Comparisons to Notre Dame’s 1988 title team should inspire Irish
BY HERB GOULD firstname.lastname@example.org October 14, 2012 10:20PM
Stephon Tuitt exhibits the elation felt by the Irish after their goal-line stand against Stanford sealed their sixth victory. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images
SUN-TIMES BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS
Too bad the Buckeyes didn’t pay for their tattoos. We could’ve had an Ohio State-Michigan doubleheader this year.
1. Ohio State (7-0) 1
2. Michigan (4-2) 3
3. Penn State (4-2) 2
4. Nebraska (4-2) 4
5. Northwestern (6-1) 6
6. Wisconsin (5-2) 7
7. Iowa (4-2) 9
8. Michigan State (4-3) 5
9. Indiana (2-4) 10
10. Purdue (3-3) 8
11. Minnesota (4-2) 11
12. Illinois (2-5) 12
Updated: November 16, 2012 6:20AM
It’s still too early to give Notre Dame a spot in the BCS national championship game. Those trips to No. 10 Oklahoma and No. 11 USC loom large.
But it’s not too early to say some things are starting to fall into place.
For one thing, unbeaten South Carolina and West Virginia tumbled, allowing the Irish to move up to No. 5. And more danger lurks.
No. 4 Kansas State faces a trip to West Virginia this week. No. 2
Oregon still must handle three ranked opponents. And either
No. 1 Alabama or No. 3 Florida is going to be an SEC casualty.
For another, I pulled out a copy of the little book I put together after covering ND’s last national championship, in 1988, to check on the similarities. Like Lou Holtz, Brian Kelly is in his third year. Like the ’88 team, which began the season ranked 13th, this team, which was 26th in preseason voting, came in under the radar.
The goal-line stand the Irish used to hold off Stanford on Saturday was reminiscent of the late defense that helped ND survive a huge home test against Miami 31-30 on a two-point conversion in 1988.
If the Irish get to the big game, though, there would be a big difference from ’88. Holtz’s squad caught a great matchup in the Fiesta Bowl against West Virginia. There will be only tough matchups in this year’s BCS title game.
It turns out reports that Danny Hope had breathed new life into Purdue were greatly exaggerated.
The Boilermakers, who were supposed to have a stellar defense, followed up a 44-13 home loss to Michigan with a 38-14 homecoming loss to Wisconsin. They not only blew their big chance to grab post position for a Big Ten title-game berth. They could have their hands full in the battle for state bragging rights with Indiana, which is scoring in Old Oaken Buckets.
“We still believe we can be an outstanding football team,’’ said Hope, apparently unaware that ship has sailed.
Like Purdue, there’s not much hope for Michigan State. Once ranked 10th in the nation, Sparty is on the outside looking in. A 19-16 overtime loss to Iowa, which had its own troubles until it got well in East Lansing, puts MSU’s back against the wall. If this keeps up, it might need a blindfold at Michigan on Saturday.
“The message to our football team is to look forward and not backwards,’’ Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. “It can always get worse.’’
No, he didn’t borrow that inspirational line from Rockne or Lombardi.
If there was a Big Ten spin room, the talking heads would say, “When some doors close, others open up.’’
Despite its rocky start, Wisconsin is poised to cruise into the Big Ten title game, where it can take a shot at its third consecutive Rose Bowl trip. The Badgers are atop a Leaderboard in which the three other eligible Leaders are a combined 0-8 in league play.
The other Indianapolis berth will go to a Legend to be named later. All things considered, call Michigan the favorite and Nebraska the next best choice. But don’t overlook Northwestern.
The next two weeks will tell a lot. Nebraska plays at Northwestern this week and plays host to Michigan on Oct. 27. NU’s Nov. 10 trip to Michigan will complete the round robin.
Also still lurking is Iowa, which is tied for the division lead but will have to prove it’s serious. Stealing a game in East Lansing isn’t that big of a deal this season.