It has been 19 years since Notre Dame was in contention for the National Title this late in the season. It has been 24 years since Notre Dame finished a regular season undefeated. Now, Notre Dame will play for the National Title on January 7th in Miami, Florida.
Going into Saturday night, Notre Dame only had to one thing: Beat Southern California. This did not come easy for the Fighting Irish. Despite dominating the game statistically, the Irish failed to put the Trojans away. This was due to the fact that Notre Dame kicked 5 field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. However, the Fighting Irish pulled out the 22-13.
Notre Dame out gained USC, 439 to 281 in Offensive Yards. For the most part, they kept USC’s star receivers Woods and Lee. Robert Woods had 7 receptions for 92 yards and 1 touchdown. Heisman hopeful Marqise Lee had 5 receptions for 75 yards. For the most part, Lee was bottled up until he was able to haul in a 53 yard reception.
The night culminated in a goal line stand from the Fighting Irish. The strength of the team and Defense has been the Red Zone Defense. Again, just as the did against the Stanford Cardinal in overtime, the Irish refused to allow the Trojans to score and make the game a one possession affair.
Now, the Fighting Irish await the winner of the Georgia-Alabama SEC Championship game. Regardless of the winner, Notre Dame will not be favored to win. It is likely that they would be a double digit underdog. This seems very unfair considering defeated nine bowl eligible teams this season. In comparison, Crimson Tide only defeated five and Georgia has only beaten four. This prejudice demonstrates why the computers are still needed in the BCS. Voters only see what they want to see sometimes and not always the facts of the situation.
If the game was played today, it seems like Notre Dame would lose in a tight game to Alabama. The differential between these two teams is less than a touchdown. If the Fighting Irish were to play Georgia, the game should be expected to come down to the last possession. It would simply be a toss up between the two schools.
However, it seems very likely that Notre Dame’s experience in tight games will help them pull out a victory. Why Notre Dame should beat Georgia or Alabama cannot really be supported by statistics such as points per game, etc. Notre Dame is a team of destiny. The comparisons between the 2002 Ohio State championship team are great. That team did not beat teams by a significant margin but played excellent Defense. No one believed that they could defeat a Miami (Fl) team that was the juggernaut of the early 2000s. However, the Buckeyes outlasted the Hurricanes in overtime to win the National Title. Could this be the result for this years’ Notre Dame team? Only time will tell but this is team that is hard not to believe in.