As I've observed Notre Dame's first 8-0 start since 2002, I can't help but smile fondly. The Fighting Irish are an old school football team full of grit and heart, and as I watch them rack up close win after close win, one team comes to mind—the 2002 Ohio State team.
Of course you remember this team as the Buckeyes' latest national championship squad, and for some reason, I'm always reminded of them when I see ND play.
First and foremost, both teams are or were completely based on defense. In 2002, the Buckeyes really didn't have a big stud on defense, and with the exception of Manti T'eo, neither do the Irish. This year's Notre Dame defense and the Buckeyes 2002 defense were just gritty, old-school defenses that could scrap with any offense in the country.
On offense, just like ND, the 2002 squad was simple, reliable and mildly effective.The 2002 OSU team relied a bit more heavily on their freshman phenom back Maurice Clarett, but nonetheless both offenses have or had the same role on the team. They are asked to manage the game, keep their defense in good positions and avoid turnovers.
Another constant similarity between the two teams is the perception from the national media. In 2002, Ohio State was constantly doubted week in and week out because they were just not flattering to the eye. Every game was close, mostly low-scoring with the Buckeyes just barely managing to squeak out the win.
This Notre Dame team probably won't ever give up a major amount of points, but they won't blow anyone out, either. All year the Irish have been barely pulling out one-possession games, and this leads to doubt from the media. They may not be the popular pick among ESPN "experts," but considering how well they've played in tight games, I'm not picking against them.
That brings me to the greatest similarity between both teams.
The 2002 OSU squad was a team of destiny. No matter what stood in their way, they would scratch and claw their way to what they wanted, and even if they didn't have the most talented players individually, they had the best team.
After watching ND beat the odds and prove all their doubters wrong with another solid win over at Oklahoma, I believe they're a team of destiny. They have more team chemistry than any other team in the nation, and led by Manti T'eo, this team is just meant to be.
Just like the 2002 Buckeyes, the Fighting Irish might not be the best team on paper, but go meet them between the lines. Trust me, they'll bring it.