the computers are the only possible unbiased element of the BCS process. Quite simply, the computers only take the facts they’re given and spit out a number. Those numbers show Notre Dame is the top team in America pretty much unquestionably just going off results/schedule.
BCS Top 25 wins: Notre Dame 3 (#’s 12, 13, 21), Oregon 2 (#’s 18, 25), Kansas State 3 (#’s 12, 23,24)
Again, the Irish have as many wins as either of the other two teams and have the best collection of the three teams as judged by the BCS standings to date. Take what you want from that. The Irish had two home wins and one road. Oregon had one home win and one road. Kansas State had two home wins and one road. Notre Dame also won more convincingly at Oklahoma than Kansas State did. Again, take what you want from that.
Combined Record of Opponents Played to Date: Notre Dame 54-45, Kansas State 49-48 (1 FCS), Oregon 49-53 (1 FCS)
Records can be deceiving. After all a team like Washington is 6-4 on Oregon’s schedule. A team such as Michigan is 7-3 on Notre Dame’s schedule. Still, once again, we see the Irish with a superior schedule according to wins and losses, much as we saw the Irish with the most BCS wins and the highest computer ranking. It appears just about any way you twist it, the Irish come out ahead.
So it begs the question: Why aren’t the Irish getting the same public support Oklahoma State got at the end of last season? Once again the resume’ seems to support the case the Irish have done the most of the three unbeaten teams who have put themselves in this position. Is it because of the close wins in some of their games? Is it because the Pittsburgh game is fresh in people’s minds? Regardless, the Irish aren’t the sentimental choice of college football fans across the country. If that is decades of hate built up by some, maybe it’s finally coming back on them.
I believe the Oregon Ducks and Kansas State Wildcats are better than Notre Dame. I’ve said that for months and I’m also someone who believed Alabama belonged over Oklahoma State a year ago. I weigh the eye test over resume’ and prefer using resume’ between inter-conference foes if they have a couple games in common. For those who are resume’ people, I wonder why the same sentiment isn’t being given to Notre Dame.
Brian Kelly said he got out of politics and wasn’t going back. He said he wouldn’t lobby for his team when it came down to it. As one of the coaches with a vote this season he received a mixture of responses when he said he voted his team #1 and as I said at the time, he’d be doing his team a disservice every week he doesn’t from here on out if they keep winning.
However, unless things change drastically, Coach Kelly should reconsider his stance on lobbying. After decades of dominance and a craving from the fanbase to get back to their glory days the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are two Kansas State wins and three Oregon wins from being on the outside looking in at the national championship.
The Fighting Irish out of luck. Who would have imagined that?
All while the resume’ and computers show they should probably be in.