Fighting For the Top Spot
Every Saturday when I was young, my grandpa Herbie was glued to the TV. He is without question one of the main contributors to me being a sports-addict. These Saturdays were filled with my grandma Lila stuffing my family’s faces with delicious food as Herbie sat back and taught me all he knew about his favorite college football team: The Notre Dame Fighting Irish. I’ll be honest with you. I never had a true passion for college football because I grew up in New York where it isn’t really a big deal. Having said that, I always had a soft spot for Notre Dame for the sole reason that my grandfather found such enjoyment in watching them. Now I am not trying to look like a front-runner, but I must talk about Notre Dame’s climb back to relevance as they are now on the top of the BCS standings and only one game away from their first National Championship Game since 1988.
When the college football season started, the Irish were a 30 to 1 favorite to win the whole kit and caboodle. Entering this Saturday’s game against the USC Trojans, the Irish find themselves a remarkable 3 to 1 favorite to win it all. This match up is quite fitting considering the fact that Notre Dame is ranked #1 in world while the underachieving Trojans were the preseason #1 ranked team. Oh my, how the tables have turned. Before this past Saturday, the Irish were ranked #3 in the BCS standings, but after Baylor destroyed Kansas State and Stanford won a nail-biter against Oregon, the Irish jumped to the top of the league. It’s pretty amazing that the Irish are the only bowl-eligible undefeated team left in college, but it’s true.
The Irish weren’t the only team that benefited from Kansas State’s and Oregon’s demise; the Alabama Crimson Tide jumped back up into the drivers seat and they too are now in control of their own destiny. If the Tide win on Saturday and then win the SEC Championship game, they will face off with the Irish for the National Championship, assuming Notre Dame wins on Saturday. Rumors are already floating around the gambling world that if the National Championship game is Notre Dame vs Alabama, then it will be the most bet on game in college football history. This could be the best thing that has happened to Notre Dame athletics since Sean Astin donned the Gold and Navy Blue in the movie Rudy.
The Fighting Irish’s head coach, Brian Kelly, is not sitting lightly on his teams #1 ranking. Kelly told the Daily News, “It’s interesting, I kind of wanted to get a sense of how the players felt around this (referring to their #1 ranking), so I went to the training room when the guys were popping in today. They all to a man know that it doesn’t mean much if you’re No. 1 for just three or four days. So they understand the importance of the USC game.” I completely agree with Kelly that there is no reason to even think about the Championship game until they beat a USC team that would love to play spoiler to the Fighting Irish’s dreams.
One of the biggest highlights from this season for the Irish is the emergence of their superstar Captain, Manti Te’o. Te’o is in his senior year and is in the running for the Maxwell Award (Best Player), the Chuck Bednarik Award (Best Defensive Player) and the highly coveted Heisman Trophy. He is the true example of a team leader and Kelly considers Te’o the main reason why his defense is one of the best in the nation. Te’o is not taking these honors lightly. “I’ve never felt so strong” Te’o said. “Something my girlfriend always stressed to me was being humble and if anything, this experience has truly humbled me.” I am praying that my Jets can pick up this stud come draft time.
I honestly couldn’t explain why my grandpa, who went to City College during their point shaving days, became a die hard Notre Dame fan, so I asked him. “Since I have my Jewish heritage, the fighting Irish became my team,” Grandpa Herbie joked to me. His real reason was that the Irish were the only team that was on TV every week so he was a fan by default. I am very happy that his passion rubbed off on me and now I have a vested interest in this Saturday’s important game. Regardless of what happens on Saturday, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have had an amazing year and I can only hope they finish it with a National Title. GO IRISH!!!!