Of course they were…for 12 out of 13 weeks. There was a brief moment in the 2012 college football season where the Golden Domers wore the legitimate shine of being ranked #1. To be fair, there being over-rated at all other times this season was a function of the fact that they played a schedule full of overrated teams, and that the Irish and the media ignored several warning signs about the true nature of their team.
If you do a week-by-week breakdown, this becomes a “moon rocket filled with nuclear waste fired into a supernova” glowing ball of obvious.
Notre Dame Pre-Season AP Ranking: Unranked
Pre-Season Rankings of Notre Dame’s Opponents:
- Navy: Unranked
- Purdue: Unranked
- Michigan State: #13
- Michigan: #8
- Miami (FL): Unranked
- Stanford: #21
- BYU: Unranked
- Oklahoma: #4
- Pittsburgh: Unranked
- Boston College: Unranked
- Wake Forest: Unranked
- USC: #1
Just looking at that doesn’t really tell the whole story; it does tell you why everybody said in the pre-season that Notre Dame faced a tough schedule. But nobody seemed to remember where these teams were when the Irish actually played them.
Week 1: Notre Dame 50, Navy 10
Week 2: #22 Notre Dame 20, Purdue 17
In a preview of coming attractions, The Irish whip up on a service academy and end up in the rankings.
Week 3: #20 Notre Dame 20, #10 Michigan State 3
This is where it really starts. This convincing win over a seriously over-rated Spartan team made everybody forget how close the Irish were to losing to Purdue. By the way, Michigan State finished the season unranked, and only rose in the ranks early in the season based on wins over then #24 Boise State and Central Michigan.
Week 4: #11 Notre Dame 13, # 18 Michigan 6
Here’s the first major warning sign that the Irish are terribly over-rated. Not only do they move up nine spots in the ranking after beating a free-falling Michigan State team, they struggle to score against a team that was only two weeks removed from getting crushed by Alabama, which is why they dropped ten places since the pre-season rankings.
Week 5: Open Date, Notre Dame ranked #10
Notre Dame moves up another spot in the rankings, despite the fact that it’s getting obvious the first team to score 21 points against the Irish will beat them. The hype is about how great Notre Dame’s defense is, all while ignoring this was against three mediocre-at-best Big Ten offenses and a service academy.
The Michigan State offensive line (shown above) was really what started that ridiculous “Manti T’eo for the Heisman” crap.
Week 6: #9 Notre Dame 41, Miami (FL) 3
This game marks the exact moment this shit gets completely out of control. In a nationally televised game held in Chicago’s Soldier Field, Notre Dame destroy a Miami team that could have easily been beaten by the MAC’s Miami. Nonetheless, this is the first time we start hearing a lot of bilge about “waking up the echoes;” The Golden Domers are in full-throat now, and it’s only going to get worse.
Week 7: #7 Notre Dame 20, #17 Stanford 13 (OT)
Stanford comes into South Bend having knocked off #1 USC. Irish Nation also chooses to ignore that Stanford had also lost to unranked Washington. It really doesn’t matter, because now even the national media is on Project Irish-gasm. This is also the week the Irish miss their second major warning sign; the first being that this offense struggles to score 21 points. This week, but it also can’t make big plays in the fourth quarter when the Irish need them.
Week 8: #5 Notre Dame 17, BYU 14
Notre Dame struggle to beat an unranked team, all the major warning signs are still in place, but the hype train is unstoppable at this point. Only a loss is going to derail this train.
Week 9: #5 Notre Dame 30, #8 Oklahoma 13
Everybody (J-Dub included) though this was where the Irish dream would end. Despite the rankings nobody really though Notre Dame could roll into Norman and pull off a win. Even Vegas agreed; Oklahoma was 10.5 point favorite. Nobody (J-Dub included) thought the Sooners would pull the most complete self-destruct job seen since the original Mission Impossible television series.
Week 10: #4 Notre Dame 29, Pittsburgh 26 (OT)
The week that starts the real the luck of the Irish. This is the Irish win in 2012 in which they had to score more that 21 points, and they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do that if Pittsburgh had made a 40-yard field goal at the end of regulation. This was the sort of win that really wasn’t a win. Notre Dame got lucky twice, first at the end of regulation, and then again in overtime when Pittsburgh couldn’t convert game-winning chances. Normally, teams get dropped in the rankings for being in overtime in a game they didn’t deserve to win. But the media loves the Irish…
Week #11: #4 Notre Dame 21, Boston College 6
In the annual Catholic bowl, all things normal for the 2012 Irish return. Once again, facing a lack-luster offense makes the Irish defense look like a world-class unit to the untrained eye, and the Notre Dame offense proves yet again that if it once more finds itself needing to score 21 points to win, they will need the luck of the Irish.
Week 12: #3 Notre Dame 38, Wake Forest 0
Now, things are really starting to line up for Notre Dame. Their schedule only has left-for-dead Wake Forest and USC, who Kiff-tastrophed from #1 to un-ranked. More importantly, Alabama lost to LSU, and the Irish only need to win out against the dead and pray that either Kansas State or Oregon loses sometime between now and January.
Week 13: #1 Notre Dame 22, USC 13
Notre Dame…Number fucking one…and legitimately so, given the logic of the poll-driven BCS. The Irish only needed one of two team to lose, and lo and behold, they both did. Week 11 saw then-#1 Alabama drop to LSU. Week 12 saw #2 Kansas State lose to Baylor, and the new #1 Oregon get plugged by Stanford…the same Stanford that Notre Dame already beat.
This is the moment in time where Notre Dame is an honest-to-goodness championship contender. If Stanford, another team that grinds out low-scoring defense-fests can lock down the Oregon “Quack Attack,” then certainly Notre Dame can do so. The Irish already beat Kansas State, but most of you missed it because at the time, the Wildcats were handsomely disguised as Oklahoma.
So, if Notre Dame was legitimately #1, how did that 42-14 blood-letting happen at the hands of the Crimson Tide?
Simply put, because the luck of the Irish ran one win too many, which let the best team in the country back into the championship game. Notre Dame only needed one of either Kansas State or Oregon to lose; when they both lost that allowed Alabama back into the BCS Championship Game, setting up a college football “David and Goliath” scenario…and Goliath was pissed.
You also must remember that being number #1 in the poll-driven world of the BCS doesn’t mean you are the best team. Not only did that fact return the Irish to the world of the over-rated, it made Notre Dame, their fans, and the media blind to the slaughter Notre Dame was facing on Monday night.