Yeah, it would be nice and easy to hop on board, to chuck aside any doubts, any aspersions, to buy into the hype and just get on the all-hail Notre Dame train and ride it for who knows how long.
It would be smooth sailing all the way, with nary a nasty word to face for having the audacity to wonder, if not question, whether the Irish really were all that good.
But, thing is, in order to pull that off you kinda have to believe in the concept to some degree, or at least manipulate your mind into thinking you do … and both of those are lacking right here, right now – sorely lacking.
There is no arguing 12-0. Regardless of whether atrocious officiating directly accounted for two of those victories (against Stanford and Pittsburgh) and the worst example of poor clock management and red-zone play-calling this side of Andy Reid (hello, USC coach Lane Kiffin) had a major part in Saturday night’s regular-season finale at the L.A. Coliseum clinching a berth in the BCS title game on January 7, 2013, ND ran the table.
With apologies to Notre Dame and its faithful followers, especially those who believe a bias exists against their beloved Irish, the reality heading into Week 13 of the college football season is that the top-ranked team in the nation’s game at four-loss Southern California isn’t all that enticing in the grand scheme of things.
At best, that contest ranks – at best – seventh on the “must see” list, considering five other matchups pit ranked squads against one another and unbeaten, but BCS-banned Ohio State takes on No. 19 Michigan.
Now, if the Irish should lose to the Trojans, that’s another story … to pick up on later.
For now, though, we look at the true No. 1 storyline entering the weekend, and while it isn’t crystal clear to most, it should be. Treated like the little brothers in the backyard trying to hang with the cool teenagers when it came to respect and rankings, Florida State and Clemson get cracks to show they belong, facing in-state “big brothers” Florida and South Carolina.
He’s not going to win the Heisman. Let’s get that out in the open right from the get-go.
Playing for an unranked, underachieving team that has gone south faster than “snow birds” trek to Florida the first sign of sub-50 temps in their native Northeast abode, Marqise Lee has that inoperable obstacle in his path to college football’s highest individual honor as is.
In a true testament to irony, the Southern California receiver/return man has become the marquee attraction to one of the nation’s most recognized programs and that connection only serves to hurt – heck, kill – his chances.
The video-game numbers Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel puts up every week in proving the Aggies-will-bomb doomsayers wrong during an initial foray into SEC play hasn’t helped, either. Nor has skill and leadership displayed by Braxton Miller and Manti Te’o in spearheading unbeaten seasons at Ohio State and Notre Dame, either.
But, push comes to shove, do you really want to argue who the best player in the sport happens to be?
Biases, allegiances and affiliations aside, anyone would be hard pressed to trump a case for Lee holding that title.
It’s reached the point of some street game in New York City. Flip a card here, show its match over there. Have a cup with a ball in it, mix with two cups that don’t, shuffle ’em around and then have your, um, patron pick up where it is.
Pretty soon, the nation’s college sports fan base will be about as clueless as a hoodwinked tourist with knowing where the ball is.
Just when it seems the landscape of conference affiliations has settled somewhat, another continental shift kicks in.
This has gone beyond ridiculous. It has surpassed sublime. At this point, it defies description … if not sanity.
OK, we get it. Maryland felt like an outsider in a circuit it helped to create, so university regents voted Monday to jump off the ACC wagon and hitch itself to the Big Ten. Not that it will have any more cachet with its new companions in the Midwest, but at least that bigger paycheck will help sooth any hurt, or left-out, feelings now.
Maybe it’s just time. After 23 years of change and craziness, with schools switching conferences at the drop of a hat, the likes of Boise State gaining national acclaim and the BCS system becoming the bane of major college football’s existence, maybe it’s just time.
Time for Notre Dame to rise to the top of the heap, time for the Irish to play for a championship, time for a little old-school normalcy, if not familiarity, to return … maybe, just maybe, it is.
How else do we explain the 2012 season, especially after this past weekend’s results that saw No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon both go down? The fact that those two programs constituted the best in the sport midway through November says it all with how things are different from the last time the Irish were in the process of grabbing an 11th national title in 1988.
Lou Holtz patrolled the ND sideline like a raving lunatic back then instead of the ESPN studios as he does now.