Notre Dame finishing the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record has Notre Dame fans euphoric. It has fans of almost every other program in the country in a hissy fit as they complain about Notre Dame not having to play in a conference championship this weekend. It’s not fair they say. And they are right in a way. It’s not fair. Notre Dame has already played and beat 12 teams from the FBS this season so really, the Irish are just waiting for everyone else to catch up.
Here is the list of current programs who have 12 wins this season against FBS opponents.
1. Notre Dame
That’s right, heading into Championship Weekend, Notre Dame is the only program in the country to have already beaten 12 FBS foes. Alabama beat The Citadel (after being tied at half time), #2 Clemson opened the season against Furman (while Notre Dame was hosting a current top 10 opponent), and #4 Georgia opened with Austin Peay (again, while Notre Dame hosted Michigan). To #5 Oklahoma and #6 Ohio State’s credit, neither scheduled an extra bye week with a FCS opponent, but both also only have 11 wins against FBS opponents beings as they both have a one in the L column.
While Ohio State and Oklahoma will be adding a 13th data point this weekend, their extra data point over the Irish will also be something else Notre Dame doesn’t have – a loss. In Oklahoma’s case the Sooners can at least make the argument that they lost to a ranked team – Texas. Ohio State on the other hand lost by 29 points to unranked Purdue last month. Just to put that in context, Notre Dame lost by 28 to Alabama six years ago and that game is still used against Notre Dame with regularity.
A lot of media hacks like Danny Kannell are decrying that the Irish won’t be playing and plenty of talking heads are talking about how it’s not fair the Irish don’t have to play this weekend. Well, was it fair when Notre Dame played Michigan week one while Clemson and Georgia opened the season against FCS teams? I don’t think there was the same outcry then about how unfair it was that Notre Dame was playing a real game while those schools scheduled glorified scrimmages.
A lot of these same hacks didn’t seem to mind that Alabama sat idle this same weekend a year ago and still made the College Football Playoffs because it was clear that The Crimson Tide were one of the four best teams in the country. You know, despite only having 10 wins against FBS opponents last year. Where was this same outcry then?
They then proved they were worthy by winning the whole damn thing.
Not too many freaked out when Ohio State snuck into the playoffs without even playing in the Big Ten title game two years ago either. Penn State finished just outside the top 4 even though they won the Big 10 and beat Ohio State head to head earlier in the season. Penn State had more losses though and got blown out by Michigan in one of them.
Both sat at home eating cheeseburgers on championship Saturday those respective years but both still made the playoffs and there weren’t all of these calls for expansion or a conference championship requirement then.
Other than Georgia and Alabama, it’s really hard to argue that it’s unfair to Ohio State and Clemson that Notre Dame isn’t playing this weekend either when the Irish already played and beat both of their conference championship game opponents – Pitt and Northwestern – already this season.
For all the talk about how “unfair” it is that Notre Dame is off this weekend after they already took care of their business this season, no one would be talking about how it’s “unfair” that one loss teams like Ohio State, Georgia, and Oklahoma are all still alive for the playoff race because of their conference championship games. Notre Dame, as an independant, does not have that same luxury, but they do not use it as excuse. Notre Dame knows that to reach the playoffs they essentially have to go undefeated in the regular season to ensure they make it. It’s a disadvantage to being an independant and not having that conference championship game as a fall back like the current one-loss teams that are still alive.
Now that it is all but certain that Notre Dame will make the playoffs, prepare for a barrage of “Notre Dame must join a conference” type articles because people are upset that Notre Dame proved it doesn’t need a conference the playoffs. Fans of programs who couldn’t survive in today’s college football landscape without the crutch of a conference don’t like to see Notre Dame prosper while remaining independent because they can’t do the same.
Let’s think about this for a second. If being an independent was such an advantage, wouldn’t other programs be trying to follow suit? Instead the last 10 years has seen conferences only try to expand and grab more power. Notre Dame all the while has doubled down on remaining independent and has not had any problems finding dance partners to fill out its schedule each year. Notre Dame’s added matchups with the likes of Ohio State, Georgia, Arkansas, and Wisconsin in recent year while also having the flexibility to do things like play another game in Ireland in 2020.
This is not to say that Notre Dame is better than Alabama or Clemson or that they should be ranked ahead of them. But rather it’s to point out that Notre Dame already proved what they needed to this year. They won 12 games all of which were against teams from the FBS. They traveled the country in November playing their last 5 games in 5 cities over the final 5 weeks of the year (including one at the end of October). And they did that all without losing a single game this season. No one else in the country can say that.
And if you you’re one of those folks saying that Notre Dame hasn’t proved itself yet, to you I’d say, “If they haven’t done that for you by now, well then it ain’t never gonna happen.”
So Notre Dame will sit back this weekend and wait for some of its peers to join them on the list of programs to have 12 wins against FBS teams this weekend. Right now it’s a pretty lonely list.