College Football Week 13 review | November 26, 2012
We have finished with the regular season, all that remains is for the teams good enough to compete in them to take part in Conference championships. Then we will have the BCS bowl games decided; such as the Rose Bowl traditionally the match-up between the highest ranked Big 10 team and the Pac12 champion; this year oddly Oregon will not be participating owing to their loss to Stanford so Stanford face off against UCLA to face either Wisconsin or Nebraska.
The main story though is the continued unexpected rise from the ashes, like a stricken phoenix of Notre Dame from South Bend, Indiana. Unranked before the season started, and not expected to make much of a schedule that included testing games versus Stanford and #1 ranked USC. Brian Kelly in his 3rd year at the program has worked miracles to make the Fighting Irish relevant on a national level again.
Admittedly, the Irish have been helped by playing some teams (Boston College, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest) who were expected to have better years. In other years these weak opponents would have cost them, and yet because other more illustrious programs have fallen once (and only once) in terms of losing they are the last side standing. By right, and by that criteria they are rightly in the BCS National Championship against the winner of the SEC championship game – Alabama or Georgia.
Not since 1988 have Notre Dame won the National title under the stewardship of Lou Holtz, they have not played in the final game since then either. Whilst they have built their season on grinding out victories (twice they had to win in OT, and four games being won by less than a touchdown. In contrast to Alabama and Oregon who racked up points a plenty, the Irish have built their success on their front seven defence who to say were tight is an understatement, averaging only 10.3 points a game.
The team did not really take themselves seriously and were not given credit until the goal-line stand in overtime against Stanford on October 13th when they won 20-13 to go to 6-0, then they were in the top 10 and not going away. Wins followed vs BYU 17-14, at Oklahoma 30-13, the banana skin of Pittsburgh 29-26 in triple OT, at Boston College 21-6 and a shut out of Wake Forest in their last home game 38-0. Then came Saturday night where they rode into Southern Cal and did what #1 ranked teams should do and take care of business.
In a microcosm of their season, they got the breaks with Matt Barkley not able to start his last College game before the professional ranks await him so they had to face freshman Max Wittek; they possessed a combination of both run and air. Everett Golson passed for 217 yards yet the star was senior Theo Riddick who rushed for 146 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. Riddick played the first two years of Kelly’s tenureship as a wide receiver, then reverted back to a back. The process of everyone being able to do their job effectively has paid off, there is no ego by many people, and in star defender Manti Te’o they have what every undefeated team should have, a Heisman calibre player. Te’o had his 7th interception of the season when he picked Wittek in the third quarter.
Notre Dame know they will play a SEC opponent but which one is not as easy to predict. Alabama tuned up for the game against Georgia in the Georgia Dome, Atlanta with a 49-0 whitewash of Auburn (who fired Gene Chizik on Sunday, two years removed from a National title) with AJ McCarron scoring 4 TDs off of 216 passing yards and Eddie Lacy got 2 scores off 131 yards rushing.
Georgia the underdog for Saturday’s showdown, warmed up with their own demolition job, dismantling Georgia Tech 42-10. Aaron Murray was nearly perfect, 14-17 thrown, 215 yards and 2 TDs. Viewers should not underestimate the Bulldogs who have had not the strongest schedule but they will ask questions of the Crimson Tide with their own formidable defence and with senior Murray, they have a very assured young man capable of guiding them to the National title game.
Notre Dame meanwhile can sit back and put their feet up until early January, whilst neutral would love to see the Irish face the Tide in Miami for the title in terms of spectacle and ratings. Georgia have the capabilities, whilst Vegas bookmakers already make Notre Dame the underdogs against both possible opponents.
Brian Kelly and Manti Te’o will not care about such silly numbers, the only number that matters now is that they are #1, giving them five weeks of preparation to retain it might be the last thing anyone wants.