Don't let the title fool you, I think the Fighting Irish are a hell of a football team. They've taken care of business and beaten every team that's stood before them. They play a brand of football that a young, defensive-minded curmudgeon like myself truly enjoys. However, as the BCS numbers are shaking out, that schedule we thought would be an asset is turning out to bite the Irish in the behind.
It's not Notre Dame's fault, and it doesn't mean that the games were easy wins, but what it does mean is the value that we thought those games had is eroding at a rapid pace.
Of the three ranked opponents that the Fighting Irish have already beaten, only one remains ranked in the latest BCS Standings: Stanford. Both Michigan, No. 18 at the time of the contest, and Michigan State, No. 10 when they fell to the Irish, are out of the rankings and out of contention in their conference. A conference, mind you, that only has just one team ranked in total: Nebraska at 20.
Thus, the Big Ten having a down season is bad, not just for that league, but for the Irish as well. As losses mount for the Spartans, Wolverines and Boilermakers, it does not look good for Brian Kelly's team. Wins that moved the meter are now discounted as narrow victories over teams that aren't very good.
It's not right, but that's the way folks operate—amending their initial conclusions or using hindsight bias to explain things away.
Sure, we knew going in that Miami, Pitt, Navy, Boston College, Wake Forest and even BYU were not expected to have stellar seasons. The Irish's schedule losing luster is not because of those six games. As it stands right now, BYU looks like one of the top four or five teams the Irish will face this regular season.
That brings us to where we stand now. Notre Dame is seeing their schedule devalued with every loss their past and future 2012 opponents absorb. While the past losses are troublesome, the future looks equally as bleak. The University of Southern California is a team that will likely be an unranked three-loss squad going into the end of November. If the football gods really twist the knife on the Irish, USC could be 0-fer November heading into the game against Notre Dame and be a truly "easy" game.
Again, it must be stated, it's not Notre Dame's fault. They line up, beat the heck out of people and then go out and do it again the next week. That's all you can ask them to do.
It's not their fault Denard Robinson can't throw a pass or that he got hurt. It's not their fault Andrew Maxwell is the Big Ten's version of Johnathan Crompton. It's not their fault Miami, Pitt, Boston College, Wake, Navy and BYU don't inspire thoughts of greatness. Brian Kelly can't recruit for these teams and build their rosters and do their game plans so they go out and win ball games.
Because teams are tanking to varying degrees, the Fighting Irish's schedule certainly looks a lot easier than it did in the preseason. That doesn't mean the games were easier to win. It most certainly does not mean the Irish are not a high-quality, elite football team. All it means is they might end up needing a little help to get to the title game should they finish the season undefeated.