Last night went about as well as I feared, and certainly a whole lot worse than I had hoped. In the interest of full disclosure, I was rooting for Notre Dame as much as I was rooting for anybody. This was mostly out of a sense of despair that we would have yet another SEC champion, and yet another year of Alabama and Nick Saban on top. Frankly, it’s all very boring to me during stretches like this. At least Notre Dame would have been something different. I suppose it didn’t hurt that I had an uncle who went to Notre Dame, but I don’t think that had a big impact. Notre Dame is still a rival for Purdue, even if Purdue cares about it a lot more than Notre Dame does.
With that out of the way, yeah, it couldn’t have been proven too much more clearly that Alabama was the better team. Even so, I don’t buy the arguments that Notre Dame didn’t belong there. They were the only (bowl-eligible) undefeated team in the BCS. And while their schedule wasn’t filled to the brim with juggernauts, they certainly played a very respectable schedule. Judging by how weak the SEC west was, it was probably on par or even tougher than Alabama’s. Especially when looking at the Irish schedule before the season started. Michigan St., Michigan, Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma, and USC all were highly touted coming into the year. With the exception of BYU and Stanford, Notre Dame beat all those teams pretty handily. And, you know, even those close games, Notre Dame did still win. The combined score of those games: 122-62. Not too shabby for a team that had almost no offense. The biggest cupcake on the schedule was Boston College, and that’s a big Catholic game. I would be floored if that game were going anywhere any time soon. Besides, BC is usually pretty good, but they were clearly rebuilding this year. In any case, there is nothing on that schedule to suggest they padded their win total with a cupcake schedule.
Even if they deserved to be in the game, though, there was definitely worry that the Notre Dame offense was going to be in completely over their heads, and that certainly happened. The Michigan game is probably a prime example. Notre Dame’s defense flat embarrassed Michigan. Their offense was only able to put up 13 points in what should have been a route. Another sign of trouble might have been the Purdue and Pitt games. Sure, those were both bowl teams, but they certainly both benefitted from being in depleted conferences. And both were annihilated in their bowl games. And both had Notre Dame beat before they squeaked out wins.* I don’t know if anybody thought Notre Dame’s defense was going to be that outclassed, but unfortunately, you can’t be all that shocked that the game turned out lopsided when Notre Dame’s offense was a water pistol.
*On a side note: one of the guys from my Wabash class posted yesterday felt he had to defend Notre Dame against Purdue fans who couldn’t get themselves to root for Notre Dame and making some snide comments about the Irish. His defense was to “remind” Purdue fans of how badly the Boilers were beat down in Dallas by OK State. I’m not sure how that was a jab at Purdue. I think Purdue fans all had a very good idea of what was coming in that bowl and understood if Ohio St. and Penn St. weren’t going through their own issues, there was no way Purdue would have seen a bowl of that caliber. And, you may recall, calls to move on from Coach Hope were universal from Purdue fans, to the point where a good chunk of fans were openly hoping to lose the Bucket Game to ensure his fate. That’s a pretty good sign that you know your team is crap. As demoralized as Purdue fans were and down on their team, that was still a team that had Notre Dame beat and had to turn to Tommy Rees to bail them out with a minute or so left in the game to get to a last second field goal for the win. And your defense is to point out how bad that team was that almost ruined the perfect season before it could really start? Doesn’t sound like much of a defense to me.
So, now what? Who is going to dethrone the SEC? The only hope seems to be Oregon, but that didn’t go all that well when they took on Auburn a few years back. I’m sure there are going to be discussions that Oregon should have been in Notre Dame’s spot, especially after they manhandled Kansas St., the other presumptive choice before they lost. And, well, that’s just a bad argument. They lost to Stanford, which meant they couldn’t even win their division in the Pac-12, which was a generally disappointing league all around after a good first couple weeks. And, as you might remember from earlier in the post, that Stanford team couldn’t beat Notre Dame. I know the common opponents things isn’t the best measure in the world, but with the short schedules of football, it’s all you’ve got to go on. No, Oregon had even less of an argument than Kansas St. did after letting the Stanford game get away. There’s always next year, right?
Well, there’s next year if the NCAA allows it, I suppose. The other option is Ohio St. coming off it’s sanctions, but with ex-Florida coach Urban Meyer at the helm, that barely seems like an improvement. As it is, we’re all going to subject to more SEC chants, and another year where the college football conversation pretty well starts and stops with the SEC.