Goshen News, Goshen, IN


December 23, 2012

THE SKINNY: Underdog Irish prep for BCS title stage

SOUTH BEND — Listening to and following much of the advance media coverage of the upcoming BCS National Championship Game between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama, one thing is clear.

The national media is so in love with the SEC — of which the Crimson Tide are a member — that it just can’t allow itself to entertain the possibility that a non-SEC team should be permitted to take home the precious crystal football.

It’s really kind of pathetic to watch actually — much of the SEC idolatry coming from a certain four-letter network, which over the past few years has become more and more of a shill for the superconferences, the SEC being the worst example.

There would be no better way to rain on ESPN’s parade and that of some of its more pompous windbags than for the Fighting Irish to defy the oddsmakers, the talking heads, and pretty much everyone else but themselves and their legions of devoted fans and knock off the media darlings from Tuscaloosa.

Add to that the added bonus of denying another title to one of my least favorite coaches: Nick Saban.

After covering the Irish’s BCS media day earlier this week, it’s obvious that the media attention given to the Irish — an already high amount, given the program’s iconic status — has increased substantially over the beginning of the season, when the Irish occupied a spot in the lower echelons of the preseason top 25 — a spot, to be honest, that was questionable, given the 8-5 season of 2011 and a plethora of question marks needing answers as preseason camp opened.

Those dog days of August, and head coach Brian Kelly’s camp-opening press conference, seem like eons ago now, especially as the first blast of another Midwest winter has arrived in northern Indiana.

But as the Irish went out and handled their business each and every week, vanquishing each opponent that stood in the way en route to a perfect 12-0 regular season, it became more and more apparent that there was something special indeed happening in South Bend.

The national media, true to form, was slow to get on the “Is Notre Dame Back?” bandwagon.

But that mattered little to Kelly, his staff and the team. Each week in his regular press conferences, Kelly repeated the same mantra: The Irish were ignoring the “noise” and focusing on the football.

And every week, they backed up their coach’s words, went out and won.

The “noise” became significantly harder to ignore after the Irish defeated Oklahoma and ascended to the No. 1 spot in both the polls and the BCS rankings.

Now, most of the “noise” is focused on Alabama. And that will put most of the onus on the Crimson Tide.

It seems odd for the No. 1 team in the country to enter the national championship game as the underdogs. But that’s exactly the position the Irish will find themselves in as they head to Miami.

This being the last year of the wretched BCS in its current form, before a true playoff system comes into being next season, what better way to send this snooty system to the ash heap of history than for an independent like Notre Dame to take home the prize?

Will it happen? Perhaps, perhaps not.     

But the Irish have been confounding the critics and naysayers all season long.

Anyone who counts Notre Dame out does so at their own peril.

Contact sports editor David Vantress at 533-2151, ext. 325 or by email at david.vantress@goshennews.com.


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