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Irish Haters go overboard.

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Guest SirJohn

From of all places Stewart Mandell of Sports Illistrated. :D



When Irish-hating goes overboard

'Bag's readers have sad obsession with ND's ranking

Posted: Wednesday November 16, 2005 11:58AM; Updated: Wednesday November 16, 2005 1:16PM


It's no secret that most people who don't root for Notre Dame tend to despise the Fighting Irish. I never would have guessed it was this bad, however.


There are any number of more pertinent college football topics we could be discussing this week -- whether USC or Texas will go down, who will win the ultra-close Heisman race, Joe Paterno's quest for the Big Ten title, Bill Snyder's retirement -- but Mailbag readers are apparently far more concerned with whether a certain two-loss team is ranked sixth or ninth. In fact, based on the volume of e-mails, I would go so far as to call it an obsession -- particularly among Ohio State fans.


So, if that's all you guys want to talk about ... then by golly, that's all I'm going to talk about.


I understand that Ohio State has two losses, but those losses are to two top-five teams by a combined margin of 10 points. Notre Dame lost to an unranked Michigan State team at home. How are the Irish still ranked above Ohio State?

--Andrew, Columbus, Ohio


All right, let's look back and figure out how this crime against humanity could have happened.


As you may recall, Notre Dame began the season unranked in the AP poll; Ohio State started sixth. After the season's first weekend, in which the Irish beat then-No. 23 Pittsburgh and the Buckeyes beat Miami of Ohio, the Irish debuted at No. 20; OSU moved up to fourth. The following week, the Buckeyes dropped to ninth following their loss to No. 2 Texas, while Notre Dame jumped 10 spots to No. 10 following its win at No. 3 Michigan. It would later turn out that neither of the Irish's first two opponents were deserving of their preseason stature, but the pollsters didn't realize that at the time.


Notre Dame first passed Ohio State in the poll following the Buckeyes' 17-10 loss at Penn State on Oct. 8, a game in which OSU's already questionable (at the time) offense looked downright awful against an opponent few figured would be 9-1 right now. Notre Dame rose to ninth; Ohio State dropped to 15th. The following week the nation watched as the Irish played the consensus No. 1 team in the country, USC, to a standstill for 59 minutes, losing on a miraculous last-second sequence. AP voters, quite justifiably in my opinion, kept the Irish right where they were (I dropped them one spot.)


Since then, the Buckeyes' offense has exploded, keying a five-game winning streak in which they've gradually risen back to No. 9, but all Notre Dame has done since the USC game is blow out three opponents as well. So, while OSU has been able to close the gap between the two (currently three spots in the AP poll, one spot on my ballot), it's been unable to pass the Irish. That's pretty much how it happened.


What's with the love affair with this Notre Dame team? I think the pollsters are giving them way too much credit for the USC game. Other than hanging tough with the Trojans, who have the Irish beaten? A 5-5 Pitt team; an overrated, 7-3 Michigan team, a 6-4 BYU team; a horrendous 4-5 Tennessee team; a woeful 4-6 Purdue team and a terrible 2-8 Washington team. To me, that hardly sounds impressive. What gives?

--Jessica, Windsor, Ontario


I can't speak for other pollsters, but as for my lofty opinion of the Irish, yes, it has a whole lot to do with that USC game. You say voters are giving the Irish "too much credit" for their performance that day. I would counter, how is that possible? I don't know if you've noticed, but the Trojans have won 32 straight games. They field quite possibly the greatest offense in college football history. And yet, if Matt Leinart's fumble had gone forward rather than out of bounds, or if he doesn't audible to the perfect call on fourth-and-9, or doesn't get that helping hand on the goal-line sneak, Notre Dame would have won that game. I was there that day, and what I saw was an extremely well-coached team that gets the maximum ability out of every player on the field. The Irish have a quarterback, Brady Quinn, who is as solid as any other in the country.


Clearly, the Irish proved against USC they're capable of beating pretty much any other team in the country on any given day, and though Notre Dame's opposition hasn't been great, I have absolutely no problem ranking the Irish sixth in the country, despite their two losses. Apparently some other people do ...


Help me understand something. Notre Dame continues to be ranked ahead of such one-loss teams as Alabama, Virginia Tech and Oregon. Why?

--Jonathan, Baton Rouge, La.


Probably because they're playing better than those teams. The Tide's offense has gone in the toilet, the Ducks have barely survived their two games since losing starting quarterback Kellen Clemens and the last time we saw the Hokies, they were on the wrong end of a 27-7 score. If you'd prefer, I could start ranking teams in strict order of their records, in which case I'll start letting our interns fill out my ballot each week.


Notre Dame lost to Michigan State (5-5, 2-5 in the Big Ten). How on earth can the Irish be ranked as high as they are, and why doesn't anyone ever bring that up? It's like people forgot that game.

--Kyle, Houston


You know what's interesting? Despite Miami moving up to No. 3 in the BCS standings this week -- a development that has far more potential ramifications than whether Notre Dame is sixth or ninth -- I haven't heard a single person say, "Hey, have you people forgotten that the 'Canes lost to a Florida State team that got blown out by Clemson?" I'd imagine that's because most people generally accept the notion that Miami has gotten significantly better since that game, while the 'Noles have regressed. That's pretty much how a season works -- some teams evolve from the first game to the last game, others devolve.


But apparently, judging by my e-mail, that's not the case with Notre Dame and Michigan State. Apparently the Irish are exactly the same team today that they were two months ago, and apparently the Spartans were just as bad when they started 4-0 and were scoring 49 points per game on people than they are now that they've lost five of six and couldn't crack 20 on Minnesota. I suppose it's not remotely possible that, say, the Irish defense is substantially more comfortable after nine games under a new coaching staff than it was after two, or that the more games the Spartans played, the more scouting opportunities opposing defensive coordinators had to figure out their spread offense. I'm not trying to make excuses for what was clearly a bad loss; I just feel that a game played on Sept. 17 has little-to-no-bearing on how a team is playing on Nov. 17.


When are you or your compatriots going to write about the travesty that is Notre Dame at No. 6/7 in the polls. Let's face facts: ND is a two-loss team. One of those losses was at HOME to a now 5-5 Michigan State team. Notre Dame has no wins against a team with fewer than three losses. The combined record of the teams Notre Dame has defeated is only 35-35. By contrast, Oregon is a one-loss team. The Ducks have defeated 8-1 Fresno State. The combined records of the teams defeated by Oregon is 45-42.

--Alec Boyd, San Francisco


It's time like these that I start questioning my job. Why do I bother going away every weekend, dealing with airport delays, fast-food dinners and stadium traffic in order to evaluate these teams in person? Better yet, why do I even watch games on television? Apparently watching the teams play is no longer as useful an evaluation tool as schedule strength, opponents' records, etc., etc. In fact, not a single one of these e-mails has mentioned a particular Notre Dame (or Oregon, or Ohio State, etc.) player by name, mentioned the play of a team's offense or defense, its quality of coaching, etc. From now on, I think I'm going to just go to the park or the movies on Saturdays, sit down on Sundays, crunch the latest numbers and come out with my new rankings. It will be like ... oh, I don't know ... a computer poll.


While we're on the subject, though, here are a couple of more numbers for Alec's Notre Dame-Oregon comparison: 44-13 (the score of Oregon's loss to USC) and 34-31 (the score of Notre Dame's loss to USC). You can't ask for a much better measuring stick than that.


You have Notre Dame ahead of Ohio State in your Power Rankings? How do you justify this, especially considering Ohio State beat Michigan State, and considering that Ohio State is playing considerably better than when it barely lost to Texas (just as Notre Dame barely lost to USC).

--Mike, Baltimore


All right, I can't take it any more -- what's wrong with you Ohio State people? Honestly? Do you have nothing better to do with your time than play the "my two-loss team is better than your two-loss team" game? This is like arguing over the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.


We're basically splitting hairs here, but if you want my honest opinion: Ohio State is the more talented team, but in the Buckeyes' two biggest games of the season, I watched as their offense -- at the direction of their coaches -- curled into the fetal position. In Notre Dame's biggest game of the season, Charlie Weis showed no fear whatsoever against the No. 1 team in the country. When the Irish fell behind 28-24 with 5:09 left, Quinn promptly drove them 87 yards and dove for the go-ahead touchdown. When Ohio State fell behind Texas 23-22 with 2:37 remaining, Buckeyes QB Justin Zwick promptly fumbled. Down seven to Penn State in the final minutes, Troy Smith fumbled. Now, since that Penn State game, Smith and the OSU offense have been among the most explosive in the country. Yet why do I have this sneaking suspicion Jim Tressel's sphincter will tighten considerably when the Buckeyes go to Ann Arbor this weekend?


Tell you what, OSU fans. If he proves me wrong, I promise I'll revisit my rankings. Now, please, go find yourselves some cold towels.


I'm looking at Notre Dame's opponents' records and I find myself wondering how they are ranked so high in the AP and Coaches' polls ... because they just barely lost to USC? They did lose to Michigan State, right? My guess -- because of their poor strength-of-schedule, the powers-that-be are rating them high enough to ensure they finish in the top 12 of the BCS.

--Tom Bihn, Norwalk, Ohio


All right, you figured it out. At 1 a.m. on Saturdays, after I've just spent eight hours at a stadium, ran around doing interviews and cranked out a story on deadline, the first thing I do when I get back to my hotel room, before filling out my ballot for the week, is call up some of my fellow voters and go, "All right, how high do we need to rank the Irish this week? We've got to make sure they get in the Fiesta Bowl."


I posed this question already this week, but wanted to make sure you received it. How is Notre Dame ranked ahead of Ohio State?

--Brian Fabbro, Indianapolis


Don't worry. I received it.




Stewart Mandel covers college sports for

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Guest Snatchy_McPants

Oh yes I would, Sir John. Domehead and I unfortunately half to share office space with a handful of bucknuts. Rest assured, I emailed this story to all of them! :lol:

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Guest IrishTobey

I have a cousin who lives in Tennessee and a buddy who lives in Dublin OH outside of Columbus and I'm from Michigan. Hands down OSU fans are the worst. I work with a bunch of Michigan fans and they are pretty cool. We give eachother a hard time of course but it's always pretty reasonable and common sensed. My cousin in Nashville can talk with Volunteer fans all day about foutball and ND and it's cool. My buddy down in Ohio, whose a big ND fan, says straight up he's never met an OSU fan that will admit they've ever lost or broke the rules. I really wanted ND to play Penn St or Alabama b/c of all the tradition that would be in a game like that but now I want them to play OSU and shut them up.

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Guest domehead

I agree..oh how I agree..O$U fans are the worst...and now..they are really hating life..because of our success this year and our national championship next year...God I love it! GO IRISH

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