College football may be on the verge of something that I never thought I’d see. An undefeated Notre Dame could find itself locked out of the national championship chase. Notre Dame. The school for whom the system has bent over backward might be this year’s version of The Team Looking In as we wait for the BCS to finally die its slow, slow death.
And they don’t even deserve it.
Right now, the Irish are at #3 in the BCS rankings and before you rage against the machines, it’s not the computers’ fault. In that component, Notre Dame is actually tied for first place. With Kansas State. (Okay, now you can rage.) In the human polls, however, they sit at #4. Now, I think those other three teams are great too, but is Notre Dame really the worst of the four eligible, relevant unbeatens?
Excluding fellow independents Navy and BYU, the Irish do not have a single team on their schedule that is not in an BCS-AQ conference. Kansas State has two. Bama has three. Oregon played three to start the season, and that was their entire non-conference schedule. Granted, two of those teams will have to play a conference championship game, but that still doesn’t quite even the scheduling score.
In terms of common opponents, Notre Dame’s impressive schedule offers opportunities to directly compare performances with the other three (inasmuch as that can be considered a direct comparison, but let’s not get into that). Notre Dame and Oregon share two quality teams (Stanford and USC) that will allow us to make a pretty good judgment between them, but the only game that has taken place so far is Notre Dame/Stanford, so the jury’s still out on this one.
Both the Irish and Alabama played Michigan, with the Tide ripping out Brady Hoke’s gravy-soaked soul in prime-time on opening weekend. Brian Kelly took it easier on the school that should have hired him when they had the chance, but Manti Te’o and the Domer D picked off 5 Wolverine passes and pretty much made Denard Robinson look like the worst QB to ever not know how to tie his shoes. While I think each team dominated Michigan in its own way, I wouldn’t fault you for giving Bama the edge.
Notre Dame and Kansas State each played Miami (FL) and Oklahoma and the Irish come out the clear winners here. Notre Dame snuffed out the Canes 41-3 in a Catholics vs. Convicts revival that left Miami looking for some fresh thugs. The Sooners were supposed to expose the Irish last week but instead got whipped 30-13. While Kansas State similarly abused Miami 52-13, they had a much tougher time with Oklahoma, the better of the two opponents, edging the Sooners 24-19 thanks to a fourth quarter outburst from an offense that hadn’t reached the end zone in the first three.
I’m honestly not sure why this team isn’t being mentioned right along with Alabama as the best in the nation. They may not be “dominating” teams in terms of margin of victory, but the truth is they just might be this year’s equivalent of the ’02 Buckeyes, with the presumed-repeat-champs Crimson Tide slipping nicely into Miami’s role.
Okay, I’m done praising Notre Dame. I need a shower.
Four weeks ago, I nailed my list of Six Fraud Teams to the door of college football and then probably took a nap. With about four weeks left in the regular season, it’s time to see how things are shaping up.
Louisville: The Cardinals were at the top of the list thanks to a poor schedule and several close wins. Guess what? They’re still winning ugly while their competition has elevated to mediocre (three opponents since first list are 11-12). While there’s still technically a chance to go Full Fraud if they lose all remaining games and their bowl, it appears that Louisville will escape this fate.
Texas Christian: TCU was my pick for sure-fire fraud on the initial list and they have not disappointed so far. The Frogs went 1-3 since opening 4-0 and their remaining games are: @West Virginia, Kansas State, @Texas, Oklahoma. So yeah.
Northwestern: I think the Wildcats are a decent team and picked them to survive Fraudacity mostly because the Big Ten just isn’t that great this year. Still, they’ve dropped 2 of 4 since starting 5-0 and have a bye week before the season-defining Tour de Michigance. They finish at home against Illinois who is Illinois. I’m still in the Nerds’ corner, but they’re not out of the woods yet.
Rutgers: Like Louisville, the Scarlet Knights benefit from being an okay team in a terrible conference. They lost to Kent State last week and have road trips to Cincy and Pitt before taking on the Cardinals in the season-ender. All three of those games could easily be losses.
South Carolina: I plucked the Gamecocks (and Mississippi State) out of the vast collection of unbeaten SEC teams at the beginning of October because they were the two most suspect and something had to give. Unfortunately for SoCar, that something was everything inside of Marcus Lattimore’s leg. Notice how there’s no link. If you haven’t seen it, consider yourself lucky. If you really think you still want to, go find it yourself. The Cocks did manage to still pull out the win over Tennessee and that will keep them out of Fraudville. Their remaining schedule is Arkansas, Wofford, @Clemson. We’ll see how they respond to the loss of Lattimore, but those are all winnable games.
Mississippi State: Their only loss so far is to Doc Saban’s Elephant Football Death Machine, but they still have Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss upcoming.
MAKE WEEKEND PLANS
Thursday night‘s big ESPN game is Irrelevant Virginia Tech @ Afterthought Miami (FL), a game that couldn’t be more meaningless this late in the season. Expect lots of SEC-related tangents from the booth starting about halfway through the opening kickoff.
Saturday night finally brings us Oregon @ USC, Alabama @ LSU, and Oklahoma State @ Kansas State which will probably all end up something like 66-13, but at least those games will have two good teams playing at the same time, a phenomenon you’ll be hard-pressed to find the rest of the day without picture-in-picture.