With BCS chaos swarming and an undefeated regular season now just one game out of reach, we’ve yet to truly touch on an integral part of the 2012 Fighting Irish.
The season itself.
The computers (and voters) may decide that an undefeated Notre Dame team is not worthy of a spot in the title game depending on how things shakeout. Or, Notre Dame could head to Southern Cal next weekend and get absolutely destroyed by a USC team that we’ve still yet to figure out.
Many scenarios are still in play—including a national title for this Irish team—but perhaps, for a moment, we can address the past three months and appreciate them without these potential postseason stipulations serving as a disclaimer.
Notre Dame was able to give us that moment of reflection at the expense of a much lesser opponent, and unlike many of the stressful 60-minute stretches the Irish faithful have endured this season, this one was over early.
Their 38-0 win over Wake Forest gave fans a much-needed break from the madness, and it also allowed us a moment to come up for air. There were no close calls, it lacked suspense, and it felt over before the first quarter ended.
The biggest moment of this game actually came shortly before it started, and the ovation that Manti Te’o received on his final walk into the stadium in the team’s last home game of the year is something that will sit with me for quite some time.
Te’o, of course, has become one of college football’s most recognized talents over the past few years and has elevated this with his exceptional play—and Notre Dame’s exceptional season—in 2012. He is an all-time favorite at Notre Dame and will likely find himself in New York City for the Heisman ceremony.
This sendoff encompasses more than just a fantastic football player nearing the end of his college career. However, it signifies the rebirth underway at Notre Dame and the baton being passed. There is no single player ready to take on this responsibility in 2013, but he is leaving the team in very good hands.
“Is Notre Dame back?”
“Are they relevant again?”
These questions have surfaced plenty on the way to their 12-0 start. They make for wonderful debates over radio airwaves, and the vintage Notre Dame “HATERS”—you could very well be one yourself—will scoff at the conversation taking place. Again.
But Notre Dame is back—or at least deserving of our attention beyond name, tradition and uniform—and while they may not win a national championship this year, next year or the years to follow, they are poised to be in the conversation going forward.
Turning it back toward the now, we'll learn quite a bit in the coming weeks.
The outcry from the Notre Dame faithful will be loud and clear if an undefeated season isn’t good enough.
The laughter will be even louder from those who oppose this team if Notre Dame’s bid for a perfect year comes up short against an underachieving USC team and they play themselves out of the title.
The debates will ensue regarding scheduling, decimals, formulas and if this team belongs in college football’s biggest showcase. Before we dive back into the BCS chaos, ask yourself this:
Did you ever believe an undefeated season was even possible for Notre Dame back in the summer?
I certainly didn’t, and I can assume you didn’t, either. Although many will take this time to knock the teams on their schedule (looking at you, Big Ten) and the way they’ve lacked style points against these weaker opponents, you can’t knock 12-0, 11-0, or even 11-1.
Well, you can and you will, but you shouldn’t.
There will be plenty of time to pick apart Notre Dame’s championship bid for better or worse. In all likelihood, they will come up short of the title this year and end up playing a good team in a BCS bowl instead. We can ask, “Where did it all go wrong?” if that time comes, when it comes.
Let’s pause that for a moment, however, and look at the surroundings. The view from where they’re sitting is pretty good, certainly much better than it’s been, and the cluttered standings and endless BCS debate may make us miss out on one heck of a season.