Doan Thought: Is Notre Dame 2002 Ohio State?

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 26, 2012


Bart Doan Thought: Could Notre Dame Be 2002 Ohio State?

By Bart Doan
Follow me @Bart_cfnThe parallels are strikingly similar, a football follie a deux of sorts 10 years apart and strikingly similar. Of course, we’re referencing the plucky 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes and this year’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish, whom I think will share the same ending in a script that looks like the different names and faces that were plugged in are the only changes.

To recall, OSU was coming off of a five loss season in the infancy of a new regime, that of one Jim Tressel (who, coincidentally made me think of this when I saw him at The Game, arm in arm this past weekend, with his former team). They won with good, not great, but always clutch quarterback play and in a fashion that made you think after the games ended, because of their defense, a Mortal Kombat screen was about to pop up saying “Tressel wins. Brutality.”

They beat four ranked teams on their way to playing against #1 defending champ, heretofore impossible to defeat Miami Hurricanes. It was supposed to be mop up duty for the NFL talent dripping, hardened ‘Canes. You know the rest. Ohio State’s bunch of overachievers out thumped, out witted, and outlasted the Hurricanes, becoming the first team in FBS history to go 14-0.

Fast forward to 2012. Here is Notre Dame, again, breaking in a new regime in a similar style, coming off of a five loss season with an arduous schedule. Here they are playing for the title. They too are anchored by defense. Getting through that D? It’s akin to trying to jam boulders through the holes of a sieve. The quarterback play isn’t eye popping, but be it Everett Golson or Tommy Rees, it’s good enough when it absolutely has to be.

Both had their narrow moments of fortune that suggested maybe they might not be able to hang with whomever they’d face in a title game. For Ohio State, it was a triumvirate of unranked Cincinnati, Purdue, and Illinois. For Notre Dame, it has been unranked BYU, Pitt, and ranked Stanford that nearly clipped Irish wings. In a vacuum, it looked like both could be had. But thus far, and at least in the case of Ohio State, that’s fool’s gold.

This Notre Dame team is probably more of a feel good story. A veteran offensive line that’s been through the ups and the downs, the tear jerking Manti Te’o story. Though Notre Dame will never be mistaken as everyone’s favorite underdog, it’s hard to not like the players on this team.

And then there is the end game. No matter who the Irish face in the title game...one they will enter with this unbeaten record for the first time since George Michael’s Faith (eerie religious coincidence?) topped the music charts...the media will make them a decided underdog in the same vein as ‘02 OSU.

That’s because they’ll be going against the allegedly big, bad SEC champion, either Georgia or Alabama. To fit the script, Alabama probably would be more fitting, like that Miami team, a veteran, steely, hardened defending champ that breeds first round NFL talent all over the place.

Though the Tide have proven beatable, they often times look anything but that. Georgia plays a different style, but if they stem the Tide, will obviously be as good as advertised.

So either one will come in against the rough and tumble Irish who’ve made a season out of gritty wins and substance over style. They’ve taken a lot of punches, but unlike everyone else not named Ohio State, have stood in and weathered the beating. Yes, this feels like 2002 again, only far fewer chances to wake up in the afternoon for my first class and no 4 a.m. practices. This Notre Dame team feels a lot like those Buckeyes, and woe to those that give them little chance the way Tressel’s troop got way back yonder. Just please, this time around, throw the interference flag earlier.