By Steve Silverman
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College football has regularly been a drumbeat of monotony over much of the last decade.
It has come down to one SEC school or another playing for the championship. While those southern-fried football fans dance and celebrate, the rest of the football-watching world has grown bored with it and wanted something new.
Well, this tradition-laden sport that was beaten down so badly by the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State cover-up of child abuse scandal a year ago has gotten a much-needed boost.
Notre Dame is undefeated and the Irish will play for a shot to win the national championship if a victory over disappointing USC can be secured next week.
The Irish (11-0) are no flukes. They have not come together to take advantage of breaks, referees’ calls and errors by their opponents to string undeserved wins together.
They have played like dominant warriors and they deserve the top ranking that is certainly coming their way.
But as well as they have played, they needed to get a break.
A couple of weeks ago, they were one of four major undefeated teams. Alabama, Oregon and Kansas State were all rolling along and the pollsters had determined that Manti Te’o and his Notre Dame teammates were no better than fourth.
But college football has never seen four major undefeated teams at the end of any regular season, so Irish head coach Brian Kelly just bided his time and kept on with the “one game at a time” drumbeat.
Then it happened. Alabama inexplicably lost to Texas A&M at home. That moved Notre Dame up to No. 3.
Then last night, Kanas State and Oregon both lost. Kansas State got overwhelmed on the road by a Baylor team that improved to 5-5 with its shocking 52-24 win.
Oregon, the bullies of the West Coast, tried to bludgeon Stanford, but the Cardinal would have none of it. Stanford freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan threw a near-perfect fourth quarter touchdown pass to Zach Ertz to tie the game late in the fourth quarter and then Jordan Williamson gave Stanford the victory with an overtime field goal.
Notre Dame had easily fulfilled its part of the deal by routing Wake Forest 38-0.
So the title mosaic has Notre Dame on top and Alabama is back to the No. 2 spot.
A championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama will not be ignored. The rest of the country has yawned in recent championship games.
Alabama is a worthy team, even if the Crimson Tide is pretty much the charter member of the SEC. Nick Saban is often despised for his arrogance, but he can coach football. Alabama has won two of the last three national champions and the Tide will make the perfect enemy.
Notre Dame has not won the national championship since 1988. That was a Lou Holtz-coached team. Tony Rice was the quarterback and Rocket Ismail was returning kickoffs for touchdowns. Ricky Watters would go on to become the best professional player to emerge from that team, but he was just a role player for those national champions.
Notre Dame should be able to march in to Los Angeles and handle the Trojans next week. However, while Notre Dame is the stronger and more consistent team, the Trojans will be raging. They lost to UCLA yesterday and they have lost four games this season.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin is under fire, so he will have his team fired up and the Trojans will come with their best effort.
USC has tormented Notre Dame over the years. Anything less than Notre Dame’s best game could result in a loss.
But Notre Dame has its opportunity and it should finish with an undefeated regular-season record.
It’s just what college football needed.
Do the Irish have what it takes to win the National Championship? Let us know…