Notre Dame did it. It went 12-0. What does it all mean to the college football world?
You have to. You probably don’t want to – unless you’re a fan of the Irish – but you have to.
Notre Dame inexplicably came out flat against USC. But the Trojan receivers were more than happy to keep giving the ball away, the offense struggled, and the Irish took advantage of a few big plays to get to 12-0.
Yes, it’s in the College Football Playoff. It’s one of four unbeaten teams, and one of them is UCF – but it has the resumé. With Vanderbilt and Wake Forest winning, the Irish have seven wins over teams that are bowl eligible, and Virginia Tech could make it an eighth team if it beats Marshall.
The Michigan win still matters, and even the wins over the lesser teams were interesting, like going to San Diego to beat Navy, taking down Florida State and getting by USC in Los Angeles.
So the Irish don’t have to play a conference championship? No, it doesn’t, but they did beat Pitt and they took down Northwestern in Evanston – if it helps, count those two as conference championship-level wins.
But it’s just not that amazing. It’s a good team, and it absolutely earned its spot and has to be in, but …
This is going to be a “have to” selection by the College Football Playoff committee. The Michigan win lost a little luster, and there aren’t that many amazing wins, but there are a bunch of good ones.
Do the Irish have a shot at taking down Alabama or Clemson? Ohio State or Oklahoma have the offenses with the punchers’ chances, and Georgia is probably the third best team in college football even though it’ll likely finish with three losses.
Whatever. Notre Dame is 12-0.
Even so, this feels a bit like 2014 Florida State. The unbeaten Noles absolutely had to get in, but they we just way above-average – and then they got destroyed by Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Again … whatever. The Irish deserve the chance based on what they’ve done.
USC played like an immature team. There were two turnovers – there were close to being more – and the eight penalties were a killer. The Trojans moved the ball, and the defense stepped up, but the Irish were cool and calm when they needed to be, and USC wasn’t.
USC isn’t going bowling. There are rebuilding seasons, and there’s going 5-7 at USC. That’s not okay, even with all of the young playmakers in place.
Dexter Williams was bottled up all game long, and then … boom. a 52-yard dash. Ian Book wasn’t perfect, but he threw for 352 yards and he kept a few key drives alive with his legs. And that’s Notre Dame. It’s not perfect, and there are plenty of flaws, but it found a way to get the job done.
And now it’ll be in the College Football Playoff.