Play Like a Champion
Posted by Greg Tuel, Class Of '87   
Monday, 21 December 2015

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They played the best team in the ACC, and both of the teams who played for the PAC-12 Championship.

We can consider them unofficial champions of the American Athletic Conference after they beat two of the three best teams from the Group of Five. They defeated the best of the military academies and in doing so probably the best option team in the country.


They handled a Big 12 blue blood, the only school to lay an “L” on both Oklahoma and Baylor this season. Now, they are poised to play the defending National Champion and the school many believe to be the second, or even first, best team in the BIG.

They squared up against the number one ranked defense in the country as well as the number seventh, and are about to play the number tenth.

Their opponents were from nine different states spread throughout the country, ten as of New Year’s Day. One of the games was on the diamond at Fenway Park in Boston, another at Clemson’s “Death Valley”, and still another in Palo Alto, California.

They are the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, and they are the most interesting college football team in the world. They are what they are because they have the most interesting schedule in the country and they have that schedule because they are independent.

Their schedule cuts across almost every major conference in almost every major market in every climate that this transcontinental country of ours offers.

If there were any soft spots or less than interesting games, they were more than likely tied to the conference obligations the Irish have assumed. The Wake Forest game gives us a taste of what not being able to customize their schedule would feel like, but on a more regular basis.

College football needs Notre Dame. By comparing their game against Clemson to their game against Stanford to their game against Texas to their upcoming game against Ohio State, one can get a feel for the relative strengths and weaknesses of those major conferences. Playing a strong Notre Dame team keeps the conferences honest in a day and age when a team like Alabama loads up on out of conference teams like Middle Tennessee, Charleston Southern, and Louisiana Monroe.

During Brady Hoke’s Sirius radio broadcast on Wednesday afternoon, USC’s new head coach, Clay Helton called in to talk about the exciting schedule the Trojans had next year and he specifically mentioned Notre Dame as one of the big reasons that their schedule was so exciting. Later on, after a Buckeye fan called to talk about the early start for the Fiesta Bowl, Hoke said that when you play Notre Dame, regardless of whether you play the Irish at 11:00 am or 3:00 am, you are awake and ready to play.

The PAC 12 press release about its competitive 2016 schedule included this gem.

The Pac-12 Conference announced today its 2016 football schedule that pairs a competitive nine-game Conference schedule with a non-conference slate that includes four contests against teams currently ranked in the CFP Top 15 – No. 2 Alabama, No. 8 Notre Dame (2), and No. 14 Michigan. In all, more than a third of the Pac-12’s non-conference schedule pits the league against a Power 5 conference opponent, as well as independents Notre Dame and BYU.

That was the first paragraph, and it was more Irish than a showing of Rudy on St. Patrick’s Day.

Just in case you still feel bad for Notre Dame because they do not have a conference playoff or receive a share of a conference payout, consider that the next two year’s schedules includes Texas, Michigan State, Stanford, Miami, Duke, Virginia Tech, Georgia, North Carolina and USC. Perhaps you have heard of some of those teams.

Interested in any of the new or up and coming coaches in the news over the last two weeks: Kirby Smart, Ken Niumatalolo, Clay Helton, Charlie Strong, Brian Polian, or Mark Richt? Just watch the Irish games over the next couple years and you will see exactly how they work out.

Mendenhall at Virginia? Besides the fact that the Irish had a hand in heating up the former coach’s seat, the Cavaliers currently only have two games scheduled for 2019, Notre Dame and BYU.

Whatever your thoughts about Notre Dame’s chances of reaching the Championship tournament without joining a conference, you cannot deny the fact that the Irish, because they are independent with a tailor made schedule, are able to Play Like a Champion throughout the season. They are the most interesting team in college football.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 22 December 2015 )
 
In The Moment
Posted by Greg Tuel, Class Of '87   
Wednesday, 25 November 2015

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The Notre Dame football team just won their tenth game of the year. They have only lost one game; and that loss hung in the balance until a missed two point conversion with seven seconds to play in a monsoon on the home field of the number one ranked team in the country.

Notre Dame has beaten Texas, USC, and two ranked teams. They just beat their perennial spoiler, Boston College, at Fenway Park, in a game that was supposed to be a home game for the Irish, and ended up being a reunion and festival for East Coast Domers.

Life is good. The players had a well-deserved twenty-four hours to celebrate, and here is to hoping they did it, did it safely, and are now deep into their preparations for a tough top ten Stanford ball club. On the line at a minimum is a New Years’ Day Bowl game, and possibly a spot in the National Championship playoff.

We as fans are not limited to twenty-four hours: we have a whole week to celebrate our school and our team. Still, in the great scheme of things, a week is but a moment; and, despite the fact that there is so much to celebrate right now, there are also so many fans letting this moment pass them by.

After all, Notre Dame is right in the middle of the National Championship conversation. When it comes to that conversation, the Irish are the farthest thing from irrelevance on this planet. They are the measuring stick for college football, the only school in America that can claim to have played a season of meaningful games against schools from the PAC 12, the Big 12, the ACC, and probably the best two schools in the Group of Five.

Add to that the fact that dating back to last year, Notre Dame is 3-0 against the Big 10 and SEC, and you can see why a strong Notre Dame is the standard by which college football is judged. The relative strength of each conference can be gaged by measuring it against a Notre Dame schedule which cuts across all of those conferences. Through the Irish looking glass, the apples that are the bruising defenses on the east coast of the ACC can be compared to the oranges that are the high powered offenses on the west coast of the PAC-12.

No other university has resisted the urge to join a conference, and still managed to remain so competitive and so relevant with a schedule of games against the best in the country. No other team has escaped the drudgery of playing basically the same schedule year in and year out, of being molded by the same playing style, and of being brainwashed by the provincial conference-centric mentality of a small group of athletic directors and coaches.

Notre Dame is the original barnstorming club, and to this day it continues to travel the United States and even internationally, bringing its traveling hord to every corner of America where faithful fans already reside and new ones are born.

This team has managed to maintain its unique and vital identity despite overwhelming obstacles and pressures. In addition to the logistics associated with flying around the country on a weekly basis, there are challenges associated with scheduling opponents with conference obligations as well as withstanding the momentum of conference realignments and the strong desires of vested interests like ESPN to bring Notre Dame into the flock.

If you doubt that Notre Dame football is under siege, then consider for a moment how the Irish have played against five teams this year which had more than a week to rest up, heal, and game plan. This is more than a coincidence. Pure chance dictates Notre Dame would play one or two opponents with extra time to prepare for them. Notre Dame has faced five.

Notre Dame’s last two opponents, Wake Forest and Boston College, each had two weeks to get ready for a battered and bruised Notre Dame. Make it three opponents in a row with that distinct advantage if you consider that Pittsburgh played a Thursday game before the Irish came to town, giving them nine days to gear up for the contest.

Likewise USC had nine days to get ready for Notre Dame. That gave them enough time to both gameplan AND fire their coach. We are not even counting Georgia Tech as one of the five, but it is significant that they had virtually three weeks to get ready for Notre Dame with tune up games against Alcorn State and Tulane.

The number one team in America, Clemson, had fifteen days to get ready for the biggest game of their season, the Notre Dame showdown.

This realization is not a complaint or a list of excuses but pure appreciation for the significance of how the Irish arrived at this moment.

As fans, we have the opportunity, nay the obligation, to celebrate these significant moments whenever we can for as long as we can. If we do not celebrate them, no one else will.

If we waste this precious time gnashing our teeth because we only won by three points, the victories become hollow. Not hollow for the players: they live in the moment, and they know what has been accomplished and what is left to be done. It is us the fans who are responsible for hoisting the banner and raising up these student athletes who have chosen to represent Our Lady for the whole world to see what they have done.

Life is far too short to spend worrying about how much we win by when victories are so hard fought and so valuable. The Irish have overcome virtually insurmountable odds to get to this pinnacle, and in this moment we are blessed.

There is just one week left, a week of Thanksgiving at the end of this magical autumn season. We may never come this way again. After all, tomorrow is not promised to anyone, anywhere, ever. But we have this moment, and this moment is very very good.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 25 November 2015 )
 
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Posted by DonJuan   
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 19 June 2013 )
 
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