12-1 or 11-2?
Many years ago as we were finishing college a good friend of mine asked a young lady for her phone number. As guys typically do, I chuckled and thought no way she gives the number and if she does no way she returns the call. When I questioned him about it he remarked, “Hey pal, you gotta be in it, to win it.” They have been married for over 25 years. Clearly I know nothing about romance.
Yesterday, I watched Notre Dame dismantle a Big 12 team in Iowa State while Oklahoma, the Big 12 playoff representative got absolutely humiliated 63-28 in the Peach Bowl. I remember that feeling last season. All the build-up, all the hype, and then the colossal let down of a 30-3 loss in the Cotton Bowl to Clemson. Then to top it off every media outlet in America hammering Notre Dame for being selected to participate.
Today I don’t have that feeling. Honestly, 11-2 feels pretty good. Should the Irish have been in a “better” bowl? Probably. However, the best way to argue this is to go out and hammer the team that you are selected to play. That box was checked by Notre Dame. Would I have rather been in the playoff? I don’t know. Certainly not if Notre Dame was going to play the part of Oklahoma. I’m also pretty positive I would not have wanted to play the part of Ohio State. The Buckeyes loss yesterday is one that fans will never get over and one the current coaching staff may not survive long term.
The Elites and Everyone Else
People can hammer the ACC all they want, Clemson is an elite team period. They show it time and time again on the biggest stages. I’m not sure who else is? Alabama? Ohio State? Yesterday someone argued with me that LSU is elite. You mean the LSU that Notre Dame has beaten twice in recent bowl games. That LSU? They certainly are elite this season, but what about beyond? USC and Texas were elite at one time too. Now USC is often cited as part of Notre Dame’s “soft” schedule. I do know this, there are a few elite teams and then probably 10-15 that could all beat each other on any given day. Notre Dame is in this group. For example, there is no way a soon to be 4-loss Michigan team is 31 points better than Notre Dame but on a night in October they were. Notre Dame paid a steep price for that loss.
Some complain about the “Bowls” many complained about the bowl Notre Dame was in. On the bowls, if people don’t enjoy them they are not a college football fan. There have been several great football games this bowl season. The Air Force-Washington State game (though) on late, was a fantastic clash of styles and another example of the discipline and tenacity that the service academies add to college football. Many Notre Dame fans complained about the “bowl” Notre Dame was in. Really? To me unless you are playing for a title, the bowl is a reward for the players for all the work they put in during the season. So aside from the Orange Bowl where is the beef? Some other ACC options Nashville, Charlotte, El Paso? From where I’m sitting, Orlando looks pretty good in December. Then to top it off with a huge win caps a really good season at Notre Dame.
Not So Fast
The ABC Broadcast of the Camping World Bowl remarked that the momentum generated from Notre Dame’s win could possibly launch them towards a return to the playoffs in 2020. A few words of caution – Wisconsin, Clemson, USC, and others will present formidable challenges. Secondly, who returns? What does Notre Dame look like next season if Ian Book, Tony Jones, Jr., Cole Kmet, and Alohi Gilman all depart? Not to mention the looming Offensive Coordinator decision. At this point it is simply too early to even venture a guess or prediction as to what Notre Dame is capable of heading into 2020.