Notre Dame Football: What Irish's Return to Prominence Means to College Football

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 17:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish talks with Manti T'eo #5 during a game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium on November 17, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Wake Forest 38-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

College football is better when Notre Dame is in the national title conversation. It's been nearly two decades since the Fighting Irish finished in the Top Five, but they are finally back.

By knocking off rival USC last weekend, the Irish earned a trip to the BCS National Championship Game, where they are expected to take on the winner of the SEC title game. Alabama and Georgia will battle for that crown on Saturday afternoon.

Regardless of their opponent—likely Alabama—the amount of hype surrounding the Jan. 7 game in South Florida will be through the roof simply because the Irish are involved. The television executives probably feel like they hit the lottery.

The reason is simple: College football fans are greatly divided about Notre Dame. They either love the Irish or hate the Irish, and the amount of middle ground is minimal.

That's huge, especially nowadays when the major television networks that focus on sports love nothing more than debate. Having a team with such large groups of both haters and supporters going for the championship is a victory for college football as a whole.

Just look at the major sports leagues. Baseball has the New York Yankees. Basketball has had the Los Angeles Lakers, but the polarized focus has shifted toward the Miami Heat. And football has the New England Patriots.

All of those teams are perennial title contenders. They also have plenty of sports fans who despise them simply because they win so often. The fact their fanbases begin to get a little cocky due to that success plays a role as well.

College football hasn't had that recently. Even though the Crimson Tide have emerged as the sport's dominant team, the genuine dislike hasn't been there outside of SEC country.

Perhaps that will change within the next decade if Alabama continues to compete for national titles on an annual basis. As it stands now, however, it didn't conjure up the same type of reaction the Yankees or Patriots get around the country.

Notre Dame does. It might have faded a little bit as the program fell out of the title conversation for a while, but it will return with a vengeance once the nonstop talk about the title game begins after the Tide or Bulldogs punch their ticket over the weekend.

It isn't clear if this is just a magical one-year run for the Irish, but there's no doubt college football is better with them battling for the title.