Could A 12-0 Irish Season Re-Start Notre Dame’s Independence Debate?
First things first, I’m actually not trying to stir the pot here. I don’t root for Notre Dame or against Notre Dame. I’m looking at this from an unbiased, logical point of view.
Notre Dame has long made its own rules, staying independent in football and playing its own hand-crafted schedule, year-in and year-out. But since the BCS era began, the Irish have never found their way into either of the top two slots of the BCS rankings. A big part of the reason why has been their schedule.
People love to argue about whether Notre Dame’s yearly gauntlet is actually that tough. The Irish definitely do a great job of scheduling big-time programs – and as is the case with most schedules, the difficulty stems from how successful their opponents are during that season.
Notre Dame’s schedule this year, while not as difficult as it looked before the season started, has still been grueling. The Irish have beaten three Big Ten teams (Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan), one PAC-12 team (Stanford), one ACC team (Miami), Navy and a scrappy BYU squad. Three of those opponents (at the time) were ranked. They still have to play No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 9 USC – along with Boston College (ACC), Wake Forest (ACC) and Pittsburgh (Big East).
I’m aware that a few of these teams haven’t performed to preseason expectations. But the reality is that this Notre Dame team has to show up with it’s A-game every single week. Alabama doesn’t. Oregon doesn’t. Kansas State doesn’t. Take a look at the current BCS standings.
Alabama scheduled Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic and Western Carolina. Oregon scheduled Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech. Kansas State scheduled Missouri State and North Texas.
You can argue that Notre Dame’s schedule is particularly weak during the Pitt/BC/Wake Forest stretch, but that hasn’t occurred yet, and the Irish are still No. 5 in the BCS rankings. You won’t find Alabama, Oregon or Kansas State anywhere near the top of any strength of schedule rankings. Yet they all sit at 7-0, ranked above the Irish.
Notre Dame fans will tell you that if the Irish go 12-0, there is “no way” they’ll be left out of the BCS National Championship. Really? You’re telling me that if Alabama (or Florida), Oregon, and Kansas State are all undefeated at year’s end, the Irish will leapfrog two of them?
An Alabama team that will have beaten LSU and Florida, won the SEC, and not to mention was last year’s BCS National Champion?
An Oregon team that will have won the PAC-12, beaten (most likely) USC twice, Stanford once, and now-emerging Oregon State once?
A Kansas State team that will have gone undefeated in the Big 12, arguably the most difficult conference in the country?
Maybe the Irish would leapfrog two of them. But to say it would be 100% wouldn’t be realistic. If Notre Dame beats USC, 20-17, but Oregon spanks the Trojans by 30 points twice, you’re telling me it’s not a possible scenario?
Which brings me to my main point:
If Notre Dame goes 12-0 this season, beating Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan, Miami, Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma, Pitt, BC, Wake Forest and USC and somehow doesn’t reach the BCS National Championship, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which it would.
Yes, we’ll soon be moving to a four-team playoff, and much of this BCS madness will be resolved. But an 11-1 Irish squad could face the same issues that this year’s potential 12-0 squad may face. The SEC, PAC-12 and Big 12 now dominate the college football landscape, and their champions are almost always going to be included in that playoff. Notre Dame is going to need to post an undefeated season to have a shot.
It’s a disaster scenario for the Irish; going 12-0 against a very difficult schedule, yet still being left out of the BCS National Championship. Would it be enough to make Notre Dame change the way it schedules opponents, or maybe join the ACC in football?
You can bet it’ll be a hot topic if the Irish continue to win.