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Hyping Notre Dame

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Notre Dame is one of the great historical football programs in this country.  It’s the University of Football.  Or, at least, was.  And while I think it would be great for college football to have the Fighting Irish back to fighting weight, some are trying to force the issue rather than waiting for them to rise once again to prominence.

Prognosticators on ESPN, particularly the unabashedly biased Lou Holtz, are saying that Notre Dame is a contendor for the national championship.  After one win.  Against Nevada.  Ooh, ESPN loves them some Notre Dame football.  Suddenly, the team that set a school record with 15 losses the past two seasons is a team to watch.

After one win.

Against Nevada.

Am I the only one who thinks all this talk about them contending for a title and Jimmy Clausen contending for a Heisman is all a tad premature?  He put up great numbers against Nevada, sure.  15-of-18 for 315 yards and 4 TDs isn’t anything to sneeze at.  Neither is a 303.67 QB rating.  Here’s the thing – he should have put up those kinds of numbers.

Last year, Nevada was dead last in the country in passing defense.  They allowed an average of 311.6 yards passing per game.  Three different teams put up over 400 yards passing against them.  One (Missouri) put up 519.  Nevada’s pass defense is dreadful.  So, forgive me if I say maybe wait two games before declaring Clausen a front runner for the Heisman against the last two Heisman winners and last year’s runner-up.

The nation should be wary of false starts on Notre Dame’s resurgent dominance.  It has happened before.

2006– Notre Dame goes 10-2 against a cupcake schedule, losing to their only two difficult opponents (Michigan and USC), gets an invitation to the Sugar Bowl and gets wasted by LSU, 41-14.

2005– Notre Dame goes 9-2 and gets ranked inexplicably high (#5 in the AP), goes to the Fiesta Bowl and somehow loses by only 14 to Ohio State, which outgained them 617-348.

2001 – Notre Dame gets an invite to the Fiesta Bowl despite being ranked 10th in the country and gets smoked by Ohio State, 41-9.

That’s three BCS Bowls, three poor performances by the Irish.  Clearly this team has lost all of the luster that once came with those gold helmets.  They are rebuilding.

As a rebuilding program that hasn’t won a significant bowl game in years and is coming off its two worst consecutive seasons in school history, they should have to regain credibility the same way every school does.  Rather than being anxious to force Notre Dame back into the limelight, people should be just as skeptical of them as they are of any mid-majors or flash-in-the-pan BCS teams that string together a couple of good games.  Rather than receiving the benefit of the doubt from pollsters and ESPN after one win, people should have a wait and see approach.

Just as with every other school that has had to work to earn credibility, Notre Dame should have to work through a few years of winning records and playing in smaller bowl games.  They have to build their resume, just as Boise State and Utah had to, in order to be given consideration for BCS Bowls, let alone the national championship.

Think how preposterous it would seem if people said, “watch out for Boise State.  They have a really easy schedule, so they could compete for the championship.”  It’s a ridiculous statement, and yet, that’s what they’re doing with Notre Dame.  Make them work for it.  Make them earn it.  Because I have to be honest…at this point, I take a one or maybe even two-loss Florida, Texas, Alabama or USC over an undefeated Notre Dame.

Playing a weak schedule was never a justification for a BCS Berth.  Time to make Notre Dame re-earn our respect.

~ Austin


Written by Austin Swafford

September 10, 2009 at 2:17 am

Posted in Commentary

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