So this weekend, Notre Dame beat USC to all but secure their slot in the MNC game in January. My initial response was to try and ridicule Notre Dame's season. But then when I thought about it, Nebraska was only two halves of really bad football away from being undefeated themselves. That, at the end of the day, an undefeated team isn't something to scoff at. Generous calls and lucky ball bounces are the nature of the game - good teams find ways to use that to their advantage, bad teams complain about it.
Of course, the one nice thing that came out of the Irish's first BCS Title Game appearance is that we won't be treated to another SEC game rematch. I thought people would be really excited about that so I set to looking for articles exploring those possibilities.
Of course, the SEC is involved so naturally, someone had to write that either Georgia or Alabama will steam-roll the Irish. Enter Clay Travis of Out Kick the Coverage. (Admittedly, he has no hope for UGA. Can't blame him. Still don't know what to think of the Dawgs.) And of course, Pat Forde of Yahoo had to jump in and suggest, well, no, the Irish played a "tougher" schedule.
Let me help: it's all hogwash. There's a reason we have the saying "Any given Saturday". Alabama should know that. Georgia should know that. And one would hope after 25+ years of looking for a way back to the top, Notre Dame knows that.
Frankly, I think there's been a great amount of disrespect for the game itself this season. With conference realignment destroying regional rivalries in the interest of TVs and not the fans who built the game and a general lack of development of players in the interest of getting the latest "excitement" on the field sooner (to get ESPN's attention), I wonder if college football will survive in the long run.
I'm not worried about the players themselves. Or the coaches. Their respect is evident on the field, in their approach to the game. Ohio State and the Fighting Irish surely respect the game. They both found ways to win despite adversity. When Alabama and Texas respected the game, they were very good. If Alabama doesn't respect Georgia, expect to see Georgia in the title game.
When Nebraska respected the game, they were good. When they assumed victory, when any team assumes victory, they do not win. (Usually.)
The Big Ten's bad year against the MAC can be traced back to a lack of disrespect for the game and for their opponent.
(Here's hoping Nebraska respects a very resilient Wisconsin and respects the game this week, and prepares accordingly.)
I only hope that we fans, pundits and hobbyists alike, can find a way to respect the game before it's too late.
Our irrational desire to try and pick a champion out of 124 candidates and the need to monetize may lead to bigger problems for the sport down the line as we fans face an identity crisis. Can college football survive the apathy fans in the NFL show during the season? Will I still be interested in college football when I'm old enough that Taylor Martinez is a relic of the past?
It will take a massive restructuring of what it means to the national champion, to start. (And there will have to be one hell of a transparent process for picking the four teams in the playoff. I want to know why you think the SEC West #2 should get in over the Pac-12 champion. Even if they expand it to eight teams.)
Are we ready for that? I'm not sure - what does a national title mean now? If your teams win the BCS game, are they really the best team? Or just the one who won when the media was watching?
Are we ready to do away with preseason Top 25s and let the games themselves set the field?
Are you ready to accept a championship structure that finally respects "any given Saturday"?
Are we ready to let every game mean something?
The response to the Irish win doesn't seem to suggest that.
- Salt Creek and Stadium