When it comes to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, there isn’t much grey area. You either believe in them or you detest them. They are the New York Yankees of college football. I decidedly fall into the group made up of doubters. I don’t even know who they will be facing in the BCS Championship Game yet, and I am confident they will lose, and lose decisively. Here are four of the many reasons why:
Regardless of whether the Irish face the Bulldogs or the Crimson Tide in the BCS Championship Game, they are going to face a very good defense — the best they have faced this year. This offense simply isn’t good enough to compete against a defense that good.
Everett Golson is likely going to morph into a strong quarterback, but he’s not there yet. His numbers are pedestrian in the 11 games he has played — 2,135 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 58.9 percent completion percentage. Those numbers are inflated by what he accomplished against weaker competition, too — he threw for eight of his touchdowns, just two picks, and nearly 1100 yards against Wake Forest, Boston College, Pitt, and Purdue.
Against more impressive defenses he wasn’t nearly as good.
Against Michigan State he completed less than 44 percent of his passes, and he managed just 5.6 yards per attempt. In limited action against Michigan he was just 3-of-8, and he threw two interceptions. In the overtime win against Stanford he completed only 50 percent of his passes for 141 yards. Even in the blowout win at Oklahoma his numbers weren’t strong.
He has struggled against the best defenses he has faced, and he’ll be facing a better defense — perhaps a much better one — in the championship game. That makes it hard to believe that he and the offense will have a good day, and, therefore, really hard to have faith in the Irish. Regardless of which team he is facing he’ll be up against an efficient quarterback who is much easier to trust.
Misleading strength of competition
Those who believe in the Irish will tell you that their tough schedule is one of their biggest strengths. They have played twice as many bowl teams as either of their potential opponents, but that’s misleading. In fact, despite the potential for a very tough schedule the Irish actually faced a relatively easy challenge this year.
Michigan State was horribly disappointing this year. Michigan played four good teams this year, and the Wolverines lost to all four of them. USC was a total mess. The overtime win to Stanford, and especially the win at Oklahoma, were impressive, but that’s about it.
Georgia’s only huge win was over Florida, but that’s more impressive than either of the Notre Dame wins. Alabama’s schedule has had plenty of weakness, too, but they also won at LSU and beat Mississippi State. I just don’t see the edge for Notre Dame here.
There is another consideration here as well — both Notre Dame and Alabama have a common opponent in Michigan. While the usefulness of comparing performance against a common opponent is limited, the difference here is striking. Alabama completely overwhelmed Michigan — shut them down convincingly in every aspect of the game, while scoring basically at will. Notre Dame, playing at home compared to a neutral site for Alabama, won ugly. Their offense was ineffective against the Wolverines. Defensively they had a good day, but they also benefited from terrible decision-making and horrible mechanics from Denard Robinson. On at least three of the five interceptions Michigan threw the problem wasn’t that there was no open option, but rather that a bad mistake led to a turnover. In short, Alabama earned dramatically more style points in the win over Michigan than Notre Dame did.
The final consideration is how the teams have been winning. Notre Dame needed overtime against Stanford, and three overtimes against Pitt. They won three more games by a touchdown or less. In contrast, Alabama won only one game by fewer than 19 points, and that was their road win at LSU. Only one of Georgia’s wins was by less than a touchdown, and that was deceiving because the game was essentially over by the time Kentucky scored their final TD to close the gap to five points.
Lack of experience on the biggest stage
The pressure of the BCS Championship is unlike what teams would face in any other situation. The eyes of the world are on the team, and they have a very long time to sit and think about the challenge that is facing them.
Notre Dame has no experience with this, so it could be very tough for them to deal with it. The last two years they have played in the Champs Sport Bowl and the Sun Bowl — hardly comparable situations.
For Alabama, meanwhile, this is old hat — they have played in two of the last three National Championships, and they have won both. Georgia’s experience isn’t much better than Notre Dame’s, so the Irish would be in better shape on this front against them.
My head will explode if they win
I’m a Michigan fan. I already have to deal with the graduation of Denard Robinson. And the fact that we lost to Urban Meyer and allowed the Buckeyes to finish their season undefeated. And that we lost to Notre Dame. And that we were completely humiliated by Alabama.
I’m very fragile right now.
I think a Notre Dame win in the BCS Championship Game would send me right over the edge. You’d find me curled up in the fetal position rocking myself gently into eternity.