If you and I are anywhere near the same page, then you have to be tired of fans / ESPN talking heads screaming that the Irish don’t belong when they fail to show up in a big games!
I am specifically thinking of two games! First, the 2012 BCS National Championship Game, @ Hard Rock Stadium, when an Alabama Tide put an inglorious end to the notion that this Irish Wake would end in a celebration, it actually ended in a closed casket, 42-14, funeral! The other game was the 2018 mauling of the ND Leprechaun by the Clemson Tiger, a 30-3, whipping, in the CFP Semi-final game, played in the Cotton Bowl!
Getting beat badly is a different concept then “don’t belong”!
If I heard “don’t belong” when an Oklahoma got hammered in the 2005 Orange Bowl edition of the BCS National Championship Game, by USC, 55-19, or when Bama smashed Michigan State, 38-0 in CFP’s 2015 semi-final played in the Cotton Bowl. Yet, I never heard it said that OU or MSU didn’t belong”, all I heard was that SC & Bama were teams for the ages!
Ok, I don’t think anyone thinks the 2004 USC team or 2015 Bama team were not great, they were and then some!
Yet, that has nothing to do with whether or not OU or MSU earned their way into the CFP! That was determined by how they performed over a 12 or 13 game season & not some form of hindsight, based on getting hammered in one game!
The only legitimate complaint from the 2004 season, in my opinion, is from an undefeated Auburn (13-0), who never got a shot @ the BCS National Championship! Can you imagine an undefeated SEC team not getting into (even a BCS 2 game format) a national championship game now? Not me!!
So why don’t we hear about how good Bama was in 2012? A team that went 13-1, their only loss was at home, a shocker to A&M, 29-24. The Tide could not roll up that little Dope, Johnny Manziel, as he ran all over Bryant-Denny! That year (2012) the Alabama D pitched 4 shout outs, while holding 12 of their 14 opponents under 20, meanwhile their O scored over 30 points in 12 of their 14 games & over 40 points, in 7 of 14 contests. Bama was great, yet the storyline was Notre Dame did not belong? C’mon man!
That year, ND beat 11 P5 programs, including the PAC 12 & Rose Bowl Champs, Stanford 20-13 in OT, B-12 Champion, Oklahoma, 30-13, while stopping 3 B-10 teams (Michigan, 13-6, MSU, 20-3, & Purdue, 20-17) 2 other PAC 12 teams fell to the Irish (USC 14-10 & ASU 37-34), 3 Big East squads, Pitt 29-26 in OT, BC, 21-6, & Miami 41-3 and finally, BYU (counted as a P5 opponent by the B-10 & SEC) 17-14! As I said, Notre Dame played their way into the BCS in 2012!
So then comes 2018 & a 13-0 Clemson! The Tigers put it to the Irish, 30-3 and the Naysayers started in yet again, stating that a 27 point lost was proof positive that the Irish got in by Rep only, and had little to nothing to do with on field performance. Forget the fact that ND went 12-0, beat 10 P5 opponents, including: Michigan (10-3) 24-17, Stanford (9-4) 38-17, Syracuse (10-3) 36-3, Northwestern (9-5, who won the B-10 West Division that year) 31-21, Pitt (who won the ACC’s Coastal Division) 19-13, and periential powers Florida State, 42-13 & USC, 24-17!
Yet the focus is once again on someone other that ND should have got the bid!
B-10 champ OSU, certainly a good thought @ 13-1, except they had a loss to a 6-7 Purdue team and a bad loss, as losses go, 49-20! This coupled with a 55-24 loss to Iowa the year before, (2017) and a 31-0 loss to Clemson in the 2016 CFP @ the Fiesta bowl. It was long debated that OSU should not have got in that year (2016) as Penn State beat the Bucks, 24-21, won the Division, & the B-10 championship over Bucky, 38-31. PSU did not get in because they had 2 losses (Pitt 42-39 & Michigan 49-10) and no one gets in with 2 losses, not yet anyway! Fair or unfair to OSU, these things were on the committees’ mind!
How bout’ the P-12 Champ, Washington? Nope, they had 4 losses and as stated no team with 2 losses has ever gotten into the CFP. Not a chance for the Huskies!
Clemson, the ACC Champ & OU, the B-12 Champ, & Bama the SEC Champ were invited!
So that left ND or a 2nd SEC team! (I can still hear the echoes, as the rest of the country had begun to sabre rattle about 2 SEC teams getting in). Not me, I want the most deserving/best 4 teams in the CFP!
So let’s look to see who was available for consideration from the SEC in 2018…
UGA (11-2) won the East Division and played Bama tough, a 32-28 loss in the SEC Championship Game, but Georgia had 2 losses in 2018, 1 to Alabama (that loss would not eliminate you) but a 2nd loss to South Carolina, 35-7! The Dawgs weren’t gettin in!
Texas A&M (11-2) Beat Bama, 29-24, yet lost to Florida, 20-17 & LSU 24-19. Two and gone, that’s somebody’s hard & fast rule!
So nothing really that says; take us … not an undefeated ND!
So back to Clemson & 2018, The week after they beat Notre Dame by 27 points (30-3), the Tigers beat the standard-bearer for all of college football, Alabama, by 28 (44-16). I did not hear a peep of a suggestion that “Bama did not belong”! Heresy! Well, we do have the Catholics in the conversation, might as well involve the Inquisition!
One final point:
There have been 12 CFP Semi-Final games, 3 have been decided by single digits,
The 2014 Sugar Bowl, OSU 42 Bama 35; The 2017 Rose Bowl, UGA 54 OU 48 (2 OT’s); & The 2019 Fiesta Bowl, Clemson 29 OSU 23!
Nine games have been decided by 11 or more points: so most of these match-ups have not been nail biters. Here are the least to most competitive of those nine Semi-Final Games!
1) 2014 Rose Bowl, Oregon 59 FSU 20 (39 point win for Oregon), 2) 2015 Cotton Bowl, Alabama 38 MSU 0 (38 point win for the Tide over Sparty), 3) 2019 Peach Bowl: LSU 63 OU 28 (35 point LSU win); 4) 2016 Fiesta Bowl: Clemson 31 OSU 0 (31 point Clemson win); 5) 2018 Cotton Bowl: Clemson 30 ND 3; ( 27 point Clemson win); 6) 2015 Orange Bowl: Clemson 37 OU 17 (20 point Clemson win); 7) 2017 Sugar Bowl: Bama 24 Clemson 6 (18 point win for the Tide); 8) 2016 Peach Bowl: Bama 24 Washington 7 (17 point win for Alabama) & 9) 2018 Orange Bowl: Bama 45 OU 34 (11 point Bama win)
So … of the 12 CFP Semi Final Games, 3 have been great games and 9 have been about one of the teams making a statement about their superior talent & skill levels, at least on that day!
So I hope you can see why I am saying, “a team does not belong” is far more related to hindsight (a one game performance perspective) as opposed to a 12 or 13 game season to determine who should be awarded an invite!
So let’s @ least consider that the concept of determining who gets in the game should be judged on how they played during the season and not rethought because of how they play in that game.
ND deserved to be in those 2 games, they went 24-0, in 2012 & 2018 seasons, beat 21 P5 opponents, including conference or division champs, and belonged in those games, irrespective of how they performed.
And let’s hope the next time the Irish get in, they will show up and actually compete; that way, Sully won’t have to write all this sh*t to defend the Irish, when others have suffered similar or worse ‘beat downs’ and were not labeled “Don’t Belong”!