Two weeks ago everyone was discussing the possibility of four teams finishing the season undefeated – with two of those being left of the national title game picture. But, as both college and professional football proved this weekend, anything can happen any given game day.
It has been almost twenty years since the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have topped the college football rankings as the nation’s best team (1993). After both Oregon & Kansas State fell to underdogs Saturday night, “America’s college football team” rose to #1. Quite a rise for the storied program which has battled mediocrity the last decade. The AP Poll failed to put in their preseason Top-25 rankings and no one expected much out of the Irish this season, noting that Brian Kelly was still a year or two away from being able to contend.
How things change in a matter of months. Led by future NFL draft pick and All-American linebacker Manti Te’o, the Fighting Irish have been defying critics’ projections and finding a way to win games. Despite being 5-0, it wasn’t until the Irish defeated both Stanford and then Oklahoma in Norman that critics really took note that this team could play for the national title. The Irish offense would struggle but find a way to make a play when the team needed one. The defense, led by Te’o, punished opposing offenses. It hasn’t always been pretty, and it lacks some of the ESPN highlights that the Oregon Ducks produce, but somehow, someway, Notre Dame finds a way seize victory whenever the game is on the line.
The only thing remaining between Notre Dame and a shot at their 12th National Championship is Saturday’s game in Los Angeles against University of Southern California. USC comes into the game weary, after losing this past weekend to hometown rival UCLA, and without their own leader, quarterback Matt Barkley. It is almost a given that the Irish will face the winner of Alabama-Georgia in January for the title.
Quite a different story than a 6-5 or 7-4 finish that most predicted for the team at season’s start. It simply goes to prove that critics’ expectations of you mean nothing if you choose to compete every day. You determine the outcome – not someone else. And as Notre Dame shows, it doesn’t matter how ugly the win, it still counts as a “W.”
Today is your day. Somehow, someway, go get it a win.