Coming off another close scrape agaisnt Pittsburgh, I've heard people complaining about Notre Dame's lack of ability to blowout teams. While the 9-0 start is nice, some are complaining that the Irish haven't been impressive enough.
Me? I don't get it. Winning ugly. Winning sloppy. Winning lucky: the common theme with all three of those characteristics is winning, and that’s something Notre Dame hasn’t done a lot of in the last two decades.
This is Notre Dame’s first 9-0 start since 1993, and the first time that they’ve truly been in National Championship contention since that season. Brian Kelly’s three seasons are the first time since 1991-1993 that the Irish have won at least nine games in three consecutive seasons, and the first time that they’ve put together three straight winning seasons since 1994-96. Prior to the 2012 campaign, the Irish had lost at least five games in five straight seasons (cumulative record of 32-27), and in seven of their last nine years.
After 27 losses in the last five years, I apologize for not being concerned about “style” points.
The BCS Title Game is a beauty pageant, and right now Notre Dame is the girl with lipstick on her teeth. But, if you’re a Notre Dame fan, you should be perfectly happy with that. They’re in the title conversation for the first time since Manti Te’o was barely a toddler.
Alabama has won 45 of 49 games and two of the last three National Championships. Oregon is 43-9 in that span and has played in back-to-back-to-back BCS games. Notre Dame isn’t there yet. Brian Kelly is hoping to build a foundation where 10+ win seasons and National Championship contention becomes expected, which is something that hasn’t been a reality for Notre Dame since the program’s last great run under Lou Holtz from 1988-1993.
The Irish can’t control what Alabama, Kansas State, and Oregon do – they can only control themselves. Regardless of whether or not they’ll get the chance to compete for a National Championship under a flawed system where sexiness (OMG, Oregon’s speed!) is weighed over substance, this season is a huge step forward in ending a twenty-year cycle of mediocrity.
I heard a great quote from Jim Rome after ND’s win over Oklahoma. He said that Notre Dame had always been relevant, even in their down period, but they hadn’t mattered.
In 2012, the Irish matter, and that should be all that matters.