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Add another asterisk to Irish season

November 21, 2012

The stars continue to align for Notre Dame football fans. With both No. 1 and 2 losing last week, the Fighting Irish are in the top spot now.
Unbelievable. Who would have thunk it? Not even Brian Kelly until last week when he was the only coach who voted the Irish No. 1. Now, everyone has to.
You know how some teams put decals on a player’s helmet to signify a noteworthy play? For this season, the famous golden helmets of Notre Dame should be adorned by asterisk decals for all of the things that have had to go right for ND to be in the position it is in. After this past weekend, you could add two more.
Asterisk 1: Now that ND got past Weak Forest, only the Trojans stand in the way of a perfect regular season. But this is not USC, but rather usc. This is a soon-to-be five-loss squad limping into its last game before the Fight Hunger Bowl. The boys of Troy will be without one of their few studs, QB Matt Barkley, due to a separated shoulder suffered in the final minutes of Saturday’s game. This guarantees an Irish victory that was anything but just two weeks ago.
Asterisk 2: With Kansas State and Oregon’s losing, Notre Dame is now the final undefeated team in the country. No, wait. Ohio State has not lost either and will beat arch-rival Michigan next week. But thanks to Jim Tressel and tattoo-gate, the Buckeyes are not eligible for the postseason and thus pooh-poohed by the polls as part of the punishment. During a normal year, who would be ranked No. 1 right now? A strong Urban Meyer-coached OSU team or a one-dimensional ND squad? My guess is OSU.
Now that the asterisks, I mean stars, have aligned the Irish will get their shot at a national championship on January 7. The real championship game though, is Dec. 1, the date of the SEC title tilt. Las Vegas oddsmakers have listed ND anywhere from 2-10 point underdogs against any of the six (!!!) SEC teams that were ranked 4 th — 9th last week. Despite knocking each other around all year, five of those six are still in the top 10 this week.
Everyone — except ND fans of course — had been clamoring for an Alabama-Oregon championship game. However, it looks like it will be Alabama vs. Notre Dame. Last week, my blinded-by-the-dome, bleeds-blue-and-gold counterpart, Dan Riordan, suggested that the Irish would win said match-up. Apparently, Mr. Riordan does not read his own writing.
After proclaiming, “I’m not saying ND would or could beat Alabama,” he goes on to break down the Tale of the Tape, favors ‘Bama overall, then says the Irish would win. He claims that ND’s special teams have a lot to be desired (true), then says they will have a kickoff return for a touchdown (not true). It is much more likely that ND’s special teams will miss a field goal and/or extra point than score a TD. (Irish fans, honestly, how confident are you when kicker Kyle Brindza takes the field?) Mr. Riordan gives ND the nod at linebacker. Manti Te’o is good, but ‘Bama has three Mantis at LB. They are not household names because they played behind a trio of current NFL players last year, but this year’s three-headed monster will play on Sundays too. Finally, coaching was considered a push by Mr. Riordan. Better check what’s in the water cooler at the Pilot News office.
Nick Saban has two Division I national titles, with two different teams. (Don’t even try to put Kelly’s success at Grand Valley State or Central Somewhere into this conversation.) Who was it that could have gone for a field goal to win a game last season, but instead elected to go for a touchdown and lost? Oh yeah, that was Brian “Get used to it” Kelly. Who “led” the Irish to losses against bottom-feeders Tulsa, UConn, Navy, South Florida and Syracuse the last two years and tried to do the same against Purdue and Pitt this year? Who had a record of 16-10 after his first two years and if this was not an asterisk season could easily be 23-14 overall now with his resume splashed all over monster.com? (Please don’t use the argument that the first two years were Charlie Weis’s players. Who recruited Manti and Tyler Eifert?)
Saban and Alabama clearly have the edge over Kelly and Notre Dame. So does Georgia, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M, South Carolina, and about five others. It has been a memorable season for the Irish, but fill in the blank will defeat them 24-7 in the bowl game. If they played 10 times, fill in the blank would win nine so I guess there still is one more chance for a final asterisk.

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