When will people learn?
Today, Clay Travis of OutkickTheCoverage pulled his best Rick Reilly impression (once again, this move is clearly done for the sheer purpose of riling up Notre Dame’s fanbase and garnering huge amounts of traffic) and published a piece about how “Notre Dame is a fraud.” His logic is that Notre Dame’s five wins this season by single-digit margins show how weak of a team it really is. He then goes on to claim that Notre Dame would finish seventh in the SEC this year.
There’s a reason that Notre Dame ranks second in the computer polls. Say what you want about the performance versus Pitt — no Irish fan is disputing that it was a disappointment — but the Irish have to come to play every single week.
The difficulty of college football is not just being able to get up for one big game to pull an upset — that happens all of the time. No, the real difficulty is having a target on your back and remaining unscathed while taking every team’s best shot. And the Fighting Irish have done that, against a tougher schedule than any of the three teams ahead of them in the BCS standings.
You see, all of the other teams have built in some real “letdown” games into their schedules. That is, games against true cupcakes that they can easily win even if they have a poor performance following a big game. Let’s take a look:
– Alabama plays a season-opening showdown with Michigan, makes sure to follow it up with Western Kentucky. Then they had another highly-anticipated matchup with Arkansas, made sure to follow it up with Florida Atlantic. Did they even have to show up?
– Oregon’s three non-conference games were against Arkansas State, Fresno State, and Tennessee Tech. Oregon’s cheerleaders could’ve won those games.
– Kansas State has the “most difficult” schedule of the three. And even they opened with Missouri State, and then followed their anticipated Miami game with a North Texas matchup (and before their Oklahoma game). But surely that was a difficult stretch, right?
Meanwhile, all Notre Dame did was run through Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan, Miami, Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma, and Pittsburgh — all in a row. Are some of those teams having down years? Absolutely, but they all have the talent and capability to pull an upset. An easy game versus Purdue or Pittsburgh does not compare to one versus Florida Atlantic, Tennessee Tech, or Missouri State.
So of course Notre Dame’s margins of victory are going to be smaller as a result — the team just doesn’t ever get a break.
And while Clay Travis completely rules Notre Dame out of championship contention, he ignores some history. You don’t have to have large margins of victory or blowouts each week to win the title. In 1998 the Tennessee Volunteers won five games by 10 points or less, but that didn’t stop them from coming away with rings. How about the 2002 Ohio State team that was built on rushing and defense just like the 2012 Irish? They found a way to get it done, too.
Plenty of people may not like Notre Dame, but to call them a fraud is just asinine. They are tied (with Kansas State) for the most wins against AP Top 25 teams this season with 4, and their unblemished 9-0 record speaks for itself. The college football season is a war of attrition, and so far no challenger has been able to bring Notre Dame down. And if the mental toughness this team has displayed week in and week out has taught is anything, it’s probably the Irish will probably still be standing at the end.