FanPost

Irish Irrelevance: The Herd Mentality

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Hyperbole, snarky remarks, and elitism epitomize some of the worst of sports journalism today. Instead of insightful analysis, we get opinionated cracks. That generates a herd mentality.

Cattle prefer to be led, preferring well-worn paths. Changes are dangerous to their sense of welfare. Independence is both shocking and confusing to creatures who are hard-wired to follow the herd.

A pundit on the four letter network opined before the season started:

" I don't think that they are very good but they are still relevant, when I talk Notre Dame football the lights on the phone board light up. When I talk about Clemson football, a team that has superior talent, people change radio stations. So in that sense Notre Dame is still relevant."

Following The Herd

Grandiose statements, dramatic deliveries, and pure snark feed regional bias with their shock value and implies some greater insight into college football.

- "Of the 119 FBS teams, 75 are garbage. Thirty five teams can play." (The other nine or ten?)

- "I watched Big Ten football and vomited...That's the worst major conference I've ever seen in my life."

- "Notre Dame has squeaked by atrocious Big Ten teams."

Notre Dame's opponents so far? Michigan State "is bad." Michigan "is much worse than we thought." Stanford is "eroding as the season progresses".

Their pundit is not a prophet. His preseason Top Ten included Oklahoma and USC at #1 and #2, respectively. Michigan was #6 and, halfway through the season, has two losses. Virginia Tech was his #7, now with four losses. Texas was his #10, now with two losses and a defense that is giving up 35 points per game over seven games.

The Irish have no chance, according to the herd mentality, of winning over Oklahoma and USC, who will each blow us out.

Criteria for Relevance

Tossed off the wagon for cattle consumption, this pundit details his criteria for college football relevancy:

"First of all, do you have national titles? If not, are you in BCS bowl games? If not, are you on big, big television games you win? And are you producing NFL guys? Do you have elite athletes? ... So Notre Dame's last championship was in '88, they're not getting to BCS bowls much. They've been to a couple recently, lost both. They've got a lot of big TV losses. And they're not putting many guys in the NFL."

I'll apply these criteria over the last ten seasons from 2002-2011 to the Irish in comparison to other major college football programs.

-- National Titles - Since 2002, seven (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Texas, USC and Ohio State) have won National Championships. I would include teams that lost in the National Championship game, adding four other teams (Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon).

Fact: Since Notre Dame's last National Championship in 1988, the Irish have lost three or less games in twelve of those twenty-four years. Source

--BCS Game participation - "... they're (Notre Dame) not getting to BCS bowls much" (only twice in ten years). I would add three more teams based on the number of BCS appearances over ten years - Virginia Tech (5), West Virginia (3), and Florida State (3). These are also all teams who regularly appeared in the Top Ten in most polls. Fourteen teams are in our Relevancy Bucket.

Fact: Over the last ten years, only thirteen teams have three or more BCS appearances than Notre Dame. Source

BCS criteria require the Irish to finish in the top twelve in BCS rankings at the end of the regular season, which allow many conference champions not in the top twelve to go to the BCS. Link: The Notre Dame Rule.

The teams, like Notre Dame, with two BCS appearances in ten years are Stanford, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Cincinnati. Those with only one BCS appearance in the last ten years include Arkansas, Clemson, Tennessee and Oklahoma State.

How are the Irish different than these nine teams?

--Winning big television games - The easiest definition for this would be televised games against highly-ranked teams, top rivals, and BCS/bowl games. Of those other teams who have two BCS appearances over the last ten years, I would add three more teams (Boise State, Utah, and TCU) to the previous thirteen. All three have had BCS success, winning big television games. The Bucket now has seventeen teams.

The herd is quick to point out the Irish's two BCS losses by lopsided scores against Ohio State and LSU in 2005 and 2006. The Irish record against USC of 1-9 in the last ten years is another of their selective points. Yet from 1983 to 2001, the Irish were 15-3-1 against USC. During this stretch was USC irrelevant?


Fact: From 2002-2011, the Irish have been 16-14 against Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford. All these big games were televised.

--Producing NFL players - Producing NFL talent from a college football program is considered a criteria for competitiveness.

Fact: Over the last ten years from 2002 to 2011, Notre Dame produced the eleventh highest number (40) of players drafted by the NFL. Over the last twenty years, from 1993 to 2011, Notre Dame produced the sixth highest number of players drafted by the NFL. Source 1. Source 2.

The only teams that produced more NFL players over the last ten years were: Ohio State, USC, Georgia, LSU, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma, Iowa, Alabama, and Texas.

The amount of Notre Dame players drafted into the NFL over those ten years (40) puts the Irish in the same group of football programs as Alabama (41), Texas (41), Oregon (36), Michigan (36), Nebraska (39), Iowa (42), Penn State (38), Cal (36), Wisconsin (35), Auburn (35), Stanford (33) and Clemson (32).

At this point in the season, the NFL scouts are said to be evaluating up to twelve Irish players for the upcoming draft. Could the Irish jump Iowa, Texas and Alabama by next year?

Scheduling

"Where I knock them is scheduling. They can schedule whoever they want."

Over the last ten years in 125 games, Notre Dame's schedule, including bowl games, has included 57 games against teams who finished with eight or more wins - 45.6% of all their competion. Notre Dame played 24 of those games against non-FBS teams (19.2%). Notre Dame has never played a FCS team.

In comparison, over the last ten years in 126 games, Michigan's schedule, including bowl games, has included 56 games against teams who finished with eight or more wins, including Appalachian State - 44.4% of all their competition. Michigan played 23 of those games against non-FBS teams (18.25%), including three FCS opponents.

Michigan has edged the Irish in that decade of games, 4-6, by virtue of last year's thrilling last second touchdown pass. Three of Michigan's six wins have been by four points. Notre Dame's four wins have come by eighteen, seven, eight and two points. Six of the ten games have been decided by eight points or less.

The results of this schedule analysis can be seen as almost identical with the two teams comparable - to almost everyone.

The Irish have lost eight more games in ten years than the Wolverines against FBS teams with schedules that are statistically similar. The issue is more performance than scheduling.

Conclusion

Strong statements often are uttered by those with a superficial grasp of programs' development.

-"I don't think they are very good..."

-"Notre Dame will never be as good as Alabama."

-"I don't see National Championships in their future."

-"They have academic, social and recruiting disadvantages."

-"Notre Dame's popularity is 80% legacy and 20% production."

-"Notre Dame is one year away due to quarterback and secondary problems."

The herd mentality must be very frustrated with Notre Dame's performance this year.

Some pundits who may never catch up to the curve. Meanwhile, we are expected to lose to powerful Oklahoma by ten points or more. Notre Dame cannot be that good that fast, can they? Couls a third BCS appearance be in their near future? The herd might need to look for new criteria for relevance.

We hope to continue to disappoint those who devalue the achievements of the Irish.



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