1. How big is this #1 ranking for Notre Dame?
This #1 ranking is an tremendous achievement for everyone that has worked to get this program back to a championship level. As this season has progressed I kept thinking back to Murtaugh's four part series The Unofficial Guide to Rebuilding Notre Dame. E discussed several great points in that series and at the moment I think it is safe to say that this season has been a significant step forward in that rebuilding effort.
Jack Swarbrick, Coach Brian Kelly, the rest of the coaching staff, the players and everyone else associated with the program have done what needed to be done to make the program competitive again. No matter what happens in these next two games I will always remember this team fondly. I also think the program is in a very good place and I expect this run to last for a little while.
2. Despite being 11-0 and #1 in the polls the talking heads on TV, and the Jimmies and Joes at the water cooler still seem to think that it is a foregone conclusion that Notre Dame won't win the BCS Championship. Many don't even think we can beat USC. Why do they keep disrespecting us?
I will start by saying that I honestly don't mind it. In fact I actually like how it sets this team up to play in the underdog role. They appear to feed off of that and at the end of the day the only thing that really matters is their internal confidence level anyway. They believe.
As for the actual disrespect I think most people have biased opinions that are affected by a million different things. That isn't exclusive to Notre Dame but hating on Notre Dame and talking about how Notre Dame will never be relevant again has been fashionable for quite some time now. Unfortunately Notre Dame made it easy for them by struggling on the field quite a bit. 2007 anyone? That train wreck happened only 5 short years ago.
To be sitting at #1 today is a rather amazing turnaround, and in my completely biased opinion, a significant step forward that the entire program can continue to build on. For the first few weeks of the season it seemed possible but still unlikely. Then Oklahoma happened. Three wins later here we are holding the cards.
There will always be a large contingent of people out there that just don't like Notre Dame. It is what it is. But consistently putting a good football team on the field is the thing most likely to reduce the number of talking heads and water cooler experts that don't think Notre Dame can play with the best teams in the country. That may even happen in the next few weeks.
3. Getting to #1 is hard. Staying there is even harder. Does this team have what it takes to finish this thing?
Yes. Before the season started I took a hard look at this team and the schedule and I honestly believed that they would be capable of winning every game. I didn't think that they actually would though. Winning a college football game is hard and going undefeated is incredibly difficult. A game can be won or lost on a single play and the odds are that no matter how good you are you aren't going to make every play that you need to make to win every single game. The odds just aren't in your favor. But here we are 11-0 with one Lane Monte Kiffin and the USC Trojans left on the schedule. It's really a dream scenario.
Notre Dame should beat USC on Saturday night, especially with Matt Barkley on the sidelines, but I fully expect the Trojans to figure out a way to put up a fight. Toss in the fact that it is college football where crazy things tend to happen in November and it becomes even more difficult to predict. It won't be easy and honestly that is as it should be. When the broadcast starts on Saturday night I will be bouncing off the walls.
Notre Dame needs to come out playing fast, loose and intense on both sides of the ball. The key to this game will be taking control of it early and never looking back.
As far as potential follow on opponents go I don't want to go counting any chickens just yet. We still have to beat USC. But I will say that I believe that this Notre Dame team is capable of playing with anybody in the country right now.
Is it destiny? Every time I have that thought I stop myself. But when you think about things like Manti Te'o it sort of feels like it might be destiny doesn't it?
4. Notre Dame is traveling to the L.A. Coliseum this weekend. Is USC the biggest game of the season? Is it the biggest game in the last 20 years?
Due to the fact that a National Title shot is riding on it I would say it is absolutely the biggest game that Notre Dame has played since losing to Boston College in 1993. That was the last time that Notre Dame was ranked #1 and coincidentally also the last time that the program needed one more win for a National Title shot. We all know what happened. It has taken 19 years to get back into this position again. It doesn't matter that USC has had a disappointing season or that Matt Barkley is out with an injury. USC is a wounded animal and it would make their season to derail a Notre Dame title run. This game is absolutely gigantic and it must be won.
5. Talk to me about the ESSSS EEEEE SEEEE and how they constantly get the benefit of the doubt in the polls.
Perception is reality and the SEC being the best conference in the country is definitely the current perception. The SEC bias makes a big impact on the preseason polls and continues to influence movement within the polls for the rest of the season. Winning six consecutive BCS Championships doesn't hurt either.
Regardless, we are going to have a few weeks to discuss potential bowl opponents and a host of other things around here once the clock hits 00:00 in Los Angeles on Saturday night. Until then I'm trying to do the exact same thing the team is doing and focusing on the task at hand. Beat SC. Go Irish!
What do you think?