Tuck: Irish Lucky or Good?

By Mike Tuck
Host, Tuck & O'Neill

Notre Dame finished off a 12-0 regular season with a 22-13 win at USC and will play for it’s first BCS National Title in January.  I was surprised to hear quite a few people opine on Sunday that Florida should be playing the championship.  Perhaps they were Gators fans or SEC homers, or maybe they just didn’t think Notre Dame was any good.

Florida fans certainly can walk around with the chests puffed out if they please.  They went 11-1 and recorded the most impressive wins of any team in America winning at Texas A&M, vs. LSU, vs. South Carolina, and at FSU.  The Gators Sagarin SOS ranked them 13th, pretty impressive.  Unfortunately they lost to Georgia (who had the easier of the unbalanced schedules), and the Bulldogs claimed the tiebreaker sending them to the SEC Title Game.  If Florida fans feel jipped, they are barking up the wrong tree.

The Irish schedule ranked 30th compared to Alabama’s 39 and Georgia’s 42.  If the Gators have a beef, and I don’t think they do, it should be with it’s conference mates who earned division titles with weaker schedules.  Florida did go 4-1 vs. the top 30, but Notre Dame went 4-0.  Compare that to the Tide (2-1) and the Bulldogs (2-1), or even consider what Kansas State (4-1), Oregon (4-1), and Stanford (6-1) have done.  Clearly the Gators would be worthy of consideration for a playoff spot if this was 2014, but anyone thinking they are more worthy of a national title spot haven’t fully thought things through.

Notre Dame deserves this opportunity.  Between now January 7, six weeks from today (a topic for another day), you’ll hear plenty about how Notre Dame resembles many past BCS champions like the 2001 Buckeyes or the 2006 Gators, winning ugly defensive slugfests and squeaking out wins against inferior foes.  If any spot is to be debated in this national title game, it should be that of their opponent.

The SEC has been given benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps they’ve earned it, but that is only if you allow previous years to influence the current one.  Certainly others could be looked at as equally deserving.  Every team in the Big 12 and Pac-12 played tougher schedules than the Tide and the Bulldogs.  Perhaps if the SEC finally loses a national title game, we’ll start combing through the out-of-conference slates and warts of many of those playing that conference and evaluate them differently.  Until then, the loud majority of people will continue to regard the winner of the conference with the ultimate respect.

Unbeaten count: 2.  It is worth noting that if the Buckeyes had penalized themselves last year, they’d be playing the Huskers in the Big Ten title game for a right to play the Irish for the National Championship and would have ended the SEC reign.

Winless count: 1.  Southern Miss.  Who would have figured coach Larry Fedora leaving would have effected them this much.

Top 25

1. Notre Dame
2. Ohio State
3. Kansas State
4. Alabama
5. Georgia
6. Florida
7. Stanford
8. Oregon
9. LSU
10. Texas A&M
11. Oklahoma
12. South Carolina
13. Oregon State
14. UCLA
15. FSU
16. Clemson
17. Nebraska
18. Texas
19. Michigan
20. Northwestern
21. Kent State
22. Northern Illinois
23. Oklahoma State
24. Utah State
25. San Jose State

– The two toughest areas to rank are the top 12, and the bottom 7.  I don’t like Georgia and Ohio State as much as I have to rank them. The bottom is tough deciding between strong mid-majors and slightly above average majors like Arizona State, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, etc.

– If we put teams in a tournament, I’d pick Oregon, and be very afraid of Texas A&M.

– Johnny Manziel deserves the Heisman.  His numbers stack up well and better than many of the past recent winners.  Collin Klein and Jarvis Jones/Aaron Murray will get a last chance to leave an impression this week, but I doubt it will matter.

– Yes, the SEC is loaded at the top.  6 teams in the top 12 is impressive and deserved.  But a reminder how bad the rest of the conference is?  Those 6 went 30-0 versus the remainder of the conference!  Tough sledding that SEC.  Yeah, right.

– With that said, the SEC reminded the ACC who is boss going 4-0 against them this week.

– One note on the BCS, Kent State could guarantee itself a birth if they beat Northern Illinois for the MAC crown.  They must finish in the top 16, so they’ll be rooting hard for Stanford and hoping both the humans and computers find faith in them.  They also would need Texas to lose.  The Orange Bowl has last choice this season and would be their likely destination.

– Anyone else notice that RB Silas Redd left Penn State for greener pastures in LA?  Lions 8-4.  Trojans 7-5.  Of course, he will get to go bowling.  Not a knock on the kid at all, I don’t fault him for his decision.  Just strange how that worked out.

– Congrats to Miami for finishing up strong as the Coastal Division champions, albeit an empty victory with no title to play for.  The 7 wins were about 3 more than I anticipated in this down year.  If the NCAA spares Miami, then they may have a real chance to win the ACC next season.

STIFF-ARMING TROPHY RACE

1. QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M- He can’t lose it.  Only a few can attempt to take it from him.

2. QB Collin Klein, Kansas State- Even a blowout win over Texas would be tough sell as most eyes will be on Atlanta.

3. LB Manti Te’o, Notre Dame- Clearly defined leader for the top team in the country.

4. QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State- No chance of winning it, but hard not to see him being invited to NYC.

5. WR Marqise Lee, USC- I’d give him the edge over Barner, Mariota, Taylor, and Franklin out west, but they may create enough split that nobody gets invited to NYC.

Still a chance: QB Aaron Murray, Georgia- A win and good numbers may get him invited.  LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia- Ditto.  QB AJ McCarron, Alabama- A big game may net him an invite, but zippo chance he wins.

 

Crazy, just one more week of this until we get to the bowls.

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