Notre Dame is getting swindled.
No way the streaking Fighting Irish should sit outside of the top four in the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings. They were only eighth last week due to a bunch of know-nothings who dislike blue and gold, who can’t stand how shiny Notre Dame officials keep the Golden Dome and who prefer that Touchdown Jesus was something like Fair Catch Judas.
So, this was strange. Before Irish athletics director Jack Swarbrick responded to my question about a conspiracy against his program, he stopped in the middle of Notre Dame Stadium Saturday after the Irish’s 55-0 blasting of Georgia Tech, and then he thought for a moment.
Then Swarbrick said, “Well, you know. I have a lot of faith in the selection committee and the process. I think they’re paying attention to the second half of the year here. We’re playing as well as anybody in the country. We didn’t play that well the first five games, right?
Well, um. Right.
Notre Dame opened the season with an overtime thriller on the road against a Florida State team that evolved into little worth mentioning. Then the Irish nearly lost their home opener to Toledo. Yep, Toledo, and they weren’t exactly captivating the following week agasint instate-rival Purdue.
The Irish did hammer then-No. 18 Wisconsin in late September, and even though they lost at home the following week to Cincinnati, that’s no disgrace. Those Bearcats are undefeated, and the CFP folks have them fifth.
Here’s my point: This Notre Dame isn’t that Notre Dame.
With a mixture of sun, gray and chill throughout Northern Indiana, Saturday afternoon resembled one of those November games that helped turn Knute Rockne, the Four Horsemen, the two Joes (Montana and Theismann), the Rocket and a slew of others into Notre Dame football legends.
Appropriately, the Irish used that backdrop to suggest they have enough elite players to “shake down the thunder,” as the line goes in their Victory March. Georgia Tech is awful at 3-8. Even so, Notre Dame is following that old Bobby Knight adage of playing the game instead of the opponent, and the Irish have been extraordinary at conquering the game from Halloween through the coming of Thanksgiving.
With apologies to Swarbrick — you know, who likely wishes not to create enemies among his peers doing the CFP voting — Notre Dame keeps making those CFP selection folks look sillier.
Yeah, those CFP selection folks aren’t anywhere near their final ranking, and yeah, I’m sort of biased.
I was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, where I just sat in Notre Dame Stadium watching the 10-1 Irish roll toward what should be their third trip to the CFP in four years. They spent another week looking no worse than the fourth-best team in the country behind Georgia and whoever else you wish to shuffle with Notre Dame among those remaining three slots.
Are you listening, CFP selection folks?
If not, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly had it exactly right after Notre Dame was nearly perfect on offense, defense and special teams against Georgia Tech.
“Well, that was a great day, obviously,” Kelly told us afterward during his press conference, and speaking of legends in waiting, he’s nearly two months beyond passing Rockne as the winningest coach in Notre Dame history with 112 victories in his 12th season on campus. “You don’t get many of these opportunities as a head coach where you have a senior day, and you have a resounding victory, and it’s not snowing in November in South Bend.”
To Georgia Tech, it felt like it was snowing, hailing, raining and sleeting like crazy, with no end in sight, but it only was a Notre Dame defense that hasn’t allowed a touchdown in three games after it stifled Navy and Virginia in previous weeks. Then there is the Notre Dame offense, with efficient quarterback Jack Coan, a vastly improved offensive line and a ton of solid running backs.
Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer said of Coan, a graduate transfer from Wisconsin, he’s brilliant at “mastering his emotions.”
Coan can pass, too. He completed 15 of his 20 throws for 285 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia Tech, and he was on the sidelines down the stretch of the blowout.
“It was just a terrifc day. Guys executed at a high level,” Kelly said of Notre Dame’s widest margin of victory in 25 years. “What’s not to like about what happened today? No injuries that I was informed of. Players played to their potential. For those who are interested in style points, and you know, you don’t like me for this, but I’m not. But I covered that one too.”
Yes, Kelly did.