Whilst I sat quaffing a fine ale and watching Alabama play Georgia for the right to face the Irish in the BCS Championship game, a funny thing happened.
The standard horde of Michigan State and UM fans shut up and watched. To my knowledge, this has never happened in the history of college football. Even the most rabid white wine spritzer -sipping Wolverine alumni could only hold hands with the bleary-eyed toga-wearing Spartan and silently spectate without the standard running commentary on how ND football is irrelevant, overrated, and undeserving.
Remember, UM came into this season ranked 8th, with Sparty 13th, while the Irish got a bright yellow participation ribbon. Notre Dame got no love from nobody besides me, my mom, and the Saturday nite crowd at O’Shea’s Irish Pub whom, admittedly, think that when I talk about the "Fighting Irish" I am referring to their family.
Three short months ago my Michigan-bred brethren let me know in no uncertain terms just how good they are and, more importantly, how bad ND really is.
As the more sober among us knows, a 6-6 Sparty team flat out stank in 2012. The Wolverines got beer-can-like crushed by Alabama before dropping three more games, including a 13-6 turnoverfest to the Irish, essentially making deer season bigger than the football season for the rust-belt locals in 2012.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame defeated two AQ-conference champions (No. 8 Stanford, No. 11 Oklahoma) a division co-champion (Miami), the consensus preseason No. 1 (USC), and everyone else that had the balls to play them.
For the mathematically challenged among us, that means the Irish won a veritable boatload of games.
More impressive is how they did it. In a year where offenses set more records than there are records, the Fighting Irish went undefeated by defending the goal line, and being the best in the country at doing it.
Believe it or not, under purported offensive guru Brian Kelly, ND’s offense got by spoon-feeding a freshman QB while its defense body-punched 12 teams into submission.
Yet, despite it all, there is still a grumbling army of talking heads salivating for ND to lose the BCS championship so their season-long predictions of the Irish’s demise will finally be proven fact. Yes, that includes you Mark May and Rick Reilly.
And though the Irish don’t have to apologize to anyone, to cap an outstanding season, the Irish sorely need to finish the brawl that they started.
Standing between Notre Dame and another national championship is the dreaded SEC, which has won the last six national titles, and more particularly, the Alabama Crimson Tide, that has won two of the last three.
Bama is big, bad, and experienced on both sides of the ball. Most of their athletes are NFL caliber, many at a higher salary. And their coaching staff knows how to use them.
No one questions that Bama is a complete football team, and to be the best, the Irish have to beat them.
The question is how.