BCS Shakeup Puts Notre Dame in Unenviable Position: #1

“Notre Dame is the leader in the clubhouse,” acknowledged Jesse Palmer during the Oregon-Stanford halftime as he reported ND’s earlier overwhelming victory over Wake Forest. To maintain its lead atop the leaderboard all that had to happen was for undefeated Kansas State and undefeated Oregon to lose seemingly gimme games, the combination of which was absolutely impossible. (Insert thunderbolt and lightening imagery suggestive of miraculous heavenly intervention.) Anything, apparently, can and will happen.

Notre Dame now finds itself as the #1 team in the country and the only undefeated championship contender left standing. (OSU is 11-0, but is unable to compete in the postseason.) Notre Dame’s last game of the season is on the road against USC this Saturday. USC can only find some measure of redemption from its underperforming season by destroying the dreams of millions of Irish fans. But USC suffers from an injured starting quarterback who probably won’t play on Saturday night, so the strong ND defense will be chasing an inexperienced freshman and that doesn’t bode well for USC. Notwithstanding his chances, Lane Kiffin knows what’s at stake for Notre Dame, and he will do everything possible to play the spoiler. Expect Kiffin to change players numbers, go for it on fourth downs, fake punts, attempt onside kicks, run quadruple reverses, try flea flickers and statues of liberty, cast voodoo spells, and almost anything else that might better be left to a sandlot family reunion pickup game between out-of-shape idiots who’ve had too many Bloody Marys and live in denial over their diminished abilities. Wait, that’s this Thursday morning at my house; but you get my drift.

3 weeks ago, ND was sitting in 5th position in the BCS. Its only hope for ascenscion was for the undefeated teams ahead of it to lose their undefeated records. Over the 3 weeks they all did. The result is ND’s first experience as a #1 BCS team. If they make it to the championship game it will be one of the most-watched games in BCS history.

As implied, Notre Dame has lucked out to have this shot to go to Miami on January 7th. It may be too early in their team-building evolution to reach this pinnacle. It may be better to still be sitting at #5 and play in the Rose Bowl as an at-large team against an absolutely atrocious BIG10 team that would have handed the Irish a great victory to boost their program and put them back on the track to become a national power. This is something the country would’ve loved and embraced as destiny in the making. As things stand, however, Notre Dame has the 3 best teams in the country directly behind them and nowhere to hide. The SEC title game on December 1st might better be seen as the national title game, as it has been seen for the past several years. Most bookmakers won’t put ND on the same field as an SEC power, let alone with the lurking Ducks. So, the thought process goes, a USC win on Saturday might actually be doing ND a favor by avoiding the potential shellacking it would suffer in the national championship game. Better ND teams would follow to guarantee a national championship win to its legions of fans who expect too much too early from this program.

What Johnny Manziel did two weeks ago in Tuscaloosa was joyously inexplicable, except by allowing Alabama an off first half because it was coming off the brutal win over LSU. ND’s Everett Golson is a great quarterback and nobody should take anything away from what he has done, but to give Nick Saban or Mark Richt 6 weeks to prepare for him just isn’t fair. With all the Notre Dame action it will enter that game as at least a 9.5-point underdog.

And so the question: Has ND won the battle so as to lose the war?