For years Notre Dame hype has been something well deserving of rolling eyeballs and perhaps some shrugging aside. Too many times over the past 20 years we were led to believe that Notre Dame football was not just relevant, but significant in the grand scheme of college football.
We have all been through this charade before, so it should come as no surprise to see Notre Dame is 8-0 and some are still not ready to consider them a legitimate BCS contender. The fact is this Notre Dame team may have the best shot at a BCS championship since the system was put in place, and the Fighting Irish are showing they can answer any challenge thrown at them.
You want them to win blowouts? Fine.
You want Notre Dame to win a physically demanding game? Done.
You want Notre Dame to go on the road and play with the big boys? Not a problem.
Notre Dame has reached a 8-0 record by showing off a level of defensive play not seen in South Bend in a long time. They are allowing jus 9.9 points per game, putting Notre Dame on pace for their best season average in scoring defense since allowing 8.1 points per game in 1973. It begins with the play of linebacker Manti T’eo, a defensive star who has charmed the college football world with his tragic tale of personal losses this season and his high intensity and clutch play-making abilities on the field in spite of it, thrusting him in to rare Heisman conversations as a defensive player.
It continues with head coach Brian Kelly’s commitment to resurrecting Notre Dame football and fine-tuning the defense while working to scratch out enough points on offense and perfecting special teams. Kelly, like few before him, has actually seen improvement from year to year with Notre Dame in his time in South Bend, making some believe that he will be the guy to make Notre Dame a national championship contender once again.
He may already have it. Notre Dame jumped over the Oregon in the latest BCS standings and is now closing in on Kansas State for the second spot in the rankings in hopes of clashing with defending BCS champion Alabama in the BCS Championship in January.
If you have not been paying close enough attention to Notre Dame, take a moment to blitz through their 2012 season to date, and see how we can now start putting to rest some of the many arguments we have been fairly using against the Golden Domers for a long time now.
Notre Dame 50, Navy 10
Eh, it was just Navy and the Midshipmen are not the same team they have been the past few seasons.
True, this is a Navy team that lacks veteran players the way we have been accustomed to seeing in recent seasons from the Midshipmen, but Navy is now one win away from securing their spot in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Navy has won four straight games and five of their last six since dropping to 0-2 to start the season.
Notre Dame 20, Purdue 17
Purdue stinks, and Notre Dame needed a late field goal to beat them.
Well, this might be true. Purdue is in danger of not reaching the postseason, needing three wins in their final four games to become bowl eligible.
What did we learn? Notre Dame can find a way to come through for a late score when needed.
Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 3
Michigan State was overrated!
Again, this appears to be true. At the time the Spartans were ranked tenth in the nation and it was expected their stingy defense would be too much for Notre Dame to handle. Instead the script was flipped and the Irish were the ones dominating on defense, on the road.
Entering this week Michigan State is ranked 111th in scoring average, 66th in passing and 93rd in rushing. The Spartans have scored more than 17 points just three times this season. So how impressive was this win, really?
What did we learn from this? Notre Dame can win a physically demanding defensive game.
Notre Dame 13, Michigan 6
It was a revenge game at home, and Denard Robinson is a fraud!
Both statements are true, to an extent. The Irish did have the revenge factor playing in their favor, if you believe that sort of thing, and Robinson has a track record of coming up small against quality opponents. Of course, he was able to cause more than enough headaches for the Irish the past two seasons, so what was the difference this time? Other than Notre Dame’s much-improved defense, that is?
What did we learn from this? Notre Dame can design a defense to shutdown even the most explosive offensive players.
Notre Dame 41, Miami 3
Notre Dame caught Miami coming off an emotional conference win, just good timing!
Miami somehow pulled out a win at home the previous week against North Carolina State with a dramatic late touchdown, and making the trip to Chicago for what amounted to a home game for Notre Dame was indeed a good draw for Notre Dame. Miami’s offense clearly struggles against quality opposition (13 points vs. Kansas State, 20 against Florida State) and they missed on some early opportunities to make things interesting early on.
Miami is now sitting at 4-4 this week, having lost their previous three games starting with Notre Dame.
Notre Dame 20, Stanford 13 OT
Stanford got robbed!
According to my personal book of football, yes, Stanford did have the raw end of the deal, but the non-touchdown in overtime was only a part of why Stanford lost in South Bend a few weeks ago. Not being able to take advantage of three Irish turnovers also played a huge role.
What did we learn from this game? Notre Dame can win a sloppy game.
Notre Dame 17, BYU 14
Yeah, but they trailed in the fourth quarter!
Have you watched BYU much this season? The defense BYU brings every week is really something to watch. They are physical and tough to break through, but Notre Dame pounded the running game for 270 yards and was able to come back in the second half, shutting out the visiting Cougars after halftime.
What did we learn? Notre Dame knows how to make halftime adjustments, a tremendous credit to the coaching staff.
Notre Dame 30, Oklahoma 13
Oklahoma is always overrated and Bob Stoops can’t win a big game!
Well, they do not call him Big Game Bob for nothing, and this game really was much closer than the final score would suggest. Also, Oklahoma rarely loses games at home (although this was the second game in Norman Oklahoma has lost this season – Kansas State).
Oklahoma had been playing better since losing to Kansas State a few weeks back in big 12 play, but had no answers for Notre Dame’s defense.
What did we learn? History may have been on Notre Dame’s side, but they proved they are capable of going anywhere and playing with anybody.
Notre Dame’s remaining schedule should see them reach Los Angeles for a regular season finale against USC without a loss. Notre Dame hosts Pittsburgh this week, visits Boston College next week and wraps up the home schedule with Wake Forest. If they can get to play USC with an 11-0 record, Notre Dame will practically be guaranteed a spot in the BCS bowl line-up and have a realistic chance to play for it all.
Are you taking Notre Dame seriously yet? If not, what else more do they need to do? Notre Dame may be a 13-point underdog against Alabama on a neutral field, but just being able to play on a neutral field against the Crimson Tide is becoming more of a reality than ever before.
Kevin is a national college football writer for quadrust.com and the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He can be reached email@example.com.