It looks like a strong possibility that the University of Notre Dame football team will score an invitation to one of the coveted BCS bowl games. You’ll recall last year that their doors were blown off the hinges by a high-powered Ohio State team that is playing for the national championship. Many national media types thought ND’s Brady Quinn would outperform OSU’s Troy Smith and lead his squad to victory. It didn’t happen. In fact, that debacle on national television set the stage for the most memorable games of Notre Dame’s 2006 season: blowout losses to Michigan and USC.
Narrow escapes against pathetic Michigan State and a too-tentative UCLA squad will be highlights for the team video. Promotions aside, Notre Dame has a long way to go and is not quite among the elite. So, why are they scoring this multi-million dollar invite to one of the bigger dances? It seems that there is a rule which precludes 3 teams from the same conference from participating in the series. Some funny things happened at the end of the season and ND finds itself in a prime position to benefit from their legacy and the oddities that define college football.
The Big 10 conference will send two teams to the BCS series: Ohio State (conference chamption) and Michigan. The SEC will send its champion (Florida) and LSU. The Pac-10 champion USC will be joined by Louisville (Big East), Oklahoma (Big 12), and Wake Forest (ACC). These conference champions earn automatic bids. Boise State is undefeated at 12-0 and is likely to get in. That’s the 9th spot. There is one spot remaining.
That final spot cannot go to an 11-1 Wisconsin team because they play in the Big Ten with Ohio State and Michigan. The final spot may not be awarded to a valiant 10-3 Arkansas team (which should really, really focus on ignoring punts inside the 10 yard line) or to a feisty 10-2 Auburn team which has defeated both of its conference’s BCS representatives (Florida and LSU). Less worthy teams like West Virginia and Rutgers played themselves out of consideration with “bad losses” to South Florida and Cincinnati, respectively. As it stands, Notre Dame is next in line to benefit from this charade.
I suspect that in addition to the 3 powerhouses in the Big 10 and SEC who will be watching the BCS at home, and the 2 squads from the Big East, there are several other teams (Tennessee, California, Virginia Tech, perhaps even Texas) capable of delivering serious damage to ND’s psyche in a bowl game. As it stands now, that task will fall to with a nasty, nasty defense and a powerful, physical offense. There are no more weak sisters. There are no more places to run and hide. There is only exposure and repitition. Whether the opponent is Boise State (not likely), USC (impossible), Michigan (a true injustice), LSU (an absolute disaster for ND) or Oklahoma (by all accounts a 12-1 powerhouse) or even Florida (see Michigan above), the Fighting Irish are in for a long ride.
Besides, does anyone really want to play the weak sister with the pretty dress and the bloody nose? You are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. The real losers in all of this will be national audiences who are left to wonder how good that 11-1 Wisconsin team really is, or those who have not had a chance to see Arkansas against elite national competition because they were shopping while the Hogs tangled with Florida or were working while they battled the Bayou Bengals. And what about Auburn? Does anyone really think that ND could keep up with those other SEC Tigers? These teams with a combined record of 31-6 and wins over elite competition will be on the outside looking in, while NBC’s favorite footballers go to the banquet. Everyone and their mother has seen Notre Dame’s tired act (thanks to NBC). Perhaps when the whistle blows to signal that BCS kickoff, the most important group of folks to see that tired act will be wearing maroon or purple or maize jerseys – and they will act mercifully, on our behalf, and put those pretenders out of their Rocknesia-induced misery.
Sadly, they are not what they were, nor what they need to be. They are merely a shadow of whom they profess to be. For those in the national media who would dare make them less a 7 to 10 point underdog in any matchup are only feeding a delusional Touchdown Jesus who hasn’t been redeemed on the field in almost 10 years. Given the orientation of the school and the quality of their team, I’d much rather see them in the Holiday Bowl.