Notre Dame Football: Where 2012 Team Ranks All Time Among Top Irish Teams
I'm sure you have all heard by now that Notre Dame will appear in the BCS National Championship this season.
The 2012 team was able to overcome all of the odds, found ways to win every game on the schedule and really shut the naysayers up that continued to doubt this team throughout the year. (Yes, that even includes me.)
But where does this year’s team rank among some of the program's best?
There aren't many schools that can match up with the Irish when it comes to history, as this program has produced 13 national championships and seven Heisman trophy winners. Notre Dame has seen tons of remarkable college football players, many great teams and it has accomplished nearly everything possible in the sport of college football.
With the 2012 team still having one game left, here is where it would rank among some of the programs best teams ever.
Other Teams That Deserve Consideration
1919 team that finished 9-0
1924 team that finished 10-0
1930 team that finished 10-0
1946 team that finished 8-0-1
1943 team that finished 9-1
1964 team that finished 9-1
1989 team that finished 12-1
1993 team that finished 11-1
5. 1966 National Championship Team
Coach Ara Parseghian had some great teams back in the day, but this was probably his best of them all. In 1966, Notre Dame finished with a 9-0-1 record and ended up becoming national champions for the eighth time in program history.
If you think this year’s Irish defense is good, Notre Dame shut out six of its 10 opponents during this championship run. The Irish won eight games by at least 20 points and beat three Top 10 teams, including a 51-0 victory over the USC Trojans. The defense only allowed double-digit points twice all season long and allowed no more than two touchdowns to a single team.
As for the tie, Notre Dame was playing the No. 2-ranked Michigan State Spartans. Irish quarterback Terry Hanratty hurt his shoulder in the first quarter and running back Nick Eddy missing the entire game with a similar injury.
Due to being handicapped on the offensive side of the ball, Parseghian decided to take a conservative approach and sit on the football to settle for a tie rather than risk a mistake with an inexperienced quarterback.
Even with the controversial game, this is still one of the best Irish teams ever. There were a total of 12 All-Americans from this team, two players finished in the top six in the Heisman voting (Nick Eddy and Terry Hanratty) and eight players were taken next year in the NFL draft, including three in the first round.
4. 2012 Team That Shocked Everyone
Maybe I am a prisoner of the moment, but this year’s Notre Dame team deserves to be in this spot for two reasons.
One, nobody, not even Irish fans, expected this team to have run the table and reach the national championship. And also, this group of guys that put this program back on the map and in the title conversation for years to come.
Notre Dame was doubted throughout the entire season (by me in particular), but the team kept finding ways to win ballgames.
It doesn't matter if the result was ugly, if the team needed multiple miracles to make it happen or the defense had to come up with every stop because the offense couldn’t score. The bottom line is that the Irish are undefeated and deserve all of the credit it is currently receiving from the polls.
The Irish have also reentered the conversation with the big boys, as this season is good enough to help recruiting moving forward and should be the start of something very special.
Notre Dame has struggled with consistency ever since head coach Lou Holtz left the program. This is a team that has helped turn the corner and start a complete new chapter of possible dominance by the Irish.
It doesn't really matter what happens in the national championship in January, this is a squad that Irish fans everywhere will remember for quite some time.
3. 1949 Team That Dominated Everybody
Led by Heisman winner Leon Hart, the 1949 team was one of the more dominating teams college football has ever seen.
The Irish went a perfect 10-0 that year and won the national championship. And not only was the team winning, but it was destroying teams, as it outscored its opponents by a total score of 360 to 86.
The team knocked off a No. 4-ranked Tulane club by a score of 46-7, beat a Top 10 Michigan State team and shutout a No. 17-ranked USC program by a score of 32-0.
Not only was Hart the Heisman winner, but two other players (Bob Williams and Emil Sitko) finished in the top 10 this particular year. Yes, that is three players on one team that received legitimate Heisman love.
This national championship team produced six players that were selected in the 1950 NFL draft, and it is considered to be the last team of the dynasty that racked up a 36-0-2 record from 1946-1949.
2. 1988 National Championship Team
This 1988 squad was the last Notre Dame team to win the national championship.
Head coach Lou Holtz was in his third season in South Bend, and he was able to turn an 8-4 team from the previous year into a 12-0 powerhouse.
Any team that stood in the way was going to lose, as this team was able to knock off four ranked clubs, including the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the country at the time. The Irish also snapped the winning streak of No. 1-ranked Miami Hurricanes, who had won 36 games in a row before playing that historic Catholics vs. Convicts matchup.
Notre Dame ended up winning 10 of its 12 games by double digits and produced a total of six All-Americans. Coach Holtz won the Coach of the Year Award, and many players from this team went on to play in the NFL, including Rod Smith, Ricky Watters and Todd Lyght.
1. 1947 Undefeated Team
This 1947 Notre Dame squad isn't just the best team in program history, but is also one of the best teams to ever play college football. It was led by quarterback Johnny Lujack, who won the Heisman trophy, and the team itself produced a total of 41 players who went on to play in the NFL.
Head coach Frank Leahy was only in his second year as head coach, but he led the team to a perfect 9-0 record. The season included three shutouts, a 20-point victory over a No. 9-ranked Army program and a 31-point victory over the No. 3 ranked USC Trojans.
However, who won the national championship this season is still up for debate, as Michigan also went on to beat up on USC in the Rose Bowl (49-0), forcing many to believe that the Wolverines were the best team in the country. But Notre Dame finished the as the No. 1 team in the final AP poll, making the Irish the national champion in many eyes.
Still, to this day, both teams claim the national championship in 1947.
Regardless of who you consider the best team that year, it is hard to argue that this was the best team in Notre Dame history.